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tv   Author Discussion on Mary Washington  CSPAN  August 25, 2020 3:30pm-4:43pm EDT

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watch booktv this weekend on c-span2. >> next on booktv a conversation with authors of biographies on mary washington, the mother of george washington. this comes to us from george washington's mount vernon. ..
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>> we have opened to audiences to visitors to come to melbourne and you have an opportunity to come strolled around, see the museum and education center and soon we will be able to open the mansion but better yet with particular challenges, maybe not a safe space for visitors, come
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visit and continue to support mall burning in that way. another thing i'll mention is an upcoming event, on july 8 coming up around the corner, using book talk, we will feature judge ginsburg who is the host and creator of the miniseries on the constitution but he'll be interviewed by someone who is important and knows what's right, please join us for that conversation with justice ken briggs and david rubenstein. in the exploration. tonight's event is going to involve three panelists and i won't describe to you but i do want to introduce our guests and moderator doctor karen wolf in the director of the institute of american history and culture, professor of history of william and mary in a recent watch library follow-up, she was working on a project when i came into the library, project that
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is coming soon on the lineage and history of genealogy in early america, karen welcome. >> thank you so much kevin, it is always cool to be hearsay in a low for my dining room. >> where is your dining room. >> i'm just around the beltway from you, i am in maryland right now. >> that is great, welcome, i'm not going to intrude any longer, i'd like you to ask you to introduce our panelists. >> welcome all of you and welcome, i'm really sorry we are not in person for this conversation about a really interesting person but also about the important and challenging issues in early american history, i went to think mount vernon for bringing us together, my family has loved visiting out earning for many decades, to my mind you might
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not be surprised to know that one of the lasting contributions to our culture that mount vernon has made is not supporting the search, new information, new questions, new perspectives only critical early past are not only helping but essential for a nation and those contributions with exhibits interpretation and also in books like those that we are talking about this evening. in my lectures, we are grappling with court issues, how do we tell the history of people who are not george washington, people who were not super well documented from this early period. all women as were going to talk about are difficult to document and certainly enslaved men and women who are key presence in the life of all the washington and as a washingtons were key in their life but this is such an important history. i'm going to start with quick contents from everyone about washington and the structure of 18th century virginia before he introduced my piano. she is known to all of us as the mother of george washington,
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tonight were going to let george be a minor character in the life of a woman who lived the whole of 18th century, born in 1708 to a wealthy and connected family on virginia's northern neck, she married in 1731 into another wealthy and connected family, widowed in 1743 and died in 1789, as mary bought mary ball washington, she enslaved men women and children in first she inherited when she was three years old when her father died, three men named tom, joe and jack. in all the places that she and her family lived, the population was 40 - 50 enslaved people by the mid-century, she was married for 12 years to george washington's father and she born six children, the eldest of whom became the first president. she managed in nearly 300-acre estate for more than three decades and she wasn't keen to
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leaving even when she was elderly, she did eventually but for the last 17 years of her long life in fredericksburg virginia, that is just a start for the details in the meaning of exploring them for a better understanding of the early american past, returning to a distinguished panel and giving my last name and why am always in favor of introducing people in reverse alphabetical order. so craig surely had a long career in politics and is the author multiple books focus on the 20th century including for bestsellers about ronald reagan, political biography of his career in december 1941, new york times bestseller about the event on pearl harbor and most recently he published the untold story of george washington in 2019 and come back to the best century, the 18th century. mark the is the studies at the
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college, the author of being good, women's moral values in early america and co-author of the seventh edition of interpretation of american history, i mentioned that because many graduate students had volume and she tells many fellowship most recently was a common new york public library and she just published the widow washington, the life of mary washington into 31 and award although i'm not sure that's public knowledge, maybe she'll tell us that. last but certainly not least, my dear friend was professor of history, the author on display, plaintiff society virginia springs, 1790 - 1860 and elizabeth pattern enter patterson the newly republic, she is currently writing a book but i promise you, the coeditor of the volume on women in george washington's world and she's one of the coeditors of the series, this is the moment traditionally
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when we would applaud our panelists and thank them for joining me this evening. i'm going to start with craig, as a welcome you back to the 18th century, i want to ask you particular because you been a historian of later eras, one thing that is super interesting to me about your book, you talk about the history and tradition by the biography that as you begin your volume out and 18th century but in talking about the impact of the 18th century and the legacy in the tradition, can you talk with us a little bit about that. >> thank you very much and i want to think everybody in mount vernon for inviting me. >> i guess the place to start, why i got interested, i always wanted to do a biography of george washington but that has
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been fished out although there's a scholarship on washington opening up but i live is this book of the 18th century in rural virginia and her voice had a fascination with washington and i have two favorite presidents, ronald reagan and george washington and they remain today very fascinating because of multiple careers and multiple interest in multiple talents but it occurred to me, we actually attend the pistol church in northern virginia where the family attended. >> i can't think of the name of it now, but the family is buried in the graveyard and yesterday started to probe and i found out and then my book, the scholarship on washington that
