Skip to main content

tv   First Ladies Influence Image  CSPAN  December 21, 2013 7:00pm-8:36pm EST

7:00 pm
cable company in 1979 brought to you as a public service by your television provider. >> and a few moans, our weekly encore recitation of "first ladies." firstt focus is america's first lady, martha washington. after that is a discussion on online prophecy. -- privacy. ♪ >> martha washington was george washington's confidante. >> she was very capable. she did not like that. she called herself a prisoner of state. >> by the same token that every step washington took to find the
7:01 pm
office, so can it be said that everything martha washington did, likewise. >> it was a businesslike relationship. but not without affection. they had a deep respect for each other. >> she owned most of this whole block, going back a couple of acres. 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. what that means in the 18th century, that is not necessarily what it means today. >> she brings with her to mount vernon 12 house slaves. that is almost an unimaginable luxury. >> it takes for 10 days to travel here to valley forge from mount vernon in her carriage with her slaves and servants with her. this is a difficult journey.
7:02 pm
>> her experience had prepared her to become the first lady. >> martha washington was 57 years old in 1789 when she and george washington left their beloved virginia home in service to the country. this time, their destination was new york city, where they began the first of their two terms, setting an important precedent 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 will spend time on personal biographies of each of the women who served in the role in the white house. our first installment, martha washington. for the next 90 minutes, we will 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
7:03 pm
"patriach," and patricia brady, who has done a biography of martha washington. why does martha washington matter? >> she was the first. 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. >> this concept for this series was something you championed early, and you were a guiding light into how c-span might do it. what was your thought about why studying first ladies should matter in this society we are living in today? >> we do not know enough about them as individuals. we do not know as much about them for the window they hold in their particular periods. individually, they are fascinating.
7:04 pm
collectively, 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. ultimately, i suspect our viewers will be surprised by a lot of the information they hear over the next year. these are surprising stories. >> we went on location to a number of sites important to her biography. we will show you some of the video. as we always do on c-span, this will be interactive and we will take phone calls in a little while and we will tell you how you can be part of that conversation. you can join us immediately on twitter. you can send us a question or comment, #firstladies. and on facebook, we have a question posted for you of anything you would like to talk about about martha's time and her life and we will mix those questions in. we welcome your participation.
7:05 pm
i want to spend the 15 minutes on the years in the white house, the two terms there. >> not the white house. >> sorry, new york city. 1789, she comes to new york city a few months behind george washington. start by telling us what kind of opinion to american public had of these two people. >> it began with the revolution. at that point, when martha would ride to join her husband as she did every year, people would line up behind every fence post to look at her. she said, i felt as though i were a very great somebody. she was somebody for the first time as his wife. the newspapers reported on how important it was for him to have her.
7:06 pm
they started then -- when they came back as president and his lady, they already had -- the public had an opinion of them. they were singular characters. 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. >> the decisions about what a republic was, what a president was, were inseparable from many of those we would, perhaps, almost condescendingly today attribute to the east wing of the white house. for instance, would the president and the first lady accept private dinner invitations? would they go to private funerals? what do you call the president? the reason why these questions,
7:07 pm
which seem trivial to us today, matter is because each one of them, in their own way, define the nature of the new government, which was to some degree a spin off from its royal antecedents. the country was split right down the middle between those who feared it was in any way george iii. 200 years later, we still have this dichotomy about what a president is. how close do the president and his wife get to us? and the fact that mrs. washington had a reception that anyone could walk into as long as they were decently dressed, you would not find that in london. it helped to define not only her role, but in a larger sense, the
7:08 pm
access the americans were to have with their president. >> that is the only model the washingtons and the rest of the founding government had, the very european monarchies they fought to distance themselves. where do the washingtons draw their example from? >> they talked it out. people see washington always as a strong, marble leader. he was more than a statue. he liked to talk to his associates. he was criticized as a general because he liked to talk to his staff before making a decision. in government, he thought all the best minds in the country would get together and make the right decision. we were the first modern republic. it is hard for us to understand
7:09 pm
there was nobody like us. whatever they did mattered. it was important. >> let's take a snapshot of that. this was from the first census ever done by the new country. the census maker was thomas jefferson. here are some of the facts they gathered about the united states. the 13 states had a population of just under 4 million. 757,000 of those were blacks. about 19%. only 9% were free. the per capita income, $437. if you look back before the war, it was almost double that. years of war had reduced the per capita income. the largest cities in the country -- new york, philadelphia, and boston. what should we learn about those three large cities? >> two of those 13 states were not yet members of the union. both north carolina and rhode
7:10 pm
island held back when the rest of the union adopted the constitution. america was overwhelmingly a rural, farm-based society. there were three roads in 1800 that crossed. the united states was a nation in name only. it was pre state nations. it was new england, the middle states, and the south. each of them had one major city. philadelphia, the largest city in the nation, with all of 40,000 people. one of the things martha washington found not altogether to her liking was the fact she was uprooted from the agricultural, rural life that she knew and had been born into.
