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tv   Book Discussion on The Washingtons  CSPAN  December 12, 2015 3:46pm-4:57pm EST

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don't build this, i will. i got pretty excited and thought i would tell a story. >> host: john fialka, "car wars," the rise, the fall and the resurgence of the electric car. you are watching booktv on c-span2. >> you are watching booktv, television for serious readers, watch any program you see on line at booktv.org. [inaudible conversations]
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>> good evening, everyone. this is where you say good evening back. that is good. i want to thank you for joining us this evening. i am the president of george washington mount vernon. it is my pleasure to welcome you for this installment, we are honored to have flora fraser with us this evening, she will discuss her book "the washingtons," george and martha joined by french yet, crowned by love. is a full-scale portraits of the marriage of the father and mother of our country and of the struggle for independence that he lead. already the book has been hailed as a major work on american history, an important contribution to understanding the julies, complexitie , comp, intricacies of the union, this
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bill is the anniversary of the lecture series. [applause] >> how about that? [applause] >> established in 2006, the eighteenth region of the mount vernon ladies' association. gay and her husband stanley are with us, many of you know gay well but i would like you to ask you to stand and be recognized. [applause] >> they told me when i took the job that when you -- you might not hear from somebody. gay is still calling me with great ideas and i can barely keep up with her. i am grateful for all you have done. the gay heart gains lecture series was funded by gay's friend norman who deserves double accolades this evening because he is the one who tipped me to flora fraser's compelling book on george and martha
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washington. [applause] >> blue is also a great guardian of american history having co-founded the institute for american history, lew and his lovely wife louise i hear and we are glad to have you. they travel all the way down from gettysburg, pa. to do this so we are really glad you are here, thank you very much. [applause] >> it is also a really great pleasure to introduce steven from well, the winner of the 2013 george washington book prize for his work george washington, gentleman warrior. we acknowledge norman as partners with washington college in establishing the washington book prize which steven won
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three years ago and i would say it was the first very specific book on washington, we are delighted you are here. >> tonight marks another milestone in mount vernon's efforts to educate the world about martha washington. and the critical role she played as partner to her beloved george washington. early we ascended our partnership with the washington papers project at the university of virginia to undertake a comprehensive addition of martha washington's papers and digital form act. in march of next year we welcome student swain and richard norton smith, a new book on first ladies as part of the martha washington lectures ceres, we add new content about martha washington to the mount washington website and the grace and wisdom of our own special martha washington to educate visitors here.
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it is impossible as we will learn tonight, to understand george washington in mount vernon without knowing the story of martha washington. in 1816 john adams posed this question, when washington had ever been commander of the revolutionary army for president of the united states if he had not married the rich widow? as you know, everett jealous of the deep affection shown by the american people to washington in life and death he frequently cited washington's stature, his rugged good looks and his luck in marriage as evidence that that is all but took him to where he got to. in her book john fialka turns that derisive question on its ear and make a cogent argument that washington's marriage to martha completed him. her conclusion is and i quote, martha in view george not only with wealth but with the confidence he had earlier whack. to get. this couple, loyal
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british subjects when they married became disaffected with rule from london and with remarkable consequences for the union and the future of the united states. flora fraser faced the daunting task in developing intricacies of the marriage between george and martha and without the correspondence between the two of them and yet she succeeded admirably. our speaker grew up in london and scotland, at oxford university before becoming a special writer. the daughter of lady antonia frazier and playwright harold pinter, she is the author of among others princesses, the six autism george iii, beloved and the, the life of an l.a. hamilton and finally, only bonaparte. during a routines and 20s he conducted research for a number of authors including boca grande mother and her mother who were both historical biographers. in 2002 she co-founded the others that longford prize for historical biography which she
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shares as well as the elisabeth longford historical biography administered by the society of authors. laura served as a trustee of the london national portrait gallery from 1999 to 2008. since 2011 she has been a member of the development council in oxford. she is a patron of openairjeter.org which -- had to look on the web. the scoop is an outdoor theater. she currently reside in london and we are especially grateful that you traveled this far. join me in welcoming flora fraser. [applause] >> thank you.
