tv First Ladies Influence Image CSPAN August 5, 2013 9:00pm-10:31pm EDT
>> tonight we start at the beginning, exploring the life and times of martha washington. >> martha washington was george washington's confidant. >> she was a person very absorbed in duty and very capable. but she didn't like that. she called herself a prisoner of state. >> by the same token that every step washington took to find the office, so in a very real sense kit be said everything martha washington did like wise. >> it was a business-like relationship, but not i think without affection. i think they had deep respect
and affection for each other. >> it was as close to her how many town. she would own most of this block going back a couple acres, which mean she owned a huge chunk of what williamsburg was. there was a lot of tragedy in martha washington's life, she lost her first husband. she was raised a rich woman. now, what that means in 18th century is not familiesly what it means today. >> when she marries george washington she brings with her to mount vernon 12 house slaves, and that is really almost an unimaginable luxury. >> it takes her 10 days to travel here to valley forge from mount vern oranges in her carriage with her slaves and servants with her. and this was a difficult journey. >> martha's experience had really prepared her to become the first first lady. >> born in new kent county, virginia in 1731, martha washington was 57 years old in
1789 when she and george washington once again left their beloved mount vernon, virginia home in service to the country. this time their destination was new york city, selected as the nation's first capital, where they began the first of their two terms as president and first lady of the united states, setting important precedents for all their successors in the white house. good evening and welcome to c-span's brand-new series "first ladies influence and image." for the next year we're going to be spending time on personal biographies of each of the women mo served in that role in the white house, as a window into american history. our first installment, martha washington, of course, and tonight for the next 90 minutes we'll try to serve up the essential martha washington with two people who have come to know her well. presidential historian richard norton smith whose biography of george washington is called patriarch, and patricia brady who has done a biography of martha washington subject titled an american life. why does martha washington
matter? >> she was the first, and she was one of the best. those things always count. she was able to help george washington make it through the american revolution and then two awful terms as president. she was his help mate, always. >> richard norton smith, this concept for this series was something that you championed early and really were a guiding light into how c-span might do it. what was your thought as a historian about why studying first ladies should matter in this society we live in today? >> first of all, we don't know enough about them. as individuals. we don't know enough about them for the windows that they open upon their particular periods. individually they're fascinating, collectively it seems to me they provide a way of tracing not only women's history but the history of the country, and any number of political and other institutions as well.
but ultimately, i suspect our viewers will be surprised by a lot of the information that they hear over the next year. these are surprising stories that we're going to be telling. >> well, for martha washington we went on location to a number of sites important to her biography, and during our next 90 minutes we'll show you some of the voovment as we always do on c-span this will be interactive and in a little while we'll begin taking phone calls and we'll tell you how you can be part of that conversation. but you can join immediately by social media, if you're on twitter you can send us a question or comment using the hash tag first ladies. and on facebook, on c-span's site we have a question posted for you of anything you'd like to talk about during martha washington's time or life, and we'll mix those into the discussion as well. we welcome your participation, that's what it's all about here. we're going to spend the first 15 or 20 minutes on the years in the white house, the two terms there. >> not the white house. >> that's right, sorry.
the presidential mansion in new york city. 1789 she comes to new york city a few months behind george washington. let's start by telling us what kind of opinion the american public had of these two people as they took this important role. >> well, the opinion they had of these two had begun with the revolution, and at that point when martha would ride to join her husband as she did every year at the winter camps, there would be, people would just line up, be on every tree on every fence post to look at her. as she said, i felt as though i were a very great somebody. she was somebody for the first time, as his wife. and the newspapers reported on how important it was for him to have her. so they started then and when they came back as president and his lady, they really already had, the public had an opinion of them. they were singular characters.
the other politicians were not in the same ballpark at all. >> give people a sense of how hard it was to make the basic decisions about how the new government would function including this role. >> well, in fact, the decisions about what a republic was, what a president was, were inseparable from many of those that we would perhaps almost con descendingly today attribute to the east wing of the white house. for instance, would the president and first lady accept private dinner invitations. would the president and first lady go to private funerals. what do you call the president? indeed what do you call his consort? the reason why these questions, which seem in some ways trivial to us today matter is because each one of them in their own way defined the nature of this new government, which was after
all to some degree a spinoff from its royal ante cedents, yet the country was split down the middle certainly between those who feared that it was in any way aping george iii. so then as now it's remarkable, then as and 200 years later we still have this dichotomy about when a president is. how close does a president and his wife get to us. the fact that mrs. washington had every week a friday night reception, that anyone would walk into as long as they were decently dressed, you certainly wouldn't find that in london. and it helped to define not only her role, but in a larger sense the access that americans would have to their president. >> the thing with that thought is the only models that the washingtons and the rest of the founding government had were the
very sort of european monarchies they fought a revolution to distance them self from, where did the washingtons draw their examples from? >> they talked it out. people see washington always as the strong, marble leader. but he was more than a statue. he always liked to talk to his associates. that's one reason he was criticized as a general, because he liked to talk to his staff before making a decision. in government, he thought that all the best minds of the country would get together, talk things through and make the right decision. because we were the first modern republic. now, it's so hard for us to understand, there was nobody like us. so whatever they did mattered, it was important. >> let's take a quick snapshot of that modern republic and just some basic factwhat america looked like in 1790. this was from the first census ever done by the new country, and interestingly the census
maker was thomas jefferson. here are some of the facts that they gathered about the new united states. the 13 former colony, now the 13 states, a population of just under 4 million. and 757 of those were blacks, about 19%, and only 9% were free. the per cap that income, $437, now interestingly if you look back before the war it was almost double that. so years of war had reduced the per cap that income. if you translated that to $2,013, $11,500, and the largest cities in the country, new york, philadelphia and boston. what should we learn about those three large cities? >> first of all, let me point out that two of those 13 states were not yet members of the union, the fact is that both north carolina and rhode island held back when the rest of the union adopted the constitution. america was overwhelmingly a rural, rustic agrayingian farm
based society. it ended at the appalachian mountains, there were only, in 1800 there were three roads that crossed. the united states was a nation in name only. it was in fact three distinct nations, it was new england, it was the middle states, and it was the south. and each of them had one major, quote, major city, philadelphia as you say the largest city in the nation with all of 40,000 people. so one of the things that martha washington, i think, frankly found not altogether to her liking was the fact that she was uprooted from the agricultural, rural life at mount vernon that she knew, that she had been born into, that she had mastered in many ways, and relished, and it is only the latest chapter of
her sacrifice which in its own way i think you could argue matches anything that her husband sacrificed. >> well, that's true. she did not want to go to a city. she did not want to live in the north. she wanted to be home, at mount vernon. but she had to be there with her husband to do what her husband wanted to do. she gave it up. but the thing that made her so very unhappy was to discover once she got there that washington had consulted with john jay and james madison and john adams and they had all decided that presidents could have no personal life. that any entertainment, any going to visit people, any having people in, was in fact a public act. so they couldn't just go hang out with their friends, or ask their friends over. and that was just for one year, that the first year was terrible for her at the same time that it was pretty good for him.