7:11 pm
it is only the latest chapter of her sacrifice which, in its own way, you could argue matches anything her husband sacrificed. >> that is true. she did not want to go to a city. 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. the thing that made her so very unhappy was to discover washington had consulted with john adams and they decided that presidents cannot have a personal life. any entertainment, any going to visit people, any having people in, was a public act. they could not just go hang out
7:12 pm
with their friends or ask their friends over. that was for one year. the first year, it was terrible for her. at the same time, it was pretty good for him. jefferson had not come back from paris yet. that was probably his honeymoon with the presidency. >> let me put a quote in here -- >> there is a line that goes to the heart of who this woman was and why she was the ideal first first lady. she said, she talked about an
7:13 pm
experience of her life that had taught her our happiness or misery depends upon our disposition and not our circumstances. >> very true. >> that is a remarkably wise observation. it is an observation distilled from a life full of tragedy. she lost a husband. she lost all four of her children. she lost countless nieces, nephews. >> and her siblings. >> absolutely. she found herself repeatedly uprooted from the life she expected to follow george on the battlefield or a different kind of battlefield. together, with very little precedent, they devised this new government.
7:14 pm
>> she chose to follow him. this is a mark of their partnership. >> he was so miserable until he could get her to join him wherever he was. i was going to say the quote about the prisoner of state, that was a bad year for her when she still had to follow the rules of the men. when they went home, she worked with her husband so when they went to philadelphia the next year, the rules changed. she was not a prisoner. it was also after a month-long tour of the northern colonies, the northern state, attempting to unite the country. she was depressed and by herself. she was much less happy at that time than any other time. >> when she moved to philadelphia and became happier because the restrictions were
7:15 pm
lifted, she knew people in the philadelphia society. we will show you a video and get a sense of their life there in the second capital of the united states. >> it is here martha washington carved out the role of what the wife of the president of united states should do. some of the social events martha would have been responsible for overseeing were state dinners 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 she would have helped coordinate. these took place thursdays every week. on the second floor, martha held her drawing room receptions.
7:16 pm
she held her drawing room receptions on friday. those events were a little more informal compared to the times down here. george washington was always in attendance. he probably preferred those social engagements friday more than the event he held in this room because they were informal in nature. other events were open to the public. anyone with social standing was welcome to attend. most people remark george washington was more at ease with martha washington at his side. martha washington lives in a household of over 30 people. this included indentured servants and enslaved people from mount vernon. one of the most well known was a personal maid to martha washington, oney judge. because of the nature of her duty, it was very likely she would have slept right here in the house. in the time martha washington was here in philadelphia, oney judge runs away.
7:17 pm
she escapes to claim her freedom. this was a major blow to martha washington, who felt very betrayed. she had promised oney judge to her granddaughter once married. >> her life in philadelphia. >> i need to say something there about sappy 19th century images. the 19th century liked the idea of having an almost regal republican court here. there was no place where they stood raised above the other, nor did she stand. she sat on a sofa. guests came and met her there and then walked around the room. the idea that it was somehow so regal is so wrong. it was not. >> it is so frustrating. anyone who has dealt with the primary sources are grateful for
7:18 pm
what we have but we are constantly hungry for more because we have countless, second-hand reports from events like this. they are unanimous. everyone talks about how she was always cheerful, always interested in her guests. >> her smile, her beautiful teeth. not many people had beautiful teeth then. >> it is important we talk about the slaves they brought with them. it is good to talk about their relationship with slaves. >> when they married, they felt the same. they grew up in virginia. a good part of the wealth in virginia was built upon the labor of them.
7:19 pm
he was the only one of the founding fathers who freed his slaves. her opinion did not change. it was a very unfortunate -- i wanted it to be different and i looked for every word i could find. the one slave she actually owned personally, she did not free. she left the slave to her grandson. she felt it was the way society was supposed to be. oney judge had let her down because she had always been kind to her and she did not understand that oney judge wanted to be free and she wanted to learn to read and write and find christ in her own way. >> it can be said of washington,
7:20 pm
and lincoln, that he outgrew the racist culture that produced him. one major reason was because during the revolution, after having initially turned thumbs down to the idea of recruiting free blacks, 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, the sacrifice, and they were humanized in a way that on the plantation was not possible. life taught him a lesson very different from martha. >> they spent the entire second term in the philadelphia the torment of the second term.
7:21 pm
one of the things we often do not 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 term. >> yellow fever is one of those diseases one tends to think of as a southern disease. the east coast of the united states was frequently struck with yellow fever. it was killing people right and left. alexander hamilton had a very bad case but survived. that was part of the torment. the real torment for washington was to see his friends and the men he respected, instead of all coming together to make a new form of government, were falling apart into two parties. he would never have believed jefferson and madison and hamilton would become enemies of one another and that they would do everything they could to keep each other out of office instead
7:22 pm
of working together. >> before we leave this section, because we will begin working back from earlier parts of her life, you mentioned adams. martha washington had a relationship with abigail adams. there was almost a sisterhood of revolutionary ladies. can you tell us more about who was in that? >> they had a lot in common. they were wives who were partners, not who were stuck to the side and left out of everything. they were both deeply committed to the idea of this new republic. they cared about it. >> they were very political in that sense. >> they also helped each other socially. abigail was extremely tickled by the fact that her place was to the right of martha washington on the sofa.
7:23 pm
if another lady came up and took her place before she arrived, the president himself would ask her to leave so abigail could sit there. she almost had a crush on martha washington. she was a wonderful person. she was. >> abigail has left us some delightful accounts, including the friday night receptions. the one person who escapes her occasionally harsh tongue was martha. this woman who could have been queen, george washington could have been king, she could have been queen. not the least of their accomplishments is that each refused the crown.
