J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, September 07, 2018

Symposium on Washington and Women at Mount Vernon, 2-3 Nov.

Last year I had the honor of speaking at the George Washington Symposium at Mount Vernon, organized by the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.

This year’s symposium, to take place on 2-3 November, has the theme “‘A Sensible Woman Can Never be Happy with a Fool’: The Women of George Washington’s World.”

The event description:
“When the fire is beginning to kindle, and your heart growing warm, propound these questions to it… Is he a man of good character? A man of sense? for be assured a sensible woman can never be happy with a fool.”

Thus wrote George Washington in a heartfelt 1796 letter to his step-granddaughter Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis on the subjects of love and marriage. Although the Father of Our Country was a leader among leaders in a male-dominated world, we know that he enjoyed a number of complex and meaningful relationships with women from all stations of the socially-stratified eighteenth century. Join leading historians and academics for an enlightening look at a wide variety of women from the General’s personal orbit, including his often misunderstood mother, an admiring poet, social confidants, a traitor to the Revolution, and a defiant runaway slave. We will also examine the memory of Washington through the legacies of his adoring step-granddaughters and the Southern Matron who led the charge in the 1850s to rescue his home and final resting place.
The lineup of presentations is:
  • “Mary Ball Washington: Tales of Motherhood,” Martha Saxton
  • “A Rare Commitment: The Friendship of George Washington and Elizabeth Willing Powel,” George W. Boudreau
  • Roundtable on “Women” and “Mothers” across Eighteenth-Century America, moderated by Karin Wulf of the Omohundro Institute 
  • “True Republicans: The Relationship between George Washington and Mercy Otis Warren,” Rosemarie Zagarri
  • “George Washington and Phillis Wheatley: The Indispensable Man and the Poet Laureate of the Founding Era,” James G. Basker
  • “‘The tender Heart of the Chief could not support the Scene’: General Washington, Margaret Arnold, and the Treason at West Point,” Charlene Boyer Lewis
  • “‘She should rather suffer death than return to Slavery’: The Escape of Oney Judge,” Mary V. Thompson
  • “Daughters of the Pater Patriae: The Custis Step-Granddaughters’ Relationships with George Washington,” Cassandra Good
  • “Coming to the Rescue with Ann Pamela Cunningham,” Ann Bay Goddin
These symposiums are designed to bring the latest findings and analyses of historians to the community of Mount Vernon and its supporters. Attendees fill a large auditorium, reflecting the interest in all things Washington.

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