Category: Presidents

Presidential Love Stories and a Giveaway!

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Hi everyone- Winnie Griggs here.

Within the next week we’ll be celebrating Valentine’s Day, President’s Day and my birthday (that is a national holiday, isn’t it?). So in my post today I thought I’d find a way to give a nod to all three.

And what better way to do that than to talk about the love stories of two American presidents and then to hand out a birthday present by throwing in a giveaway at the end?

So here goes.

First Ladies have always played important roles for their husbands and American politics at large. They are personal confidants, philanthropists, and even trusted political advisors, and many become celebrated career women independent of their presidential husbands. One almost forgets that beyond the politics and the public image, the President and the First Lady are husband and wife: two people in love, bound by matrimony.

R&A Jackson

It doesn’t get much more heart-wrenching than the tragic love story between Andrew Jackson and his beloved wife Rachel, who technically never was a First Lady. Rachel was mid-divorce when they met and fell in love. Her first husband was cruel and manipulative, and dragged his feet on finalizing their divorce. Before it was official, she and Andrew eloped and started a life together, and Rachel’s family and community readily accepted her new husband. Her first husband, however, used this against her, and had her charged with adultery. To fight this in court, Rachel would have had to further delay the divorce. She accepted the black mark on her reputation in the name of love. The divorce was finalized, and Rachel and Andrew remarried for good.

By all accounts, they adored each other, and as Andrew’s political career progressed, she kept him humble and soothed his anxieties. They were in their sixties by the time he ran for president, and had lived many blissful years together as decent, respectable people, still as in love as they were in their youth.

The tragedy is that during Andrew’s presidential campaign, his enemies dug up the court documents on Rachel’s first marriage and the adultery charge, and she was viciously attacked by the press. Both of them- already elderly for the times and in poor health- took this very hard, and when Andrew won, there was no vindication for Rachel. The stress of the campaign had worn on her, and mere days before her beloved husband left for Washington to take office, she died of an apparent heart attack.

A&J Adams

But I won’t leave you with that sad tale. John and Abigail Adams had a famous romance for an entirely different and very literary reason: their courtship and fifty year marriage is beautifully documented in the thousand-plus detailed letters they wrote to each other. John’s political career often kept them apart for long stretches of time, and their relationship was built and strengthened and maintained through their letters.

Abigail Adams is remembered as a highly intelligent, compassionate, and influential First Lady, and her husband John considered her an intellectual equal in all areas of life. She was his wife, the manager of his home and family, and his closest political advisor. Though she didn’t have a formal education, she was a voracious reader. Growing up around the finest libraries in her home state of Massachusetts, she read and read, on all subjects, and had an impressively broad knowledge base.

On their first meeting, John was not especially impressed. However, a romance soon blossomed. In one early, flirtatious correspondence, John addresses her, “Miss Adorable.” As the relationship progressed, their letters reflected a deep love and a powerful mental connection. They even wrote, in their letters, how much they enjoyed exchanging their thoughts in writing, how much peace it brought them when they could not be together. John and Abigail’s letters paint a vivid picture of two people in love: they quarrel, they wax poetic, they discuss political issues, and they ponder their lives. After John lost the election of 1800, the letters stopped. After nearly forty years of letter correspondence, they finally settled down for good in Massachusetts, together, with no more need for letters.

Just think, these rich stories come from only two of the past presidents of this country. How many other amazing love stories are hidden behind the politics and formality?

Here’s wishing you an early Happy Valentine’s Day, and on an unlikely related note, an early happy Presidents’ Day, too!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And now for the giveaway.

Anyone who leaves a comment today, giving your thoughts on the stories above, or sharing your own romantic love story, will be entered in a drawing where the winner gets his or her choice of any book from my backlist.  (click here to view a complete list of my books)

Happy early birthday to me 🙂

(click here to view our giveaway guidelines)

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Updated: February 8, 2016 — 2:10 am

Abraham Lincoln’s Favorite Cake (with recipe)

ChristmasCoffeeOne of the blessings of this festive time of year is sharing good food with family and friends. During the holidays, mothers and grandmothers everywhere retreat to the kitchen and don’t emerge until they’ve baked a pile of goodies imbued with generation upon generation of family tradition.

In that way, holiday life in contemporary America hasn’t changed much from holiday life in the 1800s…including life in the White House during the turbulent years of the American Civil War. Surrounded by carnage, then-President Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary Todd Lincoln, and their sons probably took comfort in family traditions.