7:24 pm
>> last question. you paint the portrait that george washington was subscribed to newspapers of the time and read them. martha washington devoured the papers, as well. >> she did and she loved to read. she read a lot. when she did not read the papers herself, washington would frequently spend an evening reading aloud to her and whoever else was there. she was not a person who was out of what was going on in politics. >> that does not mean she liked what she read. >> how did the press treat her? >> one of the fissures from a very early day even in new york was a "democratic" with a small "d" who were always on the lookout for anything that seemed
7:25 pm
monarchical. there were those who thought a president's weekly levy on tuesday afternoons and her dinner every thursday and friday night receptions and the fact he rode in a carriage, somehow they lumped all this together and suspected aristocratic if not royalistic. they were always on the lookout for that, not so much directed at the first lady, per say, as the administration she represented. >> the difference from martha and every other first lady is that these were private comments. others made private, unpleasant comments about her. it did not appear in the papers. nobody said, she is so uppity or full of herself. wives were off limits. once the adams came in, from
7:26 pm
then on, wives were fair game. >> i want to give you the phone lines. -- do not forget, you can tweet us, #firstladies. or post on facebook. williamsburg, virginia was the place george and martha first met. we will learn a little bit more about martha washington's life in williamsburg next. >> williamsburg is as close to a hometown as martha washington would ever get, connected well before she was born. her great-grandfather was the first director of the parish church from about 1664 to 1688. you cannot get more embedded in the life of this town than that.
7:27 pm
her grandfather, orlando jones, we have his house reconstructed here. they owned a plantation outside of town. their daughter, frances, married john dandridge, who was an up and coming planter. they moved no more than 30 miles away. that is where martha was born. chestnut grove. her growing up there, williamsburg was the center of political, social, and cultural life in all of virginia. her father was engaged in all political and economic activity. this is the place she would have come to more often than any other place. >> this was the area where she was born to. if you were anyone in society, you came to williamsburg. her mother was in williamsburg society.
7:28 pm
when she came of age where she was being brought into society, she was being brought to the assemblies here. she was at the balls at the royal governor's palace. she was at the assemblies. when it was time to be brought out into polite society, williamsburg was the place to be because her mother knew williamsburg was where her daughter needed to be. martha falls in love with her first husband, daniel custis. she knows he is a farmer, a plantation owner, but what she does not know is daniel is the son of john custis, who owned several properties here in williamsburg, all the northern, most of the eastern shore, and she falls in love with his son, daniel, thinking it is just a man. when daniel says to his father, i want to marry martha, john
7:29 pm
says her family is not fortunate enough to marry into us. he said no. her family was well known. her father was a clerk. martha was well known for her amicable personality. people fell in love with her. they go to john on martha's behalf and say, if you could meet this girl, you will change your mind. i would like to go back in history and find out what the meeting between john and martha was like. whatever she said to this man, he said she was the most amiable young girl and he could not see his son marrying anyone better. >> she owned a property, a house, where her first husband
7:30 pm
and children are buried right outside of town. all of her family, her closest members of family -- she can easily reconnect with them. >> the parish church, in many ways, was martha washington's home church. her great-grandfather was the first minister of the parish church. he is buried on the inside. grandparents are both now buried in the church. this is the final resting place. this stone was ordered from london. they were first in turd now outside the plantation outside of williamsburg. there's don'ts -- interred outside the plantation.
7:31 pm
this is a tenement. she owned who is hold lot going back a couple of acres, and which means she owned a huge chunk of one williamsburg was. she stayed here on and off for most of her life. williamsburg was the center of her world. she was a prominent member of this community, and she was here very often when george washington was a political leader in the colony and of course in order to be able to protect her own business interests in the area.
7:32 pm
>> some beautiful scenes of colonial williamsburg. what about her williamsburg years were important when she became first lady? >> you have to realize she was a teenager when she became a fiancee, and he was 20 years older, and he was a bachelor because his dad never let him marry. nobody was good enough. not only did she overcome prejudice on the part of the father, but she helped bring him into a real-life with the children and everyone else, but he was so rich. he was so much richer than most people around. she came from a lower gentry family. they were not so rich. she learned how to manage property and to manage money and to take care of things but would
7:33 pm
serve her and really well for the rest of her life. she was smart as far as money went. >> 25 when she became a widow. >> mount vernon at its peak was 8000 acres. custis, when they were married and martha was 19 years old, bought 18,000 acres into this marriage, and the video, which was wonderful -- if anything, it understated how thoroughly curmudgeonly daniel's father was. his tombstone holds an inscription he wrote which announces he had never been happy except when living apart from his wife. they had a tempestuous
7:34 pm
relationship. whatever it was this young woman was able to say made an amazing impression. >> about the force of her character. >> and her personality. >> she became a wealthy widow at age 25. she was quite a catch. what was it about george washington she saw that attracted her? --t: >> it was mostly that he was such a hunk. he was 6'2" at a time when most men were 5'9".