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was very thin and what was out there was not frankly very good, it was the. after she passed away until 1860 where she was treated as she was the mary mother of jesus or she was a saintly figure and she was very delicately and then the period after the civil war when realism began in american writing and other things like that, she took on a much harder past, she went from being june cleaver to john crawford, the fact of the matter was neither was true in both is true, the truth was much more nuanced to a place in the middle and when i got into the scholarship very talented woman, even one
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biographer who is a good biographer of washington said she was unlettered and she was actually lettered and she had a very fine hand and wrote very literate letters and she also lived and not the country, the most booming metropolis in 1750s, 1760s. what emerged was a much more sophisticated woman and a woman that history has not been kind to and i think between martha and myself, we started to address the idea and george father died when he was only 12 years old. and it occurred to me he had older stepbrother that he was never around really all that
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much and he had strong male figures in the strong male figures, they achieve all these qualities that they associated with in the bravery and the integrity. in the correctness came from his mother, that makes her because she raised george washington, it made you the most important woman in american public. >> that's a really interesting reflection. i'm sure the people would prefer your booming metropolis to my challenges. [laughter] >> certainly it was a life in the place and 18th century and more dominant in the area that we may have thought. i want to ask you a quick
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follow-up about marybelle washington and how people interpreted her as a mother overtime, you said she goes from being june cleaver to joan crawford, 20th century visual media references but you're also talking about much longer. from the 19th century into the late 20th century where i'm wondering if you're thinking this is really because people are interpreting motherhood differently and popular conceptions of women in women's roles differently as they are interpreting in washington. >> i don't think there's any doubt about that. i think all of us as historians and scholars and panel modern sensibilities and look backwards, were not guilty and were not judging them of moral standards and qualities of
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today, we are not doing that but we are taking a closer look at the men and women that were in the past and trying to see you then. and i tried to imagine what it would be like and i got a lot of help in my mother and he did a lot of research on my book and i wanted to get a woman's perspective, a single woman raises six children then five children. in the symptoms not has potable to women and they did not have the vote, but women could not own property, that is all women's job to take the property that they had passed along to them and then their job was to pass along the eldest son when he reached the age of the majority. it's a very, very difficult century for women. to do what she had to do and raise the children who all were
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pretty respectful citizens, obviously one being the most respectful citizen and possibly in the history of american public. so she had to have done something right, maybe a lot of things right to raise their children under such difficult circumstances and to produce a man who was described first in peace. >> thank you, i appreciate that a lot, you just are surfaced up to ask martha question about widowhood. if we can switch over, i wanted to note for everybody watching, martha has been experiencing laryngitis, her daughter josephine is going to read some of her responses first and then martha will catch up with the following, thank you we all appreciate that a lot, this is very suitable, it's a mother-daughter thing happening,
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it's really appropriate, i want to start out by asking martha to tell us a little bit more about something that craig touched on which is washington's position as a widow and an elite woman is a slave older and how this can help us understand her in the world she lived in, give us some context for that if you would. >> i should say everett now something to my daughter could read it, it's a little bit formal but i think it answers your question, if we go on too long work my daughter goes to on too long. >> telling the story as a widow, a slave owner and a memory opens a wide range of discussion of 18th century virginia including class slavery, white women contradictory role in the
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way the legal system shaped white male supremacy. her position as an elite white widow gives us a view onto her privilege and her lack of fundamental right. mary's decision to stay unmarried after the death of her husband placed her in a category of women with special freedom and special legal and customary liability. virginia law permitted widows unlike riot rights to own propey but they worked to keep the ownership of land exceptional and temporary. in mary's case, the two best plantations to his son by his first marriage and divided up the rest of the land among his and mary's sons. he left a small amount of money to their daughter betty, he left mary the right to use the house and land where she lived only until george came of age. augustine left her approximately the same number of enslaved people whom she had brought to the marriage and stipulated if she felt the need for more it
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would come from among people designated for her children. augustine's role was stingy and said they were at odds with her children but in line with the legal goal of keeping land away from women in trying to reduce proper women which is considered a natural condition for women. these legal practices created the condition for widespread friction between mothers and their firstborn sons. mary stated the family farm after george coming-of-age because he was already in mount vernon and he had failed to find the memes to go to find a home. over the years the quest for small sum of money to meet their expenses on the relatively infertile property irked them and took the farm thinking to improve and make the profit he believed was due him. as it happened he failed in that endeavor. we will never know why mary remained single but she had a
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model for independence in the memory of her mother's widowhood between the time young mary was about six until she was 12. she watched her mother run their farm, litigate to recover property and make her own decisions. mary might not also. augustine's provision in his will that if she remarried in the second husband had the children's legacy, she would lose guardianship. as a child she had the experience of guardians fighting over him and his brothers legacy so he wanted to prevent the not uncommon occurrence and from mary standpoint it would've been difficult to be sure any prospective might not have on her property and she will not risk control over her children. mary's experience as a slave owner over the course of much of the 18th century offers a glimpse of the unsettling and unsettled intimacy slaveholders and enslaved people as well as between slaveholders and enslaved people and suggesting changes at the institution developed over that time.