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it is ladies and gentlemen a privileged and a pleasure to be speaking here this evening at mount vernon. most glorious day walking around the grounds, and i was sitting on the peons the on a rocking chair this morning, and i was looking at the beautiful view kept on merry land opposite thanks to the mount vernon organization and to my left was
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a field of horses. and preserving and reinterpreting george and martha's home. in every new and surprising ways. i find the story of george and march at's marriage so engrossing to his success as the commander and president. i would happily married all 40 years of it but we don't have time for that. i would like to -- some time at the end of my remarks, any questions you would like to ask me. about anything you like. where did i get this nice coat?
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[laughter] and as kirk said, martha didn't only bring wealth, she was a rich widow and she brought i think confidence to george, he was nervous, easily cast out and he responded to her natural robustness and her spirits were short up. brian at the beginning of their marriage. over 15 years at mount vernon before the war they forged a
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bonds of devotion. mark the journey to george bad quarters every winter of the war, valley forge bleak headquarters in new york and new jersey, and he was there for her and the presidency again, they forged those walls for the president and presidential partner together. my book is the story of the washingtons wherever they are, mount vernon, the war, different presidential homes, a story
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about human connections, a shifting, they start by being colonial conservatives, become radicalized, swept to the helm and then take charge of government and i could talk about any one of those periods and i do divide these periods into three books, books and 1, book 2 and books 3 and i like that old fashioned way of dividing a book. i want to talk tonight about the
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third captor of their livehapte the period they spend president, remembering all the times this is what they wanted to get back to and when there was a congressional recess they came home with joy and went back to the life of duty if not regret, would wish to come back home again. washington had looked forward to a life of retirement at mount vernon when the revolutionary war ended in 1783. just over 50, eight month
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holder, martha was 52 to be exact. but hopes of a quiet old age eroded during the five years after the war while the constitution was being framed. bird came in march of 1789, washington's election as first president of the united states, and wrote to general henry knox, secretary of war, my movement to the chair of government will be accompanied with feelings not unlike those of the culprits who is going to the place of his execution. ..
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>> >> they were both missing
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march was capable and cheerful presence. below is a letter written he said we have engaged the tavern keeper as a steward but in the dining room lobsters make a conspicuous figure on top of the table. tell that to washington would have some effect. and said we are extremely desirous to see her again.
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that washington was canvassing political colleagues. he wanted their opinion on the etiquette proper to be observed by the president. alexander hamilton, to be secretary of treasury said for the president to except invitation to give formal entertainment only four times per year on the anniversary of important dates of the revolution. washington digested hamilton's answers. his appearance rarely admits he party maybe permissible.
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as the president he should have no intercourse with society for public business. the term levy had an unfortunate connotations to derive from the french court ritual end notes the king rising from his bed. [laughter] and whether in colonial days it was always satirical and now it had come to new york. in so many ways it was the
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correct form of address and adams considered a title to uphold the president to authority of his excellency and his highness were suggestions the anti-federalist senator said to run into the fleury's of etiquette and ultimately congress decreed 1789 he should have the title the president and mrs. washington often known as lady washington became very firmly mrs. washington.