because jefferson hadn't come back from paris yet. and so that was probably his honeymoon with the presidency. >> let me put a quote in here just to get martha's state of mind about these great restrictions that had been put upon her. this is a quote from her, i never go to the public place, indeed i think i am more like a state prisoner than anything else. a certain balance which i must not depart from and as i cannot do as i like, i am obstinate and i stay home a great deal. >> but you know what, offsetting that, there's a line, so much in common with the entrance to the white house, because first of all it goes to the heart, i think, of who this woman was, and why she was the ideal first, first lady. she said in the quote is too good to spoil, but it's very close, she talked about how, experience of her life had taught her that our happiness, our misery depends upon our
disposition and not our circumstances. >> very true. >> that is a remarkably wise observation. but it's an observation disstilled from a life full of tragedy. she had lost a husband, she lost all four of her children. she lost countless cherished -- >> she lost all of her siblings. >> absolutely. and then she found herself repeatedly uprooted from the life she expected to follow george, either on the battlefield, or a different kind of battlefield together with very little precedent they devised this new government. >> but she chose to follow him. she could have stayed behind so this is a mark of their partnership. >> they were very much partners. he was so miserable until he could get her to join him,
wherever he was. but i was going to say 'about the quote about the prisoner of state, that was in the first year in new york, which was the bad year for her, when she was still having to follow the rules of the men. when they went home to mount vernon, she worked on her husband so that when they went to philadelphia the next year, the rules were changed. she wasn't a prisoner. and he was also off on months long tour of the northern, i was going to say colonies, the northern states, attempting to unite the country. so she was depressed and by herself. so she was much less happy at that time than any other time really. >> well, when she moved to philadelphia and became happier, because the restrictions were lifted, also she lived in philadelphia society, knew people there, we're going to next show you a video from philadelphia and get a sense of martha and george washington's life there in the second capital of the united states.
>> it's here that martha washington carved out the role of what the wife of the president of the united states should do. some of the social events that martha washington would have been responsible for overseeing are state dinners that were held weekly on thursdays, as well as the drawing room receptions martha washington personally organized every friday evening. the state dinners would have been events that martha would have had to help to coordinate, these took place on thursdays every week. just above this dining room up on the second floor was a drawing room, and that's where martha washington held her drawing room receptions on friday. those events were a little more informal as compared to the state dinners down here, and george washington was always in attendance. he probably preferred those social engagements on friday more than the events he held
here in this room, because they were informal in nature. the events were open to the public, anyone of social standing was welcome to attend. and most people remarked that george washington was more at ease with his wife martha washington at his side. we know martha washington was among a household of as many as 30 people. this included paid servants, indentured servants and enslaved people from mount vernon. but one of the most well-known was oney judge, she was a personal maid to martha expwavment because of the nature of her duties it's very likely that she would have slept right here in the house. in the time that martha washington was here in philadelphia, oney judge run as way, she escapes to claim her freedom. this was a major blow to ma that washington, she felt very betrayed and she had promised
ony to her granddaughter once married. >> washington's life in philadelphia what did you want to comment about that? >> i need to say something there, which is about sappy 19th century images, that the 19th century liked the idea of having an almost regal republican court here. there was no dias in those rooms, there was no place where they stood raised above the others, nor did she stand. she sat on a sofa, and guests came and melt her there and then walked around the room as they pleased. but the idea that it was somehow so regal is so wrong, it was not. >> and also it's so frustrating, that anyone who has dealt with the primary sources from this period, we're grateful for ba we have, but we're constantly hungering for more, because we have countless second hand reports from events like this,
and they're unanimous. everyone talks about what a charming conversationalist martha was, how she was always cheerful, how she was always interested in her guests. >> her smile. her beautiful teeth. not many people had beautiful teeth then. >> it's also important as we talk about her interaction with the american public, the slaves, that they brought with them, we just heard the story of one, oni judge, is a good entry point to talk about martha and george washington's relationship with enslaved people. >> when they married they felt the same, they had grown up in virginia, a good part of the wealth of virginia was built on the labor and the persons of enslaved black people. and so they agreed with it. at that time washington was rather strict with his slaves. but as time went on, his views started to change, he was the only one of the founding fathers
who freed his slaves. the rest kept them until they died. her opinions didn't change. it was a very unfortunate, i wanted it to be different, and i looked for, i read every word i could find, and the one slave that she actually owned personally she did not free. she left to her grandson. and so the truth is she felt that it was the way society was supposed to be and that she was, oni judge had let her down pause she had always been kind to her and she didn't understand that oni wanted to be free, that she wanted to learn to read and write, and that she wanted to find christ in her own way. >> in a lot of ways i think it can be said of washington as it can be said later on of lincoln that he outgrew the racist coach that produced him. and one major reason was because
during the revolution, after having initially turned thumbs down to the idea of recruiting free blacks, the fact of the matter is that african-americans played a vital role in the winning of the revolution. washington saw firsthand what these people were capable of doing. he saw the courage, he saw the sacrifice, he saw the -- they were humanized in a way that quite frankly on the plantation was not possible. so life taught him a lesson in some ways very different from martha. >> the washingtons spent the entire second term in philadelphia. your chapter on that is the torments of the second term. one of the things we so often don't learn about was about the trials of things like epidemics. philadelphia's population was more than decimated, 12% died in the early part of that time. what was life like there? >> well, yellow fever is one of those diseases that one tends to
think of as a southern, a caribbean disease, new orleans has yellow fever. but the east coast of the united states was frequently struck with yellow fever, and it was the yellow fever was killing people right and left. alexander hamilton had a very bad case but survived. so that was part of the torment. but the real torment for washington was to see that his friends and his, the men he respected instead of all coming together to make a new form of government, were falling apart into two parties. he with a never have believed that jefferson and madison and hamilton would become enemies of one another and that they would be doing everything they could to keep each other out of office instead of working together. >> before we leave this section, because we're going to begin working our way back through earlier parts of her life, you mentioned adams. and in fact martha washington had a relationship with abigail