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mary became the owner of two young enslaved boys and a man at age three when her wealthy father died. the rule of slave owner will her infancy and shaped her sense of command and belief and necessity of slavery. she own children about her age who are probably occasionally her playmate but whatever the game, she would win. she grew up on a small farm where they live close together. and her stepfather and mother worked out of her captive. when mary stepfather died, she took over and hired an overseer but still controlling the farm and they enslaved workers. mary was born on it. when a high number of africans were entering virginia speaking foreign languages, some of scars bewildered. mary's financial guardian george eskridge was among the legislators with the early
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18th century laws as complete control over the lives of africans as possible. mary's father litigated over the children and unborn children of young enslaved women. her mother's will promise mary that she would be valuable although less costly then and enslaved man that mary would've known because the women worked in the field into the house and produce children that their owners could work or sell. both mary's early ownership enter membership in the early 18th century generation helped make her an utterly unrepentant slaveowner. a family story had her whipping in an enslaved boy who mishandled her carriage, during the revolution, she asked george to borrow the enslaved priscilla who worked in mount vernon, george delayed because priscilla pleaded not to be separated from her partner but mary persisted and got her way.
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in her will she separated enslaved family members recklessly. as a woman, but later more urgently as a widow, mary had to demonstrate her authority and strength before her slaves and her overseers. perceived weakness could lead to resistance, statistics show that cases of infraction by enslaved people owned by widows showed up more often than the courts than those owned by men. by the time mary was an old woman, the myth was developing that women slaveowners did not use violence. martha washington for example was protected by george's rule that enslaved people cannot complain to her as an overseer. the prevailing ideological sensibility along with the distance wealthy planters would increasingly create between plantation mistresses and the actual day-to-day extraction work from labors left mary as a
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woman vulnerable to the criticism of unusual cruelty. thank you so much. thank you martha and thank you josephine, really helpful context. i think you put two things together there. in the experience of the widow and we know how the law in virginia disempowered women but also put widows in a slightly more free and wealthy widows in a slightly more powerful position and also then need to be a slavery. so mary washington is an interesting figure, she's extreme and powerful in some context and not at all powerful in others. i'm going to ask charlene to come in next question, when we come back to you, in the second round, one of the things i'm going to ask you about is give us a reminder of what coverts
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are met, it can find women property which is crucial for us to understand, you mentioned that as well and we are talking about law in which it compares women and constrains insane people, they can support understand that. we will come back in a minute. charlene i want to bring into talk about how hard it is to write biography of any women in this. and your writing and you published a book o a book about someone quite famous in writing another book about another weird thing, even so it is really a challenge. why is it so hard to write biographies of women? >> you are right, exactly, there are multiple reasons why there are talents i challenges as wel. i think the easy way route, i choose women who have a good record, women who would've been
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written about in newspapers and by heather historians, people who try to do something like marybelle washington, she's more elusive but the challenges come from the time. when you're looking at these women and how people have kept sources and how archives have worked which have been always to place women with men. when you look at the 18th century in the early 19th century, women are thought of as generalization, not as individuals themselves, they don't have public identity, they are really only known as whether the mother of somebody, the wife of somebody, the daughter of somebody, there known of who they're attached. i think because of that, because women did not have the public identities because women were releasing as specific
