Catherine Sandeman was born into an enterprising family: she was a niece of Robert Sandeman, an influential figure in the religious Glasite movement – later Sandemanians – and the sister of George Sandeman, founder of the wine shipping company. After the death of her husband in 1780, an Edinburgh sealing wax merchant, Mrs Waterston was left to continue the business as well as raise their children. In 1782 she opened a shop on Edinburgh's Lawnmarket, where she sold wax products as well as Essence of Peppermint to cure stomach complaints, sea sickness and hangovers. The Waterstons firm expanded into stationery and was owned by the family for seven generations. This portrait was painted after Catherine had retired from the business, though it still shows her intelligence and determination.