adams, and i was, have to say a little tickled to fine out there was almost a sister hood of revolutionary ladies. can you tell us more about who was in that and how they interacted with one another? >> they really had a lot in common. they were both wives who were partners. they were not wives who were stuck to the side and left out of everything. and they both were deeply committed to the idea of this new republic, that's something they cared about. >> they were very political in that sense. >> they were very political in that way. and they also helped each other socially. abigail was extremely pleased and tickled by the fact that her place was to the right of martha washington on the sofa, and that if another lady came up and took her place before she arrived that the president himself would ask her to leave so that abigail could sit there. so she almost had a crush on
martha washington. said she was a wonderful person, which she was. >> also abigail adams has left up delightful accounts of life in philadelphia, including the friday night receptions. but the one person who escapes her occasionally harsh tongue invariably is martha, and she talks about martha washington, she said she didn't have not a tincture of hauteur about her, a wonderful phrase, but even now it does evoke the sense this woman who have have been -- could have been queen, george washington could have within king, she could have been queen, and not the least of their accomplishments is that each refused the crown. >> last question on this section for now on the white house years. you paint the portrait that george washington was a robust subject descrieber to newspapers of the time, and read them and
that martha washington devoured the papers as well. >> she did, she loved to read. she read a lot. when she didn't actually read the papers herself, washington would frequently spend an evening reading aloud to her and whoever else was there, and he would read a story and then they would all talk about it. so she was not a person who was out of what was going on in politics at all. >> that doesn't mean she liked what she read. >> how did the press read her? >> well, actually, she had some criticism, but certainly from an early date even in new york, was again this quote, democratic with a small d, kind of jeffersonian element who were always on the lookout for anything that seemed monarchyical, and there were those who thought believe it or not the president's weekly levy
and her dinners and friday night receptions and the fact a he rode in a carriage, that somehow they lumped all this together and suspected aris krattic if not royalist inclinations. so they were always on the lookout for that, not so much directed at the first lady per say, as the administration that she represented. >> the difference, richard, i think from martha and every other first lady beginning with abigail is that these were private comments, and that others made private unpleasant comments about her. that it didn't appear in the papers. nobody said, oh, she's so uppity, so full of herself, or whatever they might want to say about her, that wives were off limits. but once the adams came in, no, from then on wives have been fair game. >> i want to give you the phone lines, in about 10 minutes we're going to go to your calls and you can join in. if you live in the eastern or
central time zones, 202-585-3880. mountain or pacific, 202-585-3881. you can tweet us, hash tag first ladies, or post on facebook, and lots of ways to be involved. well, williamsburg, virginia was the place where george and martha met. we're going to learn a little more about martha washington's life in williamsburg next. >> williamsburg is as close to her home town as martha washington would ever get. she was connected with this place from well before she was born. her great grandfather works land jones, was the first recognize for of the parish church from about 1664 to 1688, you can't get morel bedded in the life of this town than that. her grandfather orlando jones we have his house that is reconstructed here on duke of gloucester street and they owned a plantation at queens creek outside of town.
then their daughter frances married john dandridge, who was an up and coming planter and they moved to new kent county, which is no more than 30-miles away. and that's where martha was, that's where that that was born at chestnut grove. and her growing up there, williamsburg was then the center of political and social and cultural life in all of virginia, but certainly in this part of virginia. so given the fact that her father was engaged in a lot of political and economic activity, this is the place where she would have come to more often than any other place. >> this was the area where she kind of was born to, because if you were anyone in society you came to williamsburg if you were from new kent. her mother certainly being a williamsburg society, when she became of the age where she was being brought into society, she was being brought to the balls and the assemblies here. she was at the balls at the royal governor's palace, she was
certainly at the assemblies at places like the raleigh tavern. so when it's time to be brought out into polite society, williamsburg was the place to be because her mother knew that williamsburg was where her daughter needed to be. martha falls in love with daniel custis, that's her first husband, who is, she knows as a farmer, a plantation owner, a man of new kent. but what she doesn't know is that daniel custis is the son of john custis, who owned seven properties here in williamsburg. all the northern neck, most of the eastern shore, and she falls in love with his son daniel thinking he's just this man from new kent. when daniel goes to his father and says i want to marry martha dandridge, john custis basically says oh, her family is not fortuned enough to marry into the custises, and he said no. but the dandridges were well-known, her father was a
clerk of new kent. martha was well-known for amiable personality. with that warm nature that people really fell in love with her, so john blair and john proctor go to john custis on martha's behalf and says if you just meet this girl, you'll change your mind about her. and i'd love to go back in history and find out what the meeting between john custis and martha dandridge was like, because whatever she said to this man he said she was the most amiable young girl and he could not see his son marrying anything better than the young dandridge girl. >> i think we can kind of see williamsburg as her proper home away from home. i mean this is the place where she owned property, she owned a house, and which her first husband and her children are purr read right outside of town. all of her family, her closest members of her family are within 20 or 30-miles of williamsburg.
so she can easily reconnect with them. >> we're in the parish church in williamsburg, which in many ways is martha washington's home church. her great grandfather was the first minister of brutan parish church, roland jones, he's buried on the inside. her grandparents, orlando jones and his wife, they're both buried here inside the church, and probably more closely connected to martha washington than anybody else other than george washington is her first husband and their first two children. this is the final resting place of daniel park custis, martha washington's first husband, this particular stone was ordered from, was ordered for him from london. and although he and both of their first two children, their first son and first daughter, were first insterred at their plantation outside of williamsburg, their remains and these stones were moved here to basically her family church in
the early part of the 20th century. this is the custis ten meant, this is one of the buildings that martha washington owned here in williamsburg. in fact she owned most of this whole block going back a couple of acres, which means she owned a huge chunk of what williamsburg was. martha washington stayed here off and on throughout most of her life, because williamsburg was the political, social and cultural center of her world. so she was here when her husband daniel park custis was a prominent member of this community, and of course she was here very often when george washington was a member of the house of burgesses when he was a political leader in the con one, and of course in order to be able to protect and promote her own business interests in the area. >> some beautiful scenes of colonial williamsburg, as it's preserved today. what about her williamsburg years were important to the woman she became as first lady?