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individuals, it is a generic general category, they got lost in the record, they were not written about as much in its men's names were first and men who are the head of the household. it's really hard to find women. one of the challenges, you have to start sifting all the traditional documents and where they can and go to an archive, the papers are known by the man's name. the benedict arnold papers enter benedict arnold papers. or there known by their father's name or their put into one folder in a family paper and that's where all the women's
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papers are. this sift. when you're looking papers coming up to sifting search where these women are and what key terms do you use because they are not always going to be known as margaret arnold or elizabeth, they were much harder to find than men, it also means, this is one thing why i like to write biographies, we get creative and went to write about a woman and because they're more elusive and more difficult to write about this is where you start to get both sources in different ways, it is not reading between the lines, the traditional sources like letters is think about architecture and spaces that women inhabited laundries and kitchens and bedrooms and orchards and how can we bring that in and help us tell her story. it's a way that you can think about material culture, when you
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look at jewelry that a woman owned or dishes that are women used, or piece of clothing can tell us in immense amount and let us write the story in a more full rich way, even though the sources that are there are not as rich for somebody like george washington or thomas and jefferson. what i think we need to understand, we need you biography and thing about the challenges, complex figures it seems implicit for me too say so but women especially who are known by the men in their lives like marybelle washington, get simplified and there known as the mother of the father. or as peggy arnold gets known as the traders wife, their very complex figures, the not just somebody's mothers, wives, daughters, they are slaveholders, writers, politicians, shopkeepers, their artist, their women who are full of complexity and the challenge
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of the biography is to break through the traditional thinkings of women and mothers, wives and daughters and bus that open and think about sources and creative ways to get a fuller, richer picture of women. it is harder history to write, it is more challenging, it is frustrating sometimes, especially when you're looking for women of the lower classes and certainly women of color where the records are most do not exist, is frustrating and can produce a lot of anger, my students get angry when they cannot find sources. there is lots of rewards to try and resurrect these women is really complex individuals that they were. >> thank you, that is great, i love your emphasis on the challenge and the creativity involved, i guess it really underscores a key point we were
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trying to write about enslaved women who are really known almost primarily by their relationship to someone who enslaved them and you think about the incredible achievement about erica dunbar who wrote the incredible biography and letting her be an individual in her own right and writing her life, when we really only half to points of access to her individual voice, interviews that she gave in the 19th century describing what happened when she ran away from the washington. so yeah i think you make such an important point as seen women as individuals and not just in the relationship to other people. thank you a lot. i want to go back to this question with martha about coverts or in asking martha, i want to ask you two things although i want to ask you to be brief, the first one is about
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coquetry. if you could very quickly, i know your voice is strange and i'm giving your curveball, if you could give us a distinct description of what the law of coverture is and how it disempowers women that is elite women, how it empowers women a property when they are not married. if you could give us that little snippet. i think that could be super helpful. >> overture, when you marry you lose your identity as a woman and you become an assumed in the identity of your husband, nothing that you own or produce including your children are yours. this is not your before marriage, before marriage you are presumably dependent on your father and your father can arrange and pass on things legally and be owner of property and when you're a widow, the same thing happens, you can own things in your own right, so coverts are essentially.