7:35 pm
a wonderful athlete, a fabulous dancer. he loved to talk to women almost his whole life long. he had begun to show the type of leadership he would show more of, but he was the lucky one. she was the catch, rather than he. >> he would also be a real catch. remember, she had four children, two of whom died, and two survived for now, and she had all the property, sir george washington would also fulfill -- so george washington would also fulfill vital roles even as a partner. >> she could trust him because he was clearly a person of such integrity. >> on that note so people get a sense of what life was like for women in early america, women had what kind of property rights? >> as a widow she was in a fine
7:36 pm
shape because her husband left no trustees. >> is that comment? >> fairly common. it was much more common for a male trustee. he just did not get around to writing his will in time. once they got married it meant all of the financial dealings were carried out by the husband. >> she had a third of the estate but she had a life term -- a estate that she had a life term interested in, and that included slaves. >> our twitter community is enjoying your comment of george washington as a hunk. >> he was.
7:37 pm
>> in your biography, you have a very different, very attractive martha washington. how accurate is this portrayal? >> very accurate. people criticized it and said, why do you have to show her young? we all start young. you are not born at 65 years old. it was important to show what she looked like as a beautiful young woman, so we took a picture from mount vernon, and they did an age regression to show what she actually looked like at 25. i wanted to say, what did george see when the door opened and he walked into the drawing room? what kind of woman did he set eyes on? it was not the gilbert stuart old lady. it was a beautiful young woman. >> about the children, martha washington had four. she outlived all of them.
7:38 pm
by the time she met george, there were two living children. what was his attitude toward these children? did he take them on as his own? >> he did. he adopted the grandchildren. washington loved children, but he had no children of his own, and that would be a subject of speculation. the fact is he treated her children very much as if they were his own. by one estimate she brought 20,000 pounds to their marriage, and he spent a good deal of that sending away for orders for toys or wax dolls, and he spent quality time with them and lost both of them.
7:39 pm
it was a shattering experience. patsy, who died of epilepsy, one day at dinner in the dining room, and jackie, who had not participated in the revolution, until the very end, joined his stepfather and his staff, came down with typhus, some type of fever and died a few days later. >> this is very common in the period. the average life expectancy would have been 50's or 60's. you have to think of the fact of a large portion of those mortality figures are young children who died before they are five or six. the death rate among young children or women giving birth who died in childbirth.
7:40 pm
those figures are skewed. if you lived beyond six and you survived childbirth, the chances of living into your 70's were fine. >> washington men rarely lived the on the 50's. it was one reason he was reluctant to take the presidency. he had a sense he was living on borrowed time at 57. >> time for some questions from around the country. the first one is jennifer in south dakota. >> i was wondering what martha's relationship was to general washington's staff, people like alexander hamilton and maybe some of the younger politicians like monroe and madison, especially considering what he did with the children. >> that is a great question.
7:41 pm
from the time she first gave birth, she was a wonderful mother. she doted on the children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. she was more or less like a house mother at a fraternity. she saw they ate enough and they had dry socks and they did all the important things and concern herself with them, and forever afterwards, the young men remembered her as their mother, their foster mother. >> she also had a sense of humor. alexander hamilton loved the ladies, and they returned his interest. this is before hamilton married betsy schuyler. martha had a very amorous tomcat she named hamilton.
7:42 pm
>> i am going to move on to another question. >> there was a special relationship between george washington and the marquis de lafayette. how did martha get along with him? >> he was another of the gunmen -- young man that that she became a mother to. when he came although the richest man in france, he was one of the most unhappy. he was escaping persecution by his in-laws and by the court, and he came as a young man. he was 18 years old when she met him, and she thought of him as another son. she treated him that way. he loved it. he thought of it as what america was like, and he could be made over.
7:43 pm
>> he was one of the better observers who gives us a window on the relationship between the washingtons -- he writes a letter. people ask why did martha spend every winter of the revolution with washington. off he had said it was simple. -- loved her husband lafayette said it was simple. she loved her husband madly. >> our next call comes from montpellier, virginia. you are on. >> i read in washington a few
7:44 pm
months ago, and it mentioned the judged woman left because martha told her she was going to pass her down through her daughter and she trusted and like martha but did not want to work for the daughter. >> that was her granddaughter. the daughter was many years dead by then. martha had three granddaughters, and the oldest one was a fairly bad tempered and very capricious, and i do not think anyone would have wanted to work for her, much less like her, and -- much less the long-term. -- bowl long that to her. her.long to when they said they had requested her and she was going to live with elisa when she got married, she decided a enough was enough and took off. >> the montpelier folks are going to be yelling at me. monticello is jefferson's home. >> this was washington wanted her back and wanted the president to advertise for her return, and it put washington in a very awkward situation.
7:45 pm
>> in michigan, what is your question? >> i wondered what you thought about how historic sites deal with first ladies, in particular, martha washington. do you think she is well represented? are there things we can do to talk about what she did? >> i certainly think in philadelphia it would be good to see even more done about martha washington as the first lady, but at mount vernon they have done an incredible job. mount vernon is the leader among these historical houses. they have an actress who portrays martha washington, and they really make clear how important she was, that she was
7:46 pm
not just a hostess. >> next up is shirley watching us in tucson. >> i would like to ask a question about arlington house. >> have you been to visit it? >> yes, several times. i grew up in the washington area, and i was just there, and i saw it was being renovated, and i was curious. i do not remember why it was in the family. >> martha's grandson custis, who was adopted by the washingtons and lived with them throughout their lives, after the washington's died and he was on his own, he decided to build a beautiful mansion, which he did
7:47 pm
and called it arlington. now it never belonged to robert lee. robert married custis's daughter and lived with her. it passed from washington custis to his daughter married to lee's son. lee is the care giver, but he is the most famous, so his name is included. >> it is a wonderful, universal story about how george and martha agreed to disagree about george washington custis, who i think most people agree was spoiled and royally by his grandmother. and he was in and out of school, and these wonderful letters in which washington was pouring out
7:48 pm
the benefits of his life experience about how he would work, totally wasted on tubb. >> when the couple married, george washington was in the process of building mount vernon. >> mount vernon existed as a four-room farm house, but it was in the process of adding a second story. >> he was doing that to bring his new wife there? >> he paid for it himself. it was partly his pride he did not want to be marrying a rich woman and using her money to make the house. it was to show that he had something to offer.