Abraham Lincoln with Mary Todd Lincoln and sons Robert and Tad (Curier & Ives lithograph, 1866)

Abraham Lincoln with Mary Todd Lincoln and sons Robert and Tad (Curier & Ives lithograph, 1866)

One of the traditions Mrs. Lincoln took to the White House with her was a cake she called simply “white cake.” According to Lincoln’s Table by Donna D. McCreary, the confection was created in 1825 by a Monsieur Giron to celebrate the Marquis de Lafayette’s visit to Lexington, Kentucky—the First Lady’s hometown. The dessert proved such a hit that the prominent Todd family somehow convinced Giron to share the recipe, and the cake promptly became a Todd tradition. Mary Todd made the cake for Abraham while they were courting and continued the tradition after their marriage. Reportedly, Mary Todd Lincoln’s White Cake was her husband’s favorite sweet treat.

The recipe survives to this day. Here it is. (Instructions in parentheses are modernizations.)

ChristmasBundtCake

image by Betsy Weber; used with permission (click cake to visit her online)

Mary Todd Lincoln’s White Cake

  • Six egg whites
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup blanched almonds, chopped (in a food processor or blender) to resemble coarse flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

(Preheat oven to 350 degrees.)

Grease and flour a (10- to 12-cup Bundt) pan.

In a medium bowl, beat egg whites (with a mixer on medium-high speed) until stiff (about 4 minutes). Set aside.

In a separate medium bowl, sift together flour and baking powder three times. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar (with mixer on medium speed) until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add flour mixture alternately with the milk, beating well after each addition. Stir in the almonds.

Stir in the vanilla, then fold beaten egg whites into the batter until just combined.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake about 1 hour (until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean).

Let cake cool in pan about 15 minutes, then remove (to wire rack) and let cool another hour before dusting with confectioners’ sugar.

 

Allow me to be frank: This cake is a lot of trouble to make, but the result is worth every bit of effort. It’s now part of my family’s tradition, as well.

May your family’s traditions bring you peace and joy that follows you through the coming year.

 

The Philadelphia Derringer–The Gun That Changed History

Baby DerringerThe Philadelphia Deringer is a small percussion handgun designed by Henry Deringer and produced from 1852 through 1868. The term derringer is actually a misspelling of the maker’s last name. Kind of like kleenex (with a small k), or “xerox,” the term derringer is now used to describe any pocket-sized pistol.

The original Deringer pistol was a single-shot muzzle-loading pistol. That means you had one ball of lead backed by the power of a measure of black powder. No multi-shot shootouts with this little beauty. Subsequent models were made to use the new cartridge type ammunition–aka a bullet–but a derringer never held more than two shots.

Derringer often refers to the smallest usable handgun of a given caliber. They were frequently used by women, because the size made the pistol easy to conceal in a reticule on slipped into a stocking garter. Derringers are not repeating firearms. The original cartridge derringers held only a single round, usually a .40 caliber cartridge. [.40 refers to the diameter of the bullet, in this case .40” or 10.16mm.] The barrel pivoted sideways on the frame for reloading.

Remington doubleThe famous Remington derringer, sold from 1866 to 1935, was designed with a second barrel on top of the first. This meant two shots instead of one, without much more weight to carry around. On this two-shot pistol, the barrels pivoted upward for reloading.

If you plan to use this pretty little thing for personal protection, keep in mind that the bullet moved very slowly–about half the speed of a modern bullet. It could actually be seen in flight. Still, at close range, such as at card table or in a stage coach, it could be deadly.

Another thing to consider, should you want a character to carry a derringer: it took a lot to load and prepare the pistol. I’ll let you read for yourself.

“For loading a Philadelphia Deringer, one would typically fire a couple of percussion caps on the handgun, to dry out any residual moisture contained in the tube or at the base of the barrel, to prevent a subsequent misfire. One would then remove the remains of the last fired percussion cap and place the handgun on its half-cock notch, pour 15 to 25 grains of blackpowder down the barrel, followed by ramming a patched lead ball down onto the powder, being very careful to leave no air gap between the patched ball and the powder, to prevent the handgun from exploding when used. (The purpose of the patch on the ball was to keep the ball firmly lodged against the powder, to avoid creating what was called a “short start” when the ball was dislodged from being firmly against the powder.) A new percussion cap would then be placed on the tube (what today would be called a nipple), and the gun was then loaded and ready to fire. (The half-cock notch prevented the hammer from falling if the trigger were bumped accidentally while carrying the handgun in one’s coat pocket.) Then, to fire the handgun, a user would fully cock the hammer, aim, and squeeze the trigger. Upon a misfire, the user could fully re-cock the hammer, and attempt to fire the handgun once more, or, equally common, switch to a second Deringer. Accuracy was highly variable; although front sights were common, rear sights were less common, and some Philadelphia Deringers had no sights at all, being intended for point and shoot use instead of aim and shoot, across Poker-table distances. Professional gamblers, and others who carried regularly, often would fire and reload daily, to decrease the chance of a misfire upon needing to use a Philadelphia Deringer.” http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Derringer&action=edit&section=3

John Wilkes Booth_deringer FBI picAnd do you know how this gun changed history? It was the weapon used by John Wilkes Booth to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln in the Ford Theater on April 14, 1865.

