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Isabella Marshall grew up near Paisley, Scotland, in a pious Presbyterian landowning family. She was educated at a boarding school. In 1765, she married Dr. John Graham, an army physician, whom she accompanied on his postings to Canada, the USA, and the Caribbean. After his death, she returned to Scotland, and to support herself and her children, opened a girls' school in Edinburgh, where she also worked for several charitable groups. With her friend Lady Glenorchy, a philanthropist and patron of the school, she organized a Society for the Relief of the Destitute Sick. In 1789, Mrs. Graham moved to the USA, settling in New York City. With Elizabeth Seton (later canonized as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church), Mrs. Graham organized the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children, one of the earliest charities in the USA, and also one of the first examples of American women organizing on their own. In 1802, the society was given a New York State charter. Mrs. Graham also served as president of the Ladies' Board of the Magdalen Society, established an adult school for young people working in factories, and helped her daughter Joanna Graham Bethune organize a group to provide employment for needy women. Joanna Bethune edited and published her mother's personal correspondence in 1838.
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