7:49 pm
>> was it fair to call it the centerpiece of the washington's existence? >> it was the north star. the place they always wanted to return to, the place they were happiest. but after the president died, it was maybe the greatest sacrifice martha was able to make. she was able to have his remains removed from mount vernon to the capital. fortunately, that never happened. >> it just shows how that policy worked out. >> let's show you some of the views of mount vernon when we visited. >> it is clear after martha arrived in april of 1759, there was a lot of management she has
7:50 pm
to do. when she married george washington she brings with her 12 house slaves, and that is an unimaginable luxury. they are not field laborers or not producing crops, which is where they are coming from. they are doing things like cooking, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, sewing. this is not productive labor. she brings financial resources to the marriage as well as managerial skills. it makes it possible for the -- it makes it possible for washington to be away for eight years fighting a war. it is clearly critical.
7:51 pm
there is a far manager who is a distant cousin of george washington. form -- the far farm manager- was washington's nephew, and he meetingmeeting's -- martha washington's needs. it is clear while they are at mount vernon with martha washington, she was a take charge woman. in terms of her interaction with the slaves, she is interacting with the cooks in the kitchen, the made in the house. there are also slaves' spinning and who on a continual basis to produce yarn. martha was a great lover of gardens. she like having a kitchen garden
7:52 pm
that she like to be able to go out and ring in vegetables for. she was the one planning the menu. there are a lot of levels that she is working with. .t is a big operation really, the center of her whole life very -- wife. -- life. >> with years of additional research, how close is it to recreating the life of martha washington experienced? >> nothing could not recreate the life of that time. they would have to take the motorized vehicles away. they would have to have haystacks, outdoor toilets. there was so much about the life that was so much more primitive than it is, but as close as it can, it is the leader of historical houses.
7:53 pm
>> george washington's crops were what and what kind of businessman was he? >> that is an aspect of his life that is least understood. they think of him as a complex historian. they should look at him from agriculture. he was an experimental farmer. he realized this was not fertile soil to begin with. it was being exploited by tobacco. tobacco should be the crop of the past. he experimented with over 60 different crops to see what work best. wasick point i want to make the apprenticeship that running mount vernon offered, if there was an ad for first lady in 1789, martha washington's prior
7:54 pm
experience really qualified her uniquely, and one of the things she did, you notice there are two wings added during the revolution. she oversaw the construction . a dining room is a very public space. then there is a private way and that can stain -- contained his study. one of the jobs she had, they had 600 people a year staying here at showed up because they wanted to see the most famous man on earth. they were all welcome and greeted. bad -- them were given a bed overnight, but even washington got sick of the demands. he would disappear in the evening. he would go to the study, leaving martha to converse with visitors. >> there is so much to see.
7:55 pm
let's watch that. >> the room we show off as the washington's bedchamber is a room that was part of the south wing -- washington's bedchamber is a room that was started in 1775 right before washington left to participate in continental congress and the revolutionary war. he always referred to it as mr. she typically spent time in that chamber doing her hour of spiritual meditation, writing letters, talking to plan menus for the day, giving assignments for what was to be done that day. when her grandchildren were young, she used the room for teaching them, reading them stories, sowing in the afternoon, so you can imagine how wonderful it would have been
7:56 pm
in the afternoon triggered one of the most notable pieces is the -- in the afternoon triggered one of the most notable pieces is the bed. it is a bit larger than the typical dimensions for an 18th- century bed. it seems she is getting a custom made bed for her husband. another piece in the room that has a close connection when martha washington is her desk, although very little correspondence has survived because martha washington destroyed their private correspondence. it was in that desk two letters were found that slipped behind one of the drawers. it is not just a place where she slept.
7:57 pm
i can picture her sitting in the easy chair by the fire with her grandchildren are around, so we can imagine how comfortable id must have been. >> one of the things mentioned is her morning meditation, which seem to be a sacred thing for her. >> she was a member of the church of england. after the revolution she became a member of the american church. she had several bibles. she read the bible. she read the book of common prayer. she spent a lot of time reading other books about the biblical point of view, and she was a deeply religious but not judgmental woman.
7:58 pm
>> what about the video is important to tell people about the life they have? >> the fact they burned all the correspondence is a metaphor. that is where they could say to each other what they did not say anywhere else. i think one reason she burned those letters was that was the unvarnished george washington. it was not a unique 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. >> this is the interesting thing about that. they both had a sense they were creating an image larger than his lifetime, that they did not want to be spoiled. >> she was very careful of his
7:59 pm
papers. they were always kept in a big truck. when they felt it might be in danger of being move, and now building his image, having his image, showing him as a political man were important, but as far as she was concerned, their private life was just that. when they complained or whatever else they did, those were private. >> what was the content of the letters in the desk? >> there were fabulous. they were from him to her when he had just expected to command of the continental army which did not exist yet of a nation that does not exist yet without asking her.