>> i think unone of the first things you have to realize is that she was a teenager when she became the fiancee of daniel park custis. and he was 20 years older. he was a bachelor because his dad never let him marry, nobody was good enough. and so not only did she overcome this elite presently dison the part of his father, but she helped bring him into a real life in his late 0's with the children and everything else. but he was so rich, he was so much richer than most people around, she came from a lower general try family, they were not so rich. and she learned how to manage property and to manage money, and to take care of things that would serve her really well for the rest of her life. she was smart. as far as money went.
>> 25 when she became a widow? >> yes, but one statistic, to put this in perspective, mound vernon at its peak was about 8,000 acres. well, daniel park custis when they were married, and martha was 19 years old, brought 18,000 acres into this marriage. and the video, which is wonderful, if anything it under stated just how kur mudge only and for rowly marveled daniel's father was. his tombstone today has an inscription that he wrote which announces that he had never been happy except when living apart from his wife. they had a tempes you the us relationship, and so whatever it was that this 18, 19-year-old young woman was able to say, made an amazing impression that nobody would have predicted.
tells you something about, you know -- >> the force of her character. >> and her personality. >> so she becomes a very, very wealthy widow, perhaps the most wealthy in the virginia colony at age 25. so she was quite a catch. what was it about george washington that she saw and was attracted to? >> i think it was mostly that he was such a hunk, you know, he was six foot two in a time when most men were five eight, five nine. a wolf hers man, wonderful athlete, fabulous dancer. very charming. and he really liked women, he loved to talk to women always his whole life long. and he had begun to show the kind of leadership that he would later show more of. but in the estimation of those days he was the lucky one. she was the catch. rather than he. >> a colonel at the time.
distinguished military career. >> but he would also be a real catch in the sense that, remember she had four children by daniel custis. two of whom died. quite young. and two of whom survived. for now. and of course she had all that property, and so george washington would also fulfill vital roles even as a partner. >> he was so clearly from the time he was really young a person of such integrity. >> on that note, just so people get a sense of what life was like for women in early america, women had what kind of property rights? >> well, as a widow she was in fine shape, because her husband did not leave any kind of trustee. she could do what she wanted to. >> was that common? >> fairly common. it was much more common, though, to leave male trustees. he just didn't get around to
writing his will in time. but once william married, then they became -- which meant that they were covered women and that all of their financial and any other kind of dealings were carried out by their husbands. >> she had a dower of the estate, basically a third. but she had a lifetime interest in, and that included, in her case about 85 slaves. the rest had to be managed for her children. >> our twitter community is really enjoying your comment of george washington as a hunk. >> he was. >> we often see pictures of martha washington such as the portrait we have on the screen right now. in your biography you have a very different, very attractive martha washington. how accurate is this portrayal? >> very accurate. and people have criticized and said why do you have to show her young?
well, we all start young. you're not born 65 years old. and jump out of the womb with the mob cap on. that it was important to show what she looked like as a beautiful young woman. so i took a picture from mount vernon to the faces lab at l.s.u. which is forensic anthropology, and they about an age regression to show what she actually looked like at 25. i wanted to say, well what did george see when the door was open and he walked into the drawing room? what kind of woman did he set eyes on? it was not the gilbert security old lady, it was a beautiful young woman. >> about the children marks that washington had four, she outlived all of them. but by the time she met george there were two living children. for both of you, what was his attitude toward these children, did he take them on as his own? >> he really did. of quors later on, famously, in effect adopted the
grandchildren. washington loved children. i think washington was rather sensitive to the fact that he had no children of his own, and that would be a subject of pure speculation, which hasn't prevented historians from speculating. but the fact is he treated her children very much as if they were his own. it's interesting, by one estimate she brought 20,000 pounds to their marriage, and he spent a good deal of that immediately sending away to orders for toys, for wax dolls, for patsy. the daughter. and he spent time with them. and of course lost both of them. it was a shattering experience. patsy, who died, it's believed of epilepsy. one day at dinner. and the verdigre dining room.
then jackie, who had not participated in the revolution until the very end, and joined his stepfather's staff, came down with most people think tyfus, with some sort of camp feefer and died a few days later. >> but this is very common of the period. the average life expect tan sit would have been at that time about what, mid 50's, mid 06's? >> well, except you need to think of the fact that a large part of those in the death, the mortality figures are young children who died before they were 5 or 6. the death rate among young children, and also in women giving birth who so frequently died in childbirth, that those figures are skewed. if you lived beyond 6 and if you survived childbirth, then the chances of your living up into the 70's were fine. >> and washington men really
lived beyond the 50's, which is one more reason why he was reluctant to take the presidency. he had a sense that he was living on borrowed time at 57. >> well, time for some phone calms from folks watching us around the country. the first up is jennifer, who is in watertown, south dakota. hi, what's your question? >> hi. i was wondering what martha's relationship was to general washington's staff, people like alexander hamilton, and maybe some of the politicians around them, the younger politicians like monroe and maybe madison, especially considering that she did lose her children. >> well, that's a great question, because from the time she first gave birth at 18, 19, she was a really wonderful mother. she doted on her children, her grand chin, her nieces, her nephews. and i've said that during the
war with the young officers, that she was more or less like a house mother at a fraternity, that she looked after these young men and she saw to it that they ate enough and had dry socks, and they did all the important things. and concerned herself with them in that way. and forever afterward the young men of those days remembered her as their mother, as their foster mother. >> she also had a sense of humor. alexander hamilton loved the ladies, and they returned his interest. and at one point, this is before hamilton married betsy skylar, and any way martha had a very amorous tom cat that she named hamilton, in tribute to the future secretary of the treasury.