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>> we don't restore many of those abilities that men have. >> that is so helpful, it is interesting to think about someone like marybelle washington who even though she's living in a challenging time, when she is widowed she has more legal capacity and when she is married and although we know women do remarry, we know the also when women are widowed, they remarry much less quickly and frequently than men do, men whose wives have the way very more quickly than women do. we cannot assume that that means she was in some kind of modern feminist sense claiming her authority. but it may be the kind of capacity that she had as a widow
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suited her in some way, do you think that is fair. >> absolutely, i think she had a model in her mother, she saw the difference in her mother's life. it is now clear that she enjoyed her mother very much, she never named her child after her but she certainly admired her strength in her abilities, she also admitted she would not have to have any more children if she did not remarry which she had six. she may not have wanted to spend her life producing more children and doing all of that, women of the time wrote about that and as a real reason for not wanting to marry again, she also would've possibly lost control if she married again over the property that she still had that but tempering status from her husband and property she had
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long term from her father, there were many risks and she was used to going her own way and i think she preferred it. >> thank you, i want to ask you to mention briefly, again all the subjects are big ones and compelling but an interesting thing that you bring to your book and craig mentioned as well is the fact that she reads and there's things that we can know about her from her books and from reading, and wondering if you can very briefly talk about what we can think about her as a reader. >> i wrote a page and a half about that is that okay? >> i said i wrote a page and a half about that if josephine can read. >> that is fine, sorry my wife i
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was blinking or yours was bunking. that would be fine. >> 's audio k? >> as mary became an adolescent, she came in possession of jon scott christian life from the beginning, the first of a handful of devotional books that she would read and. reporter: during her life. they were almost all written in the late 17th century by english protestant, some dissenters, all helpful to marry whose early loss of her parents left her in need of comfort and guidance, mini lessons tend to focus on how to accept loss, the loss of health, or beloved people by studying god's will and purposes. excessive unhappiness and complaining challenge god's plan for the sinners, this was a common belief although many did not manage to comply with the demeanor required. mary had to start learning these
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lessons early and often. >> at their marriage he gave the book wife he owned, matthew has contemplation moral and divine, she wrote her name below her predecessors in that book became her daily companion and teaching tool, she is the examples in parables to sue herself to teach her children and her grandchildren, george washington later came to own his own copy of it. >> they taught the prevailing social hierarchies were just in one should work hard in one's assigned position. god looked most favorably on good and faithful stewards of property. the master could on system more behavior of someone of a lower class could not appreciate the complexity of christianity. for most virginia slaveholders, these lessons largely including to be obedient. mary's books furnished her brainbrainthat navigate stress .
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unlike her wealthier and more leisure contemporaries, she did not read novels which would beginning to be popular. novels written in a friendly gala terry intoned to the reader rather than a teacher to student offered lessons in empathy and sympathy sharing sorrows with others pain. mary because of her early losses in the precocious workload developed little of these qualities that the 18th century elite came to value so highly of the ability. >> thank you, i think that's really helpful and amplifies the point you are making about her thinking about her role in her thinking about her place in society that is helpful. i want to go back to craig and craig had mentioned this point about marybelle washington about a significant reader the understanding her as a person of letters was important for your sense of rewriting the biography
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of marybelle washington, i'm going to ask you an unfair question if you don't mind, we've just been talking about how important it is to think about women as an independent people, full individuals and not in relation to someone else but i do want to ask you because you write about this in the book and you mention this, what is the significance of understanding marybelle washington or george washington. i think that the driving question for a lot of people and certainly is something that you address, can you help us to think about that a little bit? >> sure and listening to martha's daughter talk about the scholarship in the book she was reading and i cover the same territory in my book. it reminded me with the same thing, i guess this addresses the larger question to the scholarship of marybelle
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washington is a scholarship of all women of the 18th century and i equated to going to the hobby store and buying a thousand piece puzzle and bring in and out and up and on the table and finding 300 pieces missing. it was like that and train to piece together but if you look hard and long enough you know where to look and you can piece it together and with mary it's a woman of the 18th century, it is difficult to find all these things, just to illustrate, we don't even know exactly when she was born, we don't know, george washington's mother, we do not know where she is buried, she might be where she used to go to pray, she may be there near a cottage but the fact is nobody knows where she's married today.
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i think that she did from the time that she was raised in the values that she grew up with, obviously was a difficult time but also i think she was ultimately very good and who interceded at times and important times in george's life to make sure he followed the straight and narrow when he was 12 years old, he became a british cabin boy, she wrote a letter to her brother and he came back very quickly, speaking of letters and told mary that under no circumstances could george be allowed to become a british cabin boy, the cap system in the british navy as you can imagine was a severe among cabin boys as it was one of the officers. in the first was they got as the
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british, boys. in way down at the bottom, even below jamaican slaves were americas, this is not a time the british kept a good practice and something like one third of all cabin boys, scurvy, washed overboard, battle and plus they were in with the gangs who went to the broncos in bars of london and that's the worst part of people to enforce them, they might be drunk in a bar and wake up in their hundred miles out of c and they might see them for three or four years, these are rough men and dozens of tough disheveled, was not very good.