8:00 pm
he is writing and saying, i had to accept this. my honor required it, but please do not be angry with me, and he goes on and on about why it is important and why she needs to support him, and before he goes off to become the leader of the war, he makes time and now to buy some of the nicest muslin in town so she can make dresses. >> i do not think anyone reading those letters would subscribe to the widely held view their relationship was a business like one. >> they were not young at this point at all. >> let's go back to our viewer calls. gayle, you are on. >> hi. am i talking to somebody? >> you are live on tv right now.
8:01 pm
>> my name is gail and i have a couple questions. i am reading a very nice easy book by mary higgins clark. she said no one ever called martha washington "martha." she was always called patsy. lady bird johnson was never called claudia. i was just wondering. i just heard you mentioned in his letters that it was just mentioned on the television he did call her patsy. i also wanted to mention that in the story about martha and george washington that the house mount vernon was originally the home of his half brother, that he lived in a smaller farm.
8:02 pm
i wondered if you were going to talk about his years as a surveyor. or is this really about the years with martha as an adult. >> thank you. this is martha washington's time in the sun. how about the nickname patsy? >> it was a nickname for martha in those days. nobody was named patricia back then. it was a common name. it was the farm has his brother lived in that was the farmhouse. i was mentioning he had been
8:03 pm
added a second story to. it was before room farmhouse. >> arlington, texas. >> hello. thank you for taking my call. i have a question regarding sally fairfax. i wonder if you could clarify that relationship, which continued until after the revolutionary war. was he aware of the relationship and how did he honestly deal with that or was that something that was not discussed? >> do you want to start? [laughter] >> here is a classic example where mrs. washington did her cause no good by burning those letters.
8:04 pm
in the late 1950's, two letters were discovered which james flexner made a great deal out of. some would say exaggerated their significance. sally was the wife of george william fairfax, who was a neighbor and close friend. some people describe him as washington's best friend. just downriver from mount vernon. i think, clearly, there was, i would use the word infatuation. sally was slightly older, very sophisticated to someone like george, who wanted, as a young man, very much too long. who wanted to be part of the colonial aristocracy, who wanted to advance in the british military.
8:05 pm
someone like sally, who was even then unattainable, nevertheless held a special allure. exactly what the nature of that relationship was is still being debated. you talked about george washington's integrity. i think it was something even then. i do not think the relationship went beyond a lovesick young man. >> we will not disagree. when those two letters service, you cannot read them any other way but that he was a love sick puppy. they hardly make sense when you read them sentenced by some -- by sentence and tried to punctuate them, he has gone crazy because she has said something mean to him.
8:06 pm
you see how much she cares -- he cares about her. i do not think it went any further than that kind of infatuation. he did care about his friend. once he met martha and once they started to settle down, i think she had to have known. she was a smart woman. when he started talking about the elegant neighbors -- sally fairfax and her husband was there when they drop in after getting up from the dining room table and were at her funeral because it was in the midsummer and she had to be very. it is becoming clear a
8:07 pm
revolution as been coming about. the fairfaxes go back to england, never to return. there is no continuing relationship beyond friendship. >> an ancestor of martha washington, her younger brother, bartholomew, was a great uncle of mine. i was also born in virginia. i had a couple questions pertaining to life. i always heard her to met george washington carat it was a plantation property next door to the white house. he had been the guest of the chamberlains there for dinner. not knowing martha was invited, also.
8:08 pm
that was where they met. the other question i have is, i understood she attended somewhat st. peter's fit rigid episcopal church. a very short distance from the white house. >> when we roughens the white house, it is not the white house we know. >> the white house is the plantation on the monkey river where daniel costas is the lord and master there. yes, st. peter's was the church. there are different stories about how they met. some people have said he and george have known each other for a long time. i do not think there is really much belief in that because when you run the numbers it did not amount to very much. he liked to write everything as a grand, old fashioned romance.
8:09 pm
>> time to move on. george washington pushed into service as the leader of the army. martha washington spends time with him and leaves how many times? how frequently was she in the battlefield with him. >> she goes every winter to join him in the cans and make a home not just for m -- for him. they would make it a social time. of the actual eight years of the revolution, she spends, overall, five years. >> we have a video from one of those encampments in the
8:10 pm
pennsylvania, philadelphia suburbs. let's watch that now. >> martha washington came to valley forge in the fifth of february 1778. she arrived here in the evening. we know the weather while she was traveling here not always pleasant because it started out selling. she left, then the wind picked up and it started to rain and it became very muddy. when she finally arrived here on february 5, it was quite pleasant and the weather was 35. for a lot of the time, she was traveling through mud. this was a difficult journey. >> it is very interesting to look at the primary
8:11 pm
documentation, the letters, journals, and diaries, to see what martha did do. i think it is a little surprising and it really puts a different complexion on the entire encampment. i think, number one, general washington. they -- was to be with general washington. they had a nice relationship. we know some is used to duty. we also know she entertained. we know elisabeth came to valley forge. we know, and this is when it starts to get interesting, she served elegant dinners here. most people would never put the word elegant together with the
8:12 pm
word valley forge. this is probably where martha washington shot -- died until the log hut made our conditions much more tolerable than they were at first. right back near the kitchen. you can imagine martha washington here. some of the officers. general washington. perhaps some of the people from the area who might have been passing through. eating dinner here. it was served in the afternoon. maybe 2:00. the food they ate here was different from what eight soldiers were eating. we know there were 2000 eggs brought into valley forge.