>> hi, tom from bethesda, you're on. >> thank you very much. there was a very special relationship between george washington and the marquis de lafayette. how did martha washington get along with lafayette and his family? >> i'll be happy to. he was another of the young men that she became a mother to. when he came, he was although the richest men in france, he was one of the most unhappy. he was escaping from persecution by his in-laws, and by the court. and he came there as a young man, he was 18 years old when she finally met him. and she saw him as another son, she treated him that way. and he loved it, he saw part of that as what america was like, where people could be made over. and he could be made over. >> he also is one of the many observers, one of the better observers who gives us a window on the relationship between the washingtons. he write is a letter, people ask why did martha spend every
winter of the revolution with expwavment lafayette said it was simple, that she loved her husband madly. >> madly. >> our next call comes from montpelier, virginia, home of thomas jefferson and another pat. you're on, pat. good evening. >> hi. i had read washington, about two months ago and at that time he mentioned that the judge woman left because martha had told her she was going to pack her on -- pass her on down to her daughter and that she trusted and liked martha but she didn't want to work for the daughter. >> that is actually her granddaughter. the daughter was many years dead by then. martha had three granddaughters. and the eldest one, eliza, was fairly bad tempered, and very
capricious, and i don't think anybody much would have wanted to work for her, much less belong to her. certainly when she was told that eliza had requested her and that she was going to, when they went home that she would be going to live with eliza when she got married, she decided enough was enough. and took off. >> the month peelier folks are going to be yelling at me. shame on me. monticello is actually jefferson's home. >> just to round out the only story, friends much hers who basically smuggled her to portsmouth, new hampshire i believe it was and then there was this con undrum, because mrs. washington wanted her back. and indeed wanted the president to advertise for her return. and it put washington in a very awkward situation. >> ann arbor, michigan up next, nancy, what's your question? >> hi, i'm a public historian
who likes to think about how women are represented in historic sites. i wonder what you folks thought about how historic sites deal with first ladies, particularly martha washington, do you think she's well represented? or are there other things we can do to talk about what she did and how she was a help mate to her husband? >> well, i certainly think in philadelphia, for example, that it would be good to see more done about martha washington as the first lady there. but at mount vernon they've done an incredible job. mount vernon is really the leader among all the historical houses in the nation. and they have an actress who portrays martha washington very beautifully. and they really make clear how important she was, that she was not just a hostess. >> next up is shirley, watching us in tucson. hi, you're on. >> yes, i'd like to ask a question about the custis league
mansion in arlington, arlington house. >> have you been to visit it? >> pardon me? >> have you been to visit it? >> oh, yes, several times. i grew up in washington area, and i was just there and i saw that it was being renovated. and i was just curious. i don't really remember all the why, it was in the custis family. >> well, because martha's grandson, washington custis, who was adopted along with his sister nelly, but by the washingtons and lived with them throughout their lives, when he after the washingtons died and he was on his own, he decided to build a beautiful mansion which he did and called, and was arlington. so this was the custis mansion. it in fact never belonged to robert lee. robert married mary custis' daughter and cared for it and
lived there when he wasn't out on the frontier some place building buildings and all. but it passed from washington custis to his daughter mary, to the lees' son. lee himself was more of a that caretaker, but he's the most famous of them all so his name is included. >> also if you want to humanize the washingtons, it's a wonderful universal story about how george and martha agreed to disagree about george washington park custis, known as young wash, or tub, who was i think most people agree spoiled royally by his grandmother. he was in and out of school, and wrote these wonderful letters in which washington is pouring out the benefit of his life's experience about how if you work a whole day long it's amazing how much can you get done, et cetera, set set ra, totally waisted on tub, who would go
onto become famous for his connection to george washington. >> when the new couple married, george washington was in the process of building mount vernon. and -- >> well, mount vernon existed as a four-room farmhouse, but it was in the process of adding a second story, so then it was an eight-room house with an attic area at the top. >> doing that to bring his new wife there? >> it was paid for himself too, i think it was partly his pride, that he doesn't want to be marrying a witch woman and using her money to make his house. i think it was to show that he too had a lot to offer. >> both of you have spent hundreds of hours at mount vernon. is it fair to call it the center piece of the washingtons' existence? >> oh i think. so. >> definitely, of course. >> yes, it was the north star. the place they always wanted to return to, the place they were
happiest. and yet it's remarkable, not to jump ahead, but after the president died, maybe the greatest sacrifice of all that martha was asked to make and yet the last ultimate she was willing to have his remains removed from mount vernon, and moved to the new capitol building in washington d.c. fortunately that never happened. bureaucracy took over. >> shows how bad politics sometimes works out well. they got to arguing, so they did not take him away. >> well, let's show you next some of the views of mount vernon, when we visited it with our cameras. >> it's clear that after martha arrives at mount vernon in april of 1759, there's a lot of management that she has to do. when she marries george washington, she brings with her to mount vernon 12 house slaves, and that is really almost an unimaginable luxury.
these are slaves who for the most part are not field labor, are not producing crops, which is where your income is coming from. they are doing things like cooking, serving at table, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, doing sewing. this is not productive labor in the sense of it's not producing income. so she brings those slaves with her and she brings financial resources to the marriage as well as her managerial skills, makes mount vernon a successful operation and makes it possible for washington to be aaway for eight years fighting a war. so the fact that washington has this support system that enabled him to volunteer his time and talents to run the revolution is clearly critical. for a manager who during most of the revolution has, a distant cousin of george washington and later in the 1780's, the farm manager is george augustine
washington who is washington's nephew. and he ends up marrying fanny bassett who is martha washington's neat. so i think that tells you something about the closeness of some of the family relationships. but it's clear from the core respond dense that she was a take-charge woman. in terms of her interaction with the slaves, she's interacting with the cooks in the kitchen, the maids who are serving in the house, there are also slave women who are spinning on a continue wall base is to produce yarn. she's super advising what the guardser ins are no doing. that -- martha was a lover of cut flowers, she liked having a kitchen garden that she could bring in vegetables that they'd serve. she's the one who is really planning the menus. there are a lot of levels that she is working with. so it's a big operation.