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when she set off should to occur two grandchildren aged 10 and eight. you know, they were the children of her son jackie who died of typhus shortly after victory at yorktown. and washington's ever since his death had given a home to the youngest of the four children. one of the president's many nephews recorded martha's
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departure many of the field negros made an appearance to take leave of their mistress. many seemed greatly agitated and my aunt equally so. the commotion was greater at the plantation the family in tears period children are boiling. and most lamentable situation. the president came to the jersey shore to meet his wife and to conduct a party. they prized alone together another to a breakfast in
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private in just there one servant in attendance washington would work with his secretaries or in conference with cabinet colleagues. margaret -- martha supervised her grandchildren and running of the house will then went shopping. she kept up a detailed correspondence with her knees at mountain vernon. georgia guston was in charge of the plantation and the house marshall describes her new life since she arrived in new york she is not had
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one half hour it to herself to be dressed every day she told her knees you would think of me of the a good deal of fashion. little girl wanted this city she spends time at the window watching carriages passing by which she is new to her. think of carriages coming up to counterman -- mount vernon with a constant traffic. her granddaughter was to begin music insurance money was already paid to the composer to teach her the piano and she became a fine performer and was also a
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conscientious student at the school for young ladies. the president's ambition with the sons of alexander hamilton to attend a school on greenwich street he much preferred life at home spoiled by his grandmother and the servants but the dinner shaped the week it was strictly for gentleman strictly for gentleman between three and 4:00 p.m.. washington was a majestic figure at these assemblies.
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is great height and build would show them out. he would see even more regal taking a suit of black velvet upon his mother's death and the portrait of washington in the black velvet coat against a background is as splendid as says any european monarch. regardless what the antifederalists through at him. while not on parade for everyday dress some describe as pepper and salt close.
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martha hosted the freddie reception in the drawing room. they would curtsy before erse circulating to enjoy a lemonade and ice-cream. the president did not carry a hat that signified he was a guest at the gathering. but the widow of nathaniel greene described the aura that surrounded washington. no person presents to sit in his presence and is treated as if he had a crown. there is some public mockery of marx's drawing rooms the hosted weekly attend --
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meetings abigail adams wrote there was not any pride about the president's wife and that confounded her respect i found myself much more deeply impressed that i ever did before the majesties of britain the course adams was that the court of the minister. she praises her white hair her beautiful teeth her plane cost to the close. and private she spoke her mind condemning jefferson
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for the ill treatment of her husband were to weigh in with advice to family members when fannie washington reported one of her children were not well. martha replied children that eat everything is they like and as heartily as yours does must be full of worms. [laughter] i never saw children stuffed as yours as when i was down in virginia. [laughter] every thursday hosted a public tender that became known as the congress dinner and i was interested when we saw the beautiful display
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said decorations of the table ornaments and it gave me a huge pleasure to read about the congress dinners in my book. but that is where my whole idea of the congress came from. so members of congress were invited and their wives. some politicians had memories of the dinners during the war.
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washington refuses style of entertainment he said first the novelty would be considered an ostentatious imitation or a minute period of royalty in england. and secondly, it would stop the avenues home into useful information to make us dependent on the few. george and martha administered mount vernon while they read in new york and later in philadelphia mostly by remote control through correspondence.
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but the young couple was reluctant to exercise authority over servants or house or field slaves. murther wrote to her knees and she is so indolent shielded nothing of what she is told george was equally fretful about the state and the work being overseen by georgia guston it was a
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sacrifice they didn't hesitate to make. for washington to become the servant of congress for a couple in their late 50s going into their 60s to oversee the estate it never was the president's intention to give wine or to give any expense to entertain those to come to mount vernon out of curiosity.
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the washingtons had brought some house slaves ben many were white servants in washington secretary commented there were all impressed with the idea they're the best that could be obtained but that was not washington's view. as the president declared a strongly suspect nothing is brought to my table that is not used as profusely at his table. [laughter] they will look forward to the congressional recess when they could live as private individuals.
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in new york george had private enjoyment in the presidential box he was met with acclamations but during the course of the play washington could relax with his guest often with their wives that were old friends from the war and now in government. like the hamiltons were the schuyler's robert morris.