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so she interceded to make sure that george did not go into the british navy, she encouraged him in his reading, she got him tutors, she encouraged him to become a surveyor. she did not want him to go to the ohio valley which she went to twice and at that time he was a man and striking out on his own but even so many times, not all the time but he did look after her affairs, again the idea responsibility to his mother that he obviously learned from his mother in the idea responsibility as a citizen in a son and as a human being, all these qualities as i mentioned before that we associate with george washington had to come from her, she is the one that
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instilled them in him. >> thank you, i was remembering i was trained to flip through my book to see if i could find a place where i marked it but i turned down too many pages, when you wrote about her not wanting him to go to see, that was really moving and that is not -- i think previous biographers had said she was trying to tie him to closely to her aprons strings which the whole notion is very particular notion but you said no, she is a realistic sense of what that would mean and why she thought that would not of been a positive outcome for him. >> i think i just lost you. now you're back. >> great. >> i thought that was a great point, the other thing i want to mention and if you can say one more word, this was striking in
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your first, you talk about her as brave, you said she's a brave woman and that washington's bravery as we think about him as a brave person, we can source that to her, can you say more about that because i think it's quite powerful. >> i think all women of that century in that time in the era had to be brave. because it's difficult circumstances, mortality was very high, children died at a tremendously high percentage and everything was in danger. in all around you. infection was a killer. he died of influenza, you died of a dramatic fever, and to be a single woman, raising six children, i remember in america,
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they wrote about the singularity of american women and he perceived that american women were different from european women and former independent, they were far more, they stood up for themselves and they were all good attributes and i remember reading that from democracy in america and he did not have marybelle washington but when i did i had that in mind. it struck me that one of the things that we don't look into enough as a personal qualities of the people of that time, it's just not names and dates and places, these were real human beings with real emotions and especially at the end with the
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breast cancer. she was very brave in that regard because she knew she was dying, george knew she was dying, there was nothing that could be done about it, had to be terribly terribly painful for her but by all accounts, the accounts that were made, she makes in the last years, they were bravery. >> one less thing i would notice is that marco was talking about mary, she manages and enslaves a pretty decent number of people, she had the commanding presence, george washington also had the commanding presence, i guess we can see that in two ways, we can see these are people who are in charge and maybe that is a parallel. >> yes i would agree with that. look at the conduct during the
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revolutionary war, it maybe is the greatest achievement in the revolutionary war. but holding together a ragtag army for seven years and moving it from bottle to bottle to bottle, losing more battles in one and the more important battles that he lost and that truly has to come from someplace. >> thank you. i'm going to flip over here and asked charlie one last question before we go to questions from the audience, there has been a wonderful wealth of questions, want to think all of you, been trying to read them as everyone's been talking in the really great and i want to thank you all very much, we will get to some of them. charlene i wonder if you could help us put marybelle washington in the context of the 18th century of women in british america and can we draw any larger lessons here, craig gestured towards this and so did
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martha had some valuable insights. but i wondered if you could rain not a little bit more. >> sure. i think marybelle washington is extraordinary and then she is also ordinary, i think she's illuminating on a number of points to tell us more about women in the 18th century and first of all intel meant she really is 18th century and the woman who was born at the beginning and died at the end. we don't have very many women who are the 18th century and marybelle washington is and that's wonderful. she is ordinary as some ordinary elite white woman, this is a woman who is born into a white slaveholding family that helps rural virginia, her defendants will continue to help rural virginia, this is a woman of
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privilege, in spite of many losses and sufferings, she still gets to enjoy privileges that lets of other women, black or white in virginia or elsewhere did not get to enjoy, she is a faithful devout christian and i do think we need to spend more time looking at this a religion in women's life in the 18th century, i don't think that gets enough attention, that is one good way marybelle washington eliminates the 18th century women for us but while she's a devout faithful christian, she is convinced in her right to own and control people and that she has the right to be in control of these other people and she has a right to own them even though she is a devout christian, i think she gives up the paradox of the 18th century and that way, her sufferings are sad but there also ordinary, los lots of women lost parents and their husbands
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but she is unusual in the fact that she does not remarry, that is unusual in the 18th century, a lot of women because of how hard life is and what craig was talking about did not make the choice to go it alone even though there's really good reasons to go it alone. so she is extraordinary and that. she also demonstrates to us the limitations that women had, here is a woman, a single woman to control the large plantation, owns a number of people, pays a lot of taxes and she does not have the political power, the social power that a man would have in the 18th century, i think he also helps illuminate the limitations of a woman's life. on the other hand when you read martha's book or craig's book, uc this is an elite woman who understood she needed to learn what all young ladies needed to learn, how to write, how to
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read, to attract a wealthy husband and she did, and he washington was quite a catch, and she is usual in that sense two. i also think she shows some of the choices women made, i think people who read about her will be surprise and independence will be surprised and that she chose to not remarry, she chose to control the legacy of her children, to protect that so she could pass on to them, she shows the importance of motherhood of what we were mentioning before, she becomes known as the mother, so she really emphasizes that to and i also think she shows us how complicated and complex women lives are, she has been simplified to the mother of george washington, this is what i was saying earlier into the more complex figure than that and she brings to me more
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questions, about the 18th century and she makes me think, how would you characterize herself and how would marybelle washington characterize herself, we can characterize her as much as we want, how would she have done that, what did motherhood mean to her, we can kinda guess what it might've meant but i would like to know, what mattered most to her, maybe it wasn't george washington's mother that mattered most to her, she is eliminating and gives us lots of answers for the women's lives in the 18th century but i think she leaves us with some questions to simply because evidence is not there and we just don't always know what these women were thinking, i know you said there's good questions out there so i'll leave it at that. >> great, thank you so much. yeah thank you everyone, such good questions, i cannot read them fast enough. here is one i'm going to talk this one to craig first.