really the center of her whole life. >> so if you visit mount vernon today, and with years of additional documentary research, how close is it to recreating the life that george and martha washington experienced? >> nothing today can recreate the life of that time. because, for one thing, they would have to take all the motorized vehicles away, they would have to have haystacks, man you're piles, outdoor toilets. there was so much about the life that was so much more primitive than it is. but as close as you can today, it's very good. it is the leader in historical houses. >> george washington's crops were what and what kind of businessman was he? >> actually, that's one of the aspects of his life that is least understood. he was, for those who think of him as a reflexive conservative,
they should tike at his approach to agriculture, which is probably the thing he loved the most. he had a great passion for it. he was a real experimental farmer. he realized, for example, that, which is not great fertile soil to begin with, was being exploited by tobacco, that tobacco really should be a crop of the past. and he experimented with over 60 different crops to see what would work best. the other thing, a quick point i want to make was the apprenticeship that running mount vernon offered, if there was an ad for first lady in 1789, martha washington's prior experience really qualified her uniquely. and one of the things that she did, if you go to mount vernon today you'll notice there are two in effect wings that were added during the revolution, which by the way she oversaw the
construction. there's the dining room, which is a very public space, and then there's a very private wing that contains their bedroom and his study. and one of the jobs she had, they had 600 people a year, strangers, who showed up, just because they wanted to see the most famous man on earth, they were all welcome, they were all greeted, most of them were fed, given a bed overnight, but even washington got sick of the demands. so he would disappear in the evening, he'd go to his study and work, leaving martha to converse with the visitors. >> martha washington and george's bedroom was one of the other videos we chose, because there's so much to see there. let's watch that now. >> the room that we refer to and show off in the mansion as the washington's bed chamber is a room that was part of the south wing of the mansion here at mount vernon that was started in
1775, right before george washington left to participate in the continental congress and the revolutionary war. george washington does always refer to it as mrs. washington's chamber. and it's clear that it was kind of the center, her nerve center for mount vernon. so the sort of daily routine was that when mrs. washington got out she typically spent time in that chamber, during her hour of spiritual meditation, perhaps later in the day bringing letters, talking with her cooks to plan menus for the day. giving assignments for what was to be done that day. when her grandchildren were young we know she also used that room for teaching them, reading them stories. sewing in the afternoons, and so you can really imagine how wonderful it would have been in that room. one of the most notable pieces is the bed that is in that bed chamber. that is the bed on which george
washington died. but we also know from martha washington's will that she had a personal will in acquiring that bed, which is a bit larger than the typical dimensions for an 18th century bed. so it seems perhaps that she's getting kind of a custom made bed for her quite tall husband. another piece in the room that has a very close connection with martha washington is her desk. although very little of the close bond between george and martha washington has survived because martha washington destroyed their private letters, it was in that desk that they found one of the letters that had sliepped behind the drawers, that's kind of the preserver of that little built of very personal kornz. owe corn rerespond dense. i can picture her sitting in the easy chair by the fire with her
grandchildren rather than, so we can imagine how comfortable it husband have been for martha washington. >> george and washington washington's bedroom at mount vernon. one of the things that's mentioned is her morning meditations, which seem to be a sacred time for her throughout her life. what do we know of what she did? >> she was a member of the church of length land, and after the revolution she became a member of the american episcopal church. and she had several bibles, she read the bible, she also read the book of common prayer. she spent a lot of time also reading other books about the episcopal point of view. and she was a very, very deeply religious but not judgmental woman. >> what about that video is important to tell people more of their room together in the life they had? >> that's, well, the fact that she burned all their
corresspondence is a metaphor, that's where they could be themselves. and i think one reason she burned those letters is because that was the unvarnished george washington. it wasn't simply the uniquely intimate relationship that existed between them, she was the only person on earth to whom washington could confess his doubts, his fears, his opinions of his colleagues, you name it. >> but this is the interesting thing about that. then they both had a sense that they were creating an image larger than his lifetime, that they didn't want to be spoiled spoiled -- >> she was very careful of his papers, as was he. they were always kept in a big trunk, and when they seemed they would be in danger the trunk was removed. that building his image, but a
truthful image, having the letters, showing him as a military man and as a political man were important. but as far as she was concerned, their private life was just that. that ladies did not prom made about letting their husband's love letters be read. or when they complained or whatever else they did, those were private. and she had not enough privacy in her life.
couple of questions. i'm reading a very nice easy vernon love t. story by mary higgins clark. she said that -- that no one martha washington martha. he was always called patsy as lady bird johnson was never called claudia. so i was just wondering, you when hed in his letters referred to her in his letter hat it was just mentioned on the telephone that he did call her patsy. nd i also wanted to mention that in the story that i'm george about martha and washington that the house, mt. originally the home f his half brother, george
washington's half brother. that he lived in a smaller farm. i wondered if you would -- abouting to talk anything his years as a surveyor or is really about the years with martha as an adult? thank versus much. this is actually martha the sun.n's time in so we won't talk about george's early career. what about the nickname patsy? patsy, pat, patty were the icknames for martha in those days just as peg or peggy is a margaret.or the martha nickname has fallen out of favor. nobody was named patricia back then. martha's.patsies were that was simply the common name. >> the smaller farm she's reference ing? smaller, it was 500 acres.
able to acquire more acreage with martha's money but the farmhouse his brother in was the four-room farmhouse i was mentioning that to.hen added a second story >> sherry is watching us in jerry.on, texas, hi, >> caller: hello. my call. for taking i have a question about sally clarify r if you could the relationship george had with until after inued the revolutionary war. was she aware of that relationship? deal with that? or was it something that was not discuss? >> you want to start? >> want to disagree. >> you disagree. >> this is a classic example of unfortunately mrs. washington did her cause no good burning all of those letters. letters te 1950s, two
vents scovered which the of reigning biographer, james great dealner made a out of. ome would say perhaps exaggerated. >> way too much -- >> -- their significance. fairfax was the wife of george william fairfax who was a neighbor and close friend. people described him as washington's best friend. lived just down river of -- from mt. vernon. -- what i think clearly would use the i word "infatuation." older, slightly older, very sophisticated to who wanted george as a young man very much to belong. be part of the colonial aristocracy, who wanted
o advance in the british military. who o someone like sally, was even then unobtainable, held a special allure. xactly what the nature of that relationship was is still being debated. about- it's -- you talked george washington's integrity. i think it was something even then. relationship the went beyond a kind of a love-sick young man. but like to get your view. >> then we won't disagree. that there's no doubt when those surfaced that you can't read them any other way ut that he was a love-sick puppy. they hardly make sense if you ead them sentence by sentence and try to punctuate them. he's sort of gone crazy because something mean to
him about not writing to her. nuts.gone you see how much me cares about he is. how infatuated i don't think once -- i, too, don't think it went any further that kind of infatuation because he cared too much about his friend. once he met martha and once hey started to settle down, i think she had to have known. she was a smart woman. could certainly -- when they started talking about the neighbors at belvoir, picked up a ve special tone. they had to be friends. those couples visited all the time. when fairfax was there sally c sally custis was there when she dead at the dinner table. they were close.