8:13 pm
they ate that during the encampment. we know they brought in 750 pounds of butter. we know at least 16 these are some of the things martha washington would be eating here. conversation is interesting to think about. what would march up washington and other people be talking about? when elizabeth drinker came from philadelphia, it is very likely to general washington would have been interested to think of conditions at the time. martha was part of that conversation, listening to what
8:14 pm
was happening, talking in philadelphia. >> we know martha washington went to several warships services here at camp. we know there was a wonderful celebration celebrating the french alliance. martha washington is there at the center of a large tent. thousands of them are entertained and serve refreshments. those are some of the things martha is doing here. >> we are back talking about martha washington. i have a tweet hear from a viewer named jennifer who writes, amazing how much time martha washington spent with her husband on the front lines. that is what i want to start with. it sounds like we're just hearing about in valley forge, but 2500 soldiers died in that encampment in that winter.
8:15 pm
>> it was not viewed as genteel by her contemporaries. one of the things that frosted an emotional bond between mrs. washington and what would be the american people, was the perception. she had sacrificed every bit as much as her husband during the war. this was another chapter in her training for being first lady. he was in effect for eight years an executive, the close of think the country had -- the closest thing a country had, and it is very touching.
8:16 pm
they had one room on the second- floor at valley forge. they had an hour every morning sacred. an hour where they were not to be disturbed. would you not love to be a fly on the wall of those conversations? undoubtedly again, washington unloaded a lot. >> he had so many words. with a possibly when? it was not just entertaining the americans. she was entertaining officers from france, from britain, from germany -- germany. one french officer said, it was so wonderful to be there with her, drinking tea, singing, can and chatting. at the end of the evening, one would go home feeling better. can you imagines feeling better at valley forge? she had charm beyond belief. >> she had an official role acting as assistant to private secretary. it gave her a lens of the job.
8:17 pm
what else from those years were important in the development of the first lady? >> the change in her sewing habits, people sewed in tapestry and fancywork. when she was there and the local ladies came to call, she was not doing fancywork. she had the knitting needles out. she was knitting socks for the soldiers. they marched and they got bigger holes on the sauce. she must have knitted thousands of socks and encourage others to, as well as raising the money to make women's shirts, which served as uniform shirts. she physically, in terms of her work, and emotionally in terms of her leadership, helped inform the trips.
8:18 pm
>> there was a wonderful story where a group of women were going to call upon the general lady and expected a very grand figure. to their astonishment, they found her knitting and wearing a speckled apron. she clearly was not someone to stem on the stand on her position. >> thank you all for being here. this serious great and the panel is fantastic. my question is about washington's grandchildren. could you talk a little bit about martha's cousin, peter.
8:19 pm
could you talk a little bit about her relationship with her grandmother? >> when the adoption happened, when the washington adopted two of the grandchildren, they took the two youngest. the two elder girls lived with their mother and stepfather. eventually, lots of half brothers and sisters. the two elder girls spent a lot of time with washington and were very friendly with him. they were not very loving with them. they were not the same as the adopted children. patty got married very young, apparently for love. her husband, peter was a well- to-do man in georgetown and they built a beautiful house. it is open to the public. it is an incredibly gorgeous place. she bought this task and when she took it home, she found those wonderful letters.
8:20 pm
>> a reminder, martha washington outlived her four children. pretty unthinkable for many people today. not so on common during this time. the next phone call, edward. virginia. >> a fascinating program. i am originally from new york. at the cantonment, the last thing -- the loss and kamen when they offered him the kingship, could you expand on that?
8:21 pm
>> she spent a lot of time at neuberger. the warhead worn down. -- the war had worn down. >> the defining moment in american history, i do not think she was there for that. >> we have about 12 more minutes left. 90 minutes went by so quickly. we started about talking about the important white house years. our last will be the life after presidency. what is this president scenting setting? >> he became the first president and the first ex-president. >> did they think about that a lot? >> they were just glad to be home. >> was there any consideration of a third term? >> no.
8:22 pm
washington had wanted very much to leave after the first term. it is safe to say martha was not happy. she was not happy he took the first term. she recognized it was unavoidable and her life had become caught up in the life of the country. the third term -- >> he twice had ailments that almost killed him during the time he was president. she was terrified the presidency would literally kill him.