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but it was an isolated life very contrary to the virginia way of life that debris still. sometimes martha did not like her restrictions she wrote to be any with the president was away i never go to any public place where more like a state prisoner. usually she was more
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philosophical she said she was not dissatisfied with her elevated situation as everybody conspires to make me as contented as possible. in new york on washington's birthday was made the occasion of celebration and every year after that. before the revolution became his birthday was the most important date in the secular calendar secretary of state jefferson later growled birthdays and
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drawing rooms washington introduce the trappings of the english courts to establish that constitutional monarchy. but in fact, month by month with washington's help was stamping authority from protocol and etiquette and criticism of the executive branch late february the washington's took up residence in a new poll released by congress a large house on broadway close to where the french ambassador previously rented a
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mischievous diplomat left of furnishings to be sold following his departure to europe congress purchased wonderful items with pulling the mirrors and other costly items for the reception room and washington himself bought a 309 peace dining service. is on display the first dinner was to senators and it was used there after he
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eventually brought it back here. he had less compunction about displays of grandeur. the senator described as a feast to which they sat down to fish and meats and fall with mouthwatering desserts and watermelon and apples and peaches and let's newt -- nuts her wrote given the state of their entertaining in new york it is unfortunate that washington accepted the salary of
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$25,000 per year. in 1790 the security of the fledgling united states hung in the balance influence was raging in new york and the president laid low. he battled to breathe as his long or inflamed doctors came from philadelphia from the new york medics. his condition worsened on the 15th they found a household interiors the president's life despaired of. it was an extraordinary moment adams to had no
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glorious war record gave the very constitution that was written with the expectation that washington would serve as president. he had a very strong physique this a late day he began to expire copiously then his breathing ceased and within days he was declared safe. a proper recovery would take time. and tranquillity was restored to the state. he did fully recover
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creating a federal district with the new national capital that would one day be named washington in the district of columbia into of martha's granddaughter's would settle their personnel the federal government would have its home in philadelphia. and to have a very fine mansion on market street one the anti-federalist with the pomp and splendor in 1793 responding to reports of seizing power in france they
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attacked within -- renewed fervor of washington's style. 11 as daily non instead of shaking hands seclusion from the people but with those gatherings that he a presided that it upheld the dignity of the united states nor did he talk about the celebrations on his birthnight as those that gathered born in philadelphia to celebrate the anniversary.
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during washington's second term they approved the revolutionary program a treaty negotiated by chief justice that was grossly favored british interest washington closely associated with those were viewed. the public attacks made washington miserable. in march 7096 adams wrote the turpitude touches him more nearly in words in one year later shortly before the second term ended he told a dinner partner in
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philadelphia he was like a child in view of the holidays for cry counter the months and weeks ian today's previous to my release. john and abigail adams became the new residents mrs. adams knowledge to be the successor of mrs. washington and make good her place would be an arduous task. and she wrote a note asking for guidance. martha was content to withdraw with her husband from the public gaze. the curtain has fallen she wrote in she looked forward
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to a more tranquil theater in virginia. the life of retirement that they looked forward to not last long before washington then marched up passed away. with their dad the closeness of their marriage faded from the memories of patriots with monuments and statues and i would love it if my book would serve to bring mark that out of the shadows and restore her to this side of her fascinating strong but frail, confident and doubting husband george.
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[applause] one. >> i would be delighted if anyone had questions. >> where did you get that coat? [laughter] >> i am very glad you asked. from a shop in london. i absolutely love it i call it my author coach. [laughter] when i raging -- writing i am more or less in pajamas so it is nice to go out every four or five years to speak about mind book and
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put on my author coat one. >> what made me decide to read about martha washington? coming here. i love sightseeing. i was talking about an earlier book and they came out to visit mount vernon. i went into the mansion and looked at the house and i thought this is so english.
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but the thought persisted. with handicapped thinking about it. after all there were british to start and indeed when they furnished the home or embellish the house with martha as well there were british colonial couple. but it was that journey in the fact martha was as keen of a patriot as georgia few read her letters to friends.
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they're thrilled that they will be defeated and it is terrific. but it was dead two of them with the idea that they were together all the way through. made compromises and i was fascinated. but it was biting off a lot to read about george
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washington if you are a bridge. [laughter] -- if your british it is a bit cheeky. the with the british understatement. but then to write about george and martha but i enjoyed it every inch of the way from mount vernon to go to the historical society and with the papers and all the wonderful national parks and i love a battlefield so went to all the battlefields
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>> [inaudible] en. >> they seemed to be fiercely loyal to each other and their families. what is a series of small even since or cataclysmic that broke the loyalty to the british citizenship? >> really it was the stamp act that started it. but before that they were never happy. and the service stoneham in london one as most worried
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they're not getting the right price for the tobacco. and i would imagine they were complaining the goods sent to them didn't work. last year's fashions. they thought they were pawned off with shoddy goods and effectively. so there was always at and washington made the decision here to grow wheat for the domestic market. so it was small and incremental.