1773 as it's becoming clear that the revolution is fairfaxes go the back to england never to return. continuing relationship beyond friendship. after the fairfax family, fairfax, virginia. mary. >> caller: hi, mary, i'm an martha washington. her younger brother, bartholamew great, great, great uncle of mine. virginia. in i have a couple of questions ertaining to martha's younger life. i had always read growing up hat she had met george washington at poplar grove, the plantation property next door to he had e house and that been the guest of the chamberlains there for dinner was ot knowing that martha invited also and that was where they met.
you know, they -- >> caller: the other question i she is i understood that attended somewhat st. peters piscopal church there in new kent county which was a very short distance from the white house. >> thanks. have to clarify when we reference the white house, it's not the white house we know. white house is the -- the pomunkey riverthe where daniel custis is the lord master there. st. periods was their church. there are different stories they met. some people have said that she and george had known each other time.long i don't think there's much really belief in that because numbers and un the when he was out on the field she would be in met, it erg, if they wouldn't amount to much. the whole chamberlain story
custis who likes to write everything as a grand ld-fashioned romance and the chamberlains themselves believed it. i don't believe it. but certainly there's some who nce for it for those do. >> time to move on the the 1776, 1783?ry war, washington pressed into service as the leader of the army.nental washington leaves mt. vernon to spend time with him. was she on the battlefield with him? >> she goes every winter to join a in the camps and to make home, not just for him, but for all of the young officers on his taff and to encourage other officers to bring their wives and daughters to come visit and make it a social time. of the actual eight years of the revolution, she spends over all, five years at the front. >> we have a video from one of encampments. valley forge and the
pennsylvania -- the philadelphia suburbs. let's watch that next. >> martha washington came to on the fifth of february of 1778. according to re, nathaniel green in the evening. travels her ten years to from valley forge to mt. vernon. the weather when she was always so was not pleasant. she started out snowy when she vernon area. mt. then the winds picked up. it started to rain. very, very muddy. and when she arrived here on february 5, it was actually pleasant and the weather was 35. but for a lot of the time, she travelling through mud. in her carriage with her slaves her.ervants with this was a difficult journey. to it's very interesting look at the primary documentation be which are the
diariesand journals and at the time to see what she did do at valley forge. a little surprising and it really puts a different i think, on the entire valley forge encampment. to be with as general washington. they had a nice relationship. if she was going to see him, she would have to come to him. we also know once she comes here to valley forge, she probably over the housekeeping duties, which was very much what used to. we also know she entertained. e know elizabeth drinker came to valley forge. she came on the 6th of april, she came with several of her friends. we know that ms. washington entertained and talked to they came to valley forge when washington was not able to do that. -- this is when it gets interesting -- she served
dinners here at valley forge. now, most people would never put "elegant" with the word "valley forge." his is probably where martha washington dined for a while built for og hut dining which she said made our onditions much more tolerable than they were at first -- that's a quote from her -- was uilt right back near the kitchen. so you can imagine martha washington here with some of the washington, eral perhaps some of the people from the area who might have been eating dinner here, which was served in the 2:00 or 3:00.be the food, by the way that they really, really different from what the soldiers were eating. we know, for example, that there brought into they ate in that
the encampment period. valley h period for the forge encampment. we know they brought in 750 and at least er 1600 pounds of veal were brought into camp. things e some of the that martha washington would be eating here as she was dining people. conversation's kind of interesting to think about. what would martha washington and been her people have talking about? we don't know, of course. but when elizabeth drinker came likely ladelphia, very the conversation at that point would have been what were the conditions like in philadelphia. british were in philadelphia. general washington would be very think about what the conditions were at that time. been part of ave that conversation, listening to hat was happening, talking to ladies from philadelphia. we know, too, that martha
ashington went to several worship services here at camp. there's aat on may 6, wonderful sleighs called the french ion of the alliance. martha washington is there and of a large tent and thousands of people, wives go through. and general dekalb says housands of them are served refre refreshments with martha and general george washington. those are some of the things is doing here at valley forge. >> back talking about martha brady and with pat richard norton smith. i have a tweet here from jennifer sherman who writes, "amazing how much time martha washington spent with her husband on the front lines." front lines what i wanted to start with. genteel, the existence we were hearing about. that 00 soldiers died in
encampment in that winter. >>. > it wasn't viewed as gentile by her contemporaries. things that fostered a bond between mrs. washington and what would be the american was the perception that she sacrificed every bit as much war.r husband in the this is another part of her training in a sense for being lady. he was in effect for eight years an executive. the klose thing that the country had. she was a first lady of sorts. story.y touching they -- they had one room on the second floor of valley forge. then they had an hour every was sacred. one hour when they weren't to be disturbed. a fly onyou like to be
the wall for those conversations because washington unloaded a lot. he had so lot -- many worries. would they possibly win. but what she did, it wasn't just entertaining the americans, she officers from g france, from britain, from -- from germany. and she was able to charm them. officer cular french said it was so wonderful to be tea, with her drinking singing, and just chatting. and at the end of the evening, feeling go home better. can you imagine feeling better valley forge? she had charm beyond belief. >> she had an official role his g as an assistant to private secretary, transcribing documents. >> >> that didn't happen often. it was rare, really. >> gave her a glimpse of what
have been job might like. >> that's true, that's true. hat else from the long years were important for her development as first lady. >> one thing that's really important, it sounds weird, is change in her sewing habits. all american women sewed. well-to-do women sewed embroidery and tapestry and fancy work. she was there and the local ladies came to call, she was not doing fancy work. knitting needles out. knittings -- she was socks for the soldiers. infantry men. holes in ed and wore their socks. she must have knitted thousands well as others and raised the money to make linen shirtsas well as uniform for them. physically in terms of her work emotionally in terms of the leadership helped the troops
herself. wonderful group of women who knew they were going to be calling on the and expecting this very grand figure. and to their astonishment, they her knitting and wearing a speckled apron. she clearly was not someone to stand on her position title. >> back to phone calls. dc.abeth is in washington hi, elizabeth. being k you so much for here. this is great. the panel is fantastic. about martha washington's grandchildren. washy ntioned nellie and and, of course, eliza. could you talk about martha peter. the two letters in the desk mentioned earlier were found by or at leastaughter, that's the story. bit ould you talk a little about martha custis peter and er relationship with her