8:23 pm
you think about every president we know. you look at the pictures of when they start. eight years later, they are more than eight years older, for sure. it is a very aging kind of job. >> we look at a political battle over the size -- what was the intensity of the political battles of this timeframe? >> remember, washington success as president depended on his persuading everyone he was not a political partisan. he did not call it a federal list of government. called it a national government. he went out of his way to include all the sections of the country. hamilton and jefferson had a cockfight. he was willing to see himself as a duke of king george and someone who the tray. -- pilloried in the press as a
8:24 pm
duke of king george and someone who you trade the revolution -- betrayed the revolution. and has almost been harder for a first lady, or a presidential child to put up with the criticism than for the president who accepts it as part of the job. >> she was. she took madison jefferson into hatred. she hated thomas jefferson. once he started his newspaper campaign against washington, and the reason he brought washington into it was to defeat hamilton. he said, it is a shame how much the president suffered from the source of attacks but it is necessary. she never forgave him. never. he never realized she was smart enough to see what he was doing. she thought he was horrible.
8:25 pm
the fact he was elected president was shocking. >> he made the mistake of underestimating martha washington. martha grew closer personally and politically to the atoms -- adams. she was glad it is -- it was john adams. >> next week, we will delve in for 90 minutes for the life of abigail adams. how many years post presidency did they live at mount vernon? >> he lived two years. she lived 2.5 beyond that. >> what was the time like, their last two years -- their last years together as a couple? >> it was a great time. they were experimenting, dealing with the mill and all the things he pioneered with. she had to organize the housekeeping appeared what is so interesting is mount vernon become the symbol of the nation after they retire.
8:26 pm
there is no white house yet. washington d.c. is building up but it does not exist. it does not exist as a large place. when foreigners and important people come, what do they want to see? the building we are seeing in d.c., they want to see mount vernon and washington after washington dies, they want to see martha washington and talk to her about what it was like. they see her as the leading remnant of that history. they continue to have this -- until they die. both of them. >> he sat down and wrote a will in the course of which he identified himself as george
8:27 pm
washington, a citizen of the united states, not virginia. even more important, in which he made provisions to free the slaves that he could upon the death of martha. that was something he had to consult her about although i do not think we have any evidence to that effect. >> george washington does die very suddenly. it must have been a great shock. martha was very brief. she does retreat. she does not use their shared a bed -- their shared bedchamber after his death. it is furnished with the actual bed we believe came to the washingtons in the 1750's from
8:28 pm
london. it is on with hanging space on a little fragment preserved in a 19th century valentine written by martha's granddaughter, nellie. that valentine says this is fabric from the turbines that hung in the room in which mrs. washington died here. that fabric exactly matches the description of the hangings that came with the dead george washington got from london in the 1750's. it points to a very romantic tale that, after george washington's death, martha washington moves upstairs but surrounds herself with things from the air -- from the very earliest days of their marriage. was a place of refuge for her. it was a place where the house continued to be busy with servants, slaves, and people
8:29 pm
visiting. those are places she could really retreat to and be quiet and contemplate and be removed from the hustle and bustle. >> when washington died, she said, it is over. my life is just waiting now. she really and truly did not want to be in that room where they had been so happy. >> did she involve herself? did she stay involved in any of the politics of the day? >> the politics of the day, she became even more secluded if anything, certainly emotionally. her emotions became even more central to her day. every day, she would walk down the path to the tomb, which you can see today.
8:30 pm
she would pray. basically, she was literally counting the days until she could be reunited with the love of her life. when you factor in her religious convictions, it is just another factor. >> we have two minutes left. a final question in virginia. >> george mason had two wives. she passed away. i was wondering what the relationship was between martha washington and either of george mason's wives. >> they were friendly neighbors. as far as i know, they were never intimate friends.
8:31 pm
>> that friendship was a political casualty. george mason and george washington, who had been friends and collaborators and leading up to the revolution. after the constitutional convention, which washington sanctioned, it really spelled an end to their friendship. >> on twitter, someone said, quite the power couple. [laughter] what are the important things to know about the influence of martha washington? >> it is important to know how smart and powerful she was and how dependent he was on her. his achievements were his achievements. having her there with them made them much more possible. >> i think that is true. she defines it in a way that perhaps a temporary americans -- contemporary americans might have a difficulty understanding. she was the most influential
8:32 pm
person in the face of europe -- in the face of europe. >> this is the biography of george washington's patriarch. a striking portrait of young martha on the cover. our partners for the entire series is the white house historical association. they have been helping with documentary ever in -- evidence. we get ready for the series and we say thanks as we finish up the first program. we have a group of academic advisers, and you will see many of them at the program progresses. we have a robust website with a lot of video. if we have flooded your appetite and you want to want -- learn more, c-span.org/firstladies. thank you so much.
8:33 pm
♪ ♪ [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013]
8:34 pm
x you can see more programs from our second season of "first ladies" next week. weeknights at 9:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. in the new year, are series returns with the most recent first ladies, beginning with nancy reagan. beginning january 13 on c-span. --h our series, we are also offering a special series of this book. it is the biography and portrait of each first lady and comments from historians. for the discounted price of $12.95 plus shipping. you can get it on c-span.org. ladies more about first on our website including a special section. partner,duced by our the white house historical society. it chronicles life in the executive mansion during the years of each of the first
8:35 pm
ladies. span, experts and analysts discuss privacy on the internet. this is followed by a discussion of government spending. later, ruth bader ginsburg discusses the court's role in the country. now a look at digital and internet privacy with advocates from the chicago ideas week. this is moderated by rebecca mackinnon. it runs one hour 35 minutes. gentlemen, please welcome this afternoon's host, rebecca mackinnon. >> good afternoon. thank you for coming. [applause] many people may not realize this, but 95% of people who are out there on the

166 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on