Most of what is known about Manigault comes from a letter she wrote from South Carolina to her brother in Europe.
Immigrant, matriarch. Manigault was born Judith Giton in La Voulte, Languedoc, France, a stronghold of southern French Protestantism. In 1685 the repeal of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV drove many Huguenots (including Judith, two brothers, and her mother) to flee France through Holland to England. From London they boarded a ship headed for the colony of Carolina, where they hoped to live as Protestants, without the threat of forced conversion.
Most of what is known about Manigault comes from a letter she wrote from South Carolina to her brother in Europe. Written around 1688, the letter reveals the sufferings Manigault endured as a refugee and also the hardships faced by some of the earliest immigrants to South Carolina. En route, Judith’s mother died of “spotted fever.” Midway through their voyage, their ship was seized by authorities at Bermuda, forcing Manigault and her brother Louis to indenture themselves for eight months in exchange for passage to Carolina. Her letter records that once she and her surviving family arrived in Carolina, they “suffered all sorts of evils.” Manigault wrote, “I was in this country a full six months, without tasting bread . . . and whilst I worked the ground, like a slave.” It took several years before she was able to obtain bread “when I wanted it.” The letter became a valuable record of the harshness of life in early South Carolina, and David Ramsay printed an extended portion of the document in his 1808 History of South Carolina (although the part of the letter that mentioned her indentured servitude was left out at the request of Manigault’s descendants).
Sometime before 1695 Judith married a weaver and fellow Huguenot, Noe Royer. Royer died around 1698, and the following year Judith married Pierre Manigault, another Huguenot refugee. The Manigaults ran a boardinghouse in Charleston and began to build a distillery and cooperage, laying the foundation for an enormous fortune in trade and local commerce run from their warehouse and mercantile businesses. Judith Manigault died in 1711, leaving behind a son, Gabriel, and a daughter, Judith. When Pierre Manigault died in 1729, he had established the family as wealthy and powerful within the colony and had positioned his son to become one of the most influential men in South Carolina.
Crouse, Maurice A. “The Manigault Family of South Carolina, 1685–1783.” Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University, 1964.
Simmons, Slann Legare Clement. “Early Manigault Records.” Transactions of the Huguenot Society of South Carolina 59 (1954): 24–42.