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because there are some really good questions, craig this is something that i know your address, someone asked and i'm scrolling here, i one attribute these questions to everyone. the person who asked this will no that this is your question, someone has asked about her feelings about the american revolution, she is born at the british subject, she lived longer than george washington as a subject of britain, what were her feelings about the make and revolution, do we have any hints about that? >> i know those two, there are a close advisor, but nothing to say yes, she grew up as subject, she grew up in the divine life
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to king george the second king george the third, she attended the annual state church of england and she read english literature and she followed the english fashion and dress in english fashion in every way from childhood up until 1776, she is a british subject in and try to put myself in that time . . . what would it be like to say to an individual, everything that you've learned for the first 50 some odd years of your life is wrong. you don't have a king, you're not a british subject, you don't have to do this, you don't have to go to the state to church, we have a new government and their something to make that lifestyle change in psychological and
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personal and repeatable the roofs. enter rip somebody up by the roots of what their culture has been had to be very difficult for her but there is no evidence that she supported george either, there's no evidence for the colonial troops, there was a reference to french troops and several or at least one of them made reference to her being a supervisor. again it was very, very thin and really she was probably agnostic about the whole thing, but one other thing i think martha talked about this too, it was
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time when she was working in her garden and a horseman comes up with a message recklessly and to until her that george won an important battle and she's dismissive and says that's what he supposed to do. there was no joy at her son's success of the american revolution against the british empire, nothing like that whatsoever. and i don't think she thought about it that deeply, there is nothing in her letters and nothing in any biography and nothing that suggests that she took a position one way or another. >> and to be fair even if we go by john adams old of the revolution and we would expect them to be a patriot but to be fair, she lived her life as a british subject.
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so you know. >> historians will tell you that maybe more than a third of americans were loyal to the british crowd. and his own son was a prisoner and the spy. >> he was a real governor of new jersey, king david gave him a good job. [laughter] >> we've got at least three people of our two dozen questions have asked about what mary thought about martha. i want to ask you martha if you had something to tell us about what marybelle washington thought about her daughter-in-law martha. >> is complicated and i think at mount vernon they didn't get along at all and then mary and
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martha really did not like each other, they were both powerful women in their own way, i think mary was pleased that george married martha and that if there was discomfort it was probably on martha and george aside because one of the things we haven't talked about is mary grew up much less elite than the circles her son were traveling and she wasn't -- >> she was not very pinnacle, she's a believer not a super elite. >> she was now polished, she did not make conversation necessarily to be amusing and charming and she has things to say and was a very solitary and personal i imagine.
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and i think that she represented many values that martha had troubles with in life and martha was very lavish and so he would spend money and go into debt up to their eyeballs before the revolution. mary although she asked little bit of money from george, they did not do that not dress-up and did not worship the high life. i think there was a real classroom that and i think martha really did not enjoy whatever remaining control mary had over her son. >> thank you, it's interesting, there's a different generation in those generations really matter and that. and in virginia. so here's a question, do we know, someone asked, but the google asked about why she did not remarry and we talked about that a bit, do we know anything about her ever considering remarrying and she would help,
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did she have any other student or interested in anyone, we know it? >> we have no evidence whatsoever, i agree with martha, she did not speak about another man and what she had to give up but also there may have been evidence in it maybe, whatever it was at the large, she remarried. >> go ahead martha. >> there was discussion of a doctor who may or may not, he visited a lot but he also had professionally could do that. i think this is something that they suggest but nobody knows.