grandmother. >> there were four children -- there were eliza, martha known patty. then nellie, then wash. was adopted two of the grandchildren, they took the two nellie and wash. and the elder girls lived with their mother and stepfather and of half brothers and sisters. two elder girls spent a lot of time with the washingtons, were very friendly with them. loving weren't very with them. but they were not the same as the adopted children. young, ot married very apparently for love. peter husband, thomas well-to-do man in georgetown, they built a incredibly use, an gorgeous place. in a sale after martha's death, desk and when she took it home, she found
those wonderful letters. >> martha johnson, we said this few times, she tweets martha washington outlived her four children. pretty unthinkable for people uncommon for people of this history. edward, you're on the air, welcome. >> fascinating program. i'm originally from new york in newberg where george the general the has brooke house the famous room with seven doors one window. i was wondering if martha was him and also if -- the entombment there with theyasting encampment when offered him the kingship. could you expound on that, please? you.k >> she was at newberg. she spent a lot of time at
war had run se the down. it was a case of waiting for a all of the peace treaties to be and all. as to the latter part, was she? i don't think she was. >> that defining moment in american history, i don't think there for that. have 12 minutes left in this. we said when when he started 90 by tes is going to go quickly. it is. we started out about the white house years but the last segment is on life after the presidency when the washingtons returned to vernon. was this also precedent setting. presidencies would be like. >> she became the first the dent and then also first ex-president. she shared in that. >> did they think about any of that? no, they were just glad to be at home. >> was there any consideration of a third term? >> no. indeed, washington had wanted the much to leave after
first term. himself to be persuaded against his instincts that it patriotic duty. martha wasn't happy. she wasn't particularly happy he took the first term. she recognized it was navoidable and her life had been caught up in that of her country. not sure she would have divorced him if there had third term, but a third for was not in the cards either one of their standpoint. >> the mid '60s in this time elderly.s >> he twice had ailments that him during the time he was president and she was terrified that the literally kill him. you think of every president you know and you look at the of when they start and eight years later, they're more than eight years older for sure.
a very aging kind of a job. >> we look at the political we face today over immigration and the size of the federal debt, what were the political f the battles of this time frame? >> remember, washington's president depended on his persuading everyone that he partisan.political he did not call it a federalist government. he called it a national government. he went out of his way to include all of the sections of country. hamilton and jefferson had their cabinet much to his displeasure. he kept those people around him him to er they wanted leave. he made that sacrifice. he was willing to see himself as dupe of the press king george and betrayed the revolution. suffer all of to
this in effect vicariously. it's always been harder and in for a first lady or a put up tial child to with the criticism than for the as ident who accepted it part of the job. >> you told us she was not apolitical. been involved. >> she did. she hated thomas jefferson. he started the newspaper washington.ainst the reason he brought him in was hamilton. a shame how much the president uffers from these sorts of attacks. but it's necessary. never forgave him, never. e didn't realize she was smart enough to see what he was doing. but she thought he was horrible and the fact that he was elected
shocking.was he made the mistake of underestimating martha washington. martha grew closer politically and personally to the adams. that it was john adams and not thomas jefferson to won the presidency succeed her husband. >> we'll delve into the life of adams.l this helps to set the stage for that. presidency rs post vernon?y live at mt. >> he lived two years and she lived beyond that. would that have been like? >> it's a great time. the house, again was sort of and things in the fields weren't done the way he them to be, experimenting dealing with and the ristmill and all of
things he pioneered with, she had the housekeeping. mt. vernon becomes the symbol of the nation after they retire. there is no white house yet. you know, that's not built. washington, d.c. is building up, it doesn't really exist. exist is a oesn't arge place but when foreigners and when important visitors come, who do they want to see. no building worth seeing in d.c. they want to see mt. vernon and washington. after washington dies, they want to see martha washington and to her about what it was like. her as the remnant of that history. they continue to have their post until they die, both of them. defining act that he took in the final year of his life the he wrote a will in
course of which he identified imself, george washington as citizen of the united states, not virginia but more important, e made provisions to free the slaves that he could upon the death of martha. presumably, is something that he had to have consulted her about, although i don't primary have any evidence to that effect. >> you don't. but he must have. washington died, artha left that bedroom as we showed you and moved to a garrut mansion.all in the see what that looks like today. washington does die suddenly. it must have been a great shock. bereaved.ery and she does retreat. she does not use their shared bed chamber after his death. she moves to the -- the bed chamber on the third floor. furnished now with the actual bed that we believe came
washingtons in the 1750s from london. it is hung with hangings based n a little fragment preserved from a 1960 valentine written by nellie.s grand daughter, and that valentine said this is fabric from the curtains that room in which mrs. washington died here in mt. vernon. and scrap of valentine exactly matches the hangings that the that came with this bed that george washington got from london in the 1750s. points to this very romantic tale that after george washington's death, martha but ngton moves upstairs surrounds herself from things from the earliest days of her marriage. of think it was a place refuge for her and it was a where that the house continued to be busy with
servants, two slaves, with people visiting. it was a place she could and at to and be quiet contemplate and be removed to the hustle and bustle of daily life. >> well, when washington died, she said, it's over. wife is just waiting now. truly did really and not want to be in that room where they had been so happy. >> did she involve herself? people wanted to come see her. did she stay involve in the day?tics of the >> not the politics of the day. he became if anything i think more secluded, certainly emotionally secluded. her devotions became even more central to her day. would walk down the path to what's called the old tomb which you can see today. and would pray and basically,
literally , she was counting the days until she with -- with ted the love of her life. when you factor in her religious convictions, that's just another take into account. for a minutes left, time quick final question from julie the road from mt. verse non and washington's port city. hello. >> george washington and george may sorry were very good friends. two wives, had anne, and she passed away. and then sara. wondering what the relationship was between martha and either of george mason's wives? >> they were friendly neighbors know, they never became intimate friends. >>