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he didn't want to. it was almost like violence is not what he wanted to resort to early but if he had to he would and he did. that is how the conversations go in his letters. and he had george mason as his next-door neighbor. to me he is such a fascinating founding bader and to have george washington and george mason next door but having conversations about what legislation to get through
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through, it was a very productive relationship between the two georges. >> you very deliberately did not call mark the the first lady. when was that used. >> only after her death. she was called the first lady of the nation. my brain is cheese because i
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have just written a piece i have never done one before. i think it is called the blob. [laughter] -- seibald -- a blog on the huffington opposed website. i thought it was said about dolley madison is that true? [laughter] it was dolley madison after her death maybe it was the book about her but never been used during her lifetime.
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i suggest it would be nice not to word the first president's spouse to refer to the next supporter of the next president as the presidential partner as martha washington was called an agreeable perhaps your and consort were life.
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18 think presidential partner covers all possible scenarios. [laughter] [applause] and it works. if you have a presidential partner in bed is fine i like the etf. i like the term first lady and i adore the smithsonian display of the first ladies' gowns that was absolutely
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fabulous. maybe there will be white ties entails. [laughter] >> thank you very much. i look forward to reading your book. and i know that martha washington spent months that i am a marriott person but i
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understand in the very beginning i don't imagine monday met it was lightning bolts out of the blue. with an instant love match. can you talk about the development of their relationship? >> absolutely overstocking about their marriage was a small society where everybody would need to add the ball with as martha
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became available they have friends and professional acquaintances in common one of them who was a lawyer who did some legal work for george. and his wife was mrs. fairfax that is with him washington was in love. and he was in love when he proposed to merge the. it was a very suitable marriage for both of them as
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martha needed someone to look after the estate, a guardian for her children she did do a capable job the year she was a widow and handle business in london with some austerity that is impressive but nevertheless she is young and it is almost inevitable. may laissez tepid compared
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to how he felt about her later. there were strains of that marriage. they had no children. that is tough and we don't have the correspondence maybe they nate never made reference to wit and letters to each other as martha destroyed their correspondence but their affection and romantic nature of their relationship only grew as they got older. i would say washington's respect grew enormously during the war and he realized during those months
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when he was without her how much he mr.. he thought she would be lonely and wrote a wonderful letter. it is here in the library that he wrote from philadelphia. he was worried she would be lonely and he would be worried about her being lonely but it turns out he was lonely and they never forgot she would go to him but he sent for her and that changed their relationship
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as wars do. but i think that is when he really realized and told benjamin franklin's daughter , he said this is the date 20 years ago i was married to mrs. washington. and much later he told marthas granddaughter,
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marriages the foundation of life. a marriage to martha made him think that. adele biggest for everyone's life but i do think for washington if you're married to the right person. >> did martha keep a diary? >> if she did she burned it unfortunately. but we do have the letters i find this extremely vivid.
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that project is under way. gounod's with their letters that were not published in another edition. it will be very exciting over the next four or five years so i have to say one of the few times i am looking forward to revising my book i can see all the new letters america is a treasure trove and her
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papers from louisiana. and there might be a diary. [laughter] [applause] >> you would be delighted to
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know that i invite you out to for a cocktail reception and thank you for being here. [inaudible conversations]
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>> host: what gave you the idea to write about ruth cater ginsberg and sandra day o'connor? that was a happy story. you cannot think about that subject but more importantly at the aclu. so that was an obvious subject. but sandra day o'connor came to the supreme court first. that women could rise to the highest job in the lane and. so i thought do ey

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