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>> charlene i want to ask someone else in question about women about slaveholders and what is the dynamic when a man is enslaving people and he has a certain level of authority, what is the situation of women, the question is which you have had to be harsher or tougher or something. we have some pretty recent scholarship on this question about white women as slaveholders which is pretty powerful. >> right, the recent scholarship opens up a picture of slaveholding women that i think really goes against the 19th century gone with the wind slaveholding women, it's increasingly clear that slaveholding white women were more violent often, not in terms of whipping but personal
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one-on-one violence, using an implement or clunking 70 on the head, stabbing them with a sewing needle, something noise at hand, using a kitchen implement, we probably do not know a lot about how marybelle washington was asleep sister but we know enough about other virginia slaveholding women to know that violence was a regular day-to-day occurrence in these households. because women did not have as much of authority. we also have a harder time interacting with overseers and keeping authority over overseers. that makes for more frustrating tense and violent environment. >> thank you, that is helpful. i have another question which i just love, this is directly for you martha, this goes straight to her historians happy heart. a quick question. about documents, the question
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for you, are you aware of marybelle washington's papers included in the washington family papers project which the george washington papers project at uva and support from mount vernon's publishing. >> i'm not aware of that, our papers are so few, it is just heartbreaking. i think when martha went through the papers and they burned a lot of office lot of stuff, would not be surprised that many of the notes that mary has written with that. what is left, are five or six floaters, there is a couple mount vernon in new york and i don't know what's going to happen other than that but to speak of mary's papers is a beautiful dream.
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[laughter] will there's another wonderful question which i was going to ask both of you and craig but i think we lost craig's connection, we were having a challenge without but i was going to ask both of you because someone also asked, do you think there's a mysterious cache of papers out there somewhere like we all dream about that. do you think there is a cash paper somewhere. >> i have annoyed you. >> it would be amazing. >> we were just getting to my favorite line of question which is whether about there's more papers to be found, the question of is there cash of marybelle washington papers to be found? >> no, you don't think so? >> i think craig is muted. i think you're muted still. jeanette, can you unmute him, i
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want to give him a chance to answer pretty says he cannot unmute, i think you have to hit your unmute button because jeanette cannot do it for you. can you hit unmute on your phone. maybe. this is sad because this is such a great question. maybe you can give us hand gestures. there you go, now i hear you. >> i'll just have a signal. do you think there's a cache of papers out there waiting to be found? >> we all know that martha destroyed her letters or at least that was the story that george wrote her. i think the scholarship is always available. his remarkable things that you found, up in union college a couple of years ago somebody was going to the library and they pulled out a book and they found a lock of hair, it's astonishing
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them all scholarship that is still on found out there that you discover. when i was working on my book in december 1941, we did a lot of research at the library. and my son who is my principal researcher was going to declassify documents of world war ii and he found that had been from the office of naval intelligence that was top secret and it was to the president of the united states and the chief of staff of the white house and it was then top secret and have been declassified in the 70s and nobody ever found it, we came across to and they wrote three days before december 7, 1941. in estimating japanese including the panama canal, the
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philippines, guam, something like 27 times -- >> oh my gosh. >> i'm not suggesting there was any conspiracy, i think that's all nonsense but this memo hardly grounds for roosevelt library for a year unclassified in the 70s and nobody ever came across it. i think there is always new scholarship out there to be discovered and uncovered. >> i think that is great and that so important, what your work shows all three of you is the power of locating more information, bringing fresh perspective, more interpretation, sometimes we talk about revision of history is a bad thing but the truth is, as i like to say, i borrowed it from my friend the great civil war historian and we all like provision of medicine. you get new information, new perspective and that's what were doing here, scholarship brings
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us new information, new perspective to fully understand the critical period of the american past and i hope you will join us in recognizing that the 18th century is really the most significant in american history. [laughter] that's where we should all focus. i'm not going to let you guys have the last word, i'm going to end right there. and i'm going to say thank you all so much for joining us in this evening and think all of you, i really appreciate all your questions, there are a few questions in here that i'm going to ask the folks up mount vernon to give us contact information, i will e-mail you because you're really great questions and i don't want them to go and answer. thank you all so much, thanks to kevin, jeanette and jim at the back in a mount vernon, don't forget what kevin said, it is open for visiting and don't forget what i said about the important role the mount vernon place. thank you so much everyone.
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