Lincoln Assasination

 

State Trivia ~ Gems of Missouri

State Trivia Logo 03.25.14

 

Good morning & good Monday!

I’m excited to kick-off our STATE TRIVIA WEEK here at Petticoats and Pistols! The Fillies live all over the place, and, at the suggestion of one of you, our readers, we’re going to introduce you to our states. Mine?

~ MISSOURI ~
“The Gateway to the West”

MO flag

Missouri was the 24th state in the USA, joining the union on August 10, 1821.
State Nickname – “The Show Me State”
State Motto – “Salus populi suprema lex esto ” – The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law
State Song – Missouri Waltz   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtgS3_YQ5E4
State Capital – Jefferson City
Name for Residents – Missourians
Major Rivers – Mississippi River, Missouri River, Osage River
Major Lakes – Lake of the Ozarks, Table Rock Lake, Clearwater Lake, Lake Wappapello
Highest Point – Taum Sauk Mountain- 1,772 feet (540 m) above sea level
Number of Counties – 114 (plus one independent city, St. Louis)

Those are some of the “stats” of the state. But here are a few of the “gems”:

St. Charles, located on the Missouri River, was the location of the first state capitol. The site is a State Park: http://mostateparks.com/park/first-missouri-state-capitol-state-historic-site.  Old St. Charles features many historic buildings from the early history of the state. Check out The Lewis & Clark Boathouse: http://www.lewisandclark.net/

President Harry S. Truman was born in Lamar (near Joplin) on May 8, 1884 (he was the 33rd US President, serving from 1945 to 1953). He retired in Independence, in the house his wife, Bess, owned.

 

Samuel Clemens In TophatSamuel Langhome Clements (right), better know as Mark Twain, was born in Florida, MO, and  grew up in Hannibal. His most well-remembered character, Huckleberry Finn’s home is Hannibal. Colonel Potter’s, too, for you MASH fans

Independence was a jumping off point for many wagon trains heading west. I had so much fun exploring the museums in this delightful town.

arch

The Gateway Arch
The nation’s tallest monument at 630 feet tall and 630 feet wide at the base, the Gateway Arch was completed in October, 1965. The vision of renowned architect Eero Saarinen, the Gateway Arch commemorates Thomas Jefferson and St. Louis’ role in the westward expansion of the United States.

St. Genevieve
French settlement on the Mississippi River, established in the early 1700s as part of the Illinois Country of the Upper Louisiana Territory. http://visitstegen.com

The second battle of the Civil War, The Battle of Wilson’s Creek, took place near what is now the city of Springfield, MO.

The Gratiot Street Prison, run by the Union, was in St. Louis during the Civil War. The site is now the Ralston Purina headquarters.

missouri_simple

The Lake of the Ozarks has more shoreline than California has coastline.

Missouri has so many Caves we’re known as “the cave state.” There’s Bridal Cave, Meramec Cavern, Fantastic Cavern, Onondaga, Cathedral… Check out all 6400 known caves– http://www.visitmo.com/missouri-travel/missouris-show-caves.aspx

I’ll stop now. But there are just so many cool things about my state!

Anyone of you readers live in Missouri? What did I miss?

Leave a comment and I’ll pick a name from the hat to win reader’s choice of the anthologies Wishing For a CowboyHearts and Spurs AND a Missouri keepsake keychain.

 

 

President John Tyler, the father of our country….or darned near

You just never know, when you’re doing research, what little tidbit is going to jump out at you and make you say, “What? Really?”

Classic Week Logo(a sneaky aside, read the post carefully for a chance to win my newest release, Fired Up.)

I read things here on P & P all the time that I’ve never heard of before. Such was my reaction to the fun fact that President John Tyler, who became president after the death of William Henry Harrison, had fifteen children.

Was the White House over crowded or WHAT?

He killed off his first wife having eight kids. (Okay, I admit that’s my spin. . .I’m sure she was thrilled every time she found out she was pregnant. . .I’m sure she’d come to John in her negligee and say, “I want another baby, darling, please.”)

Yeah right.

And she didn’t die having a baby, that’s just me being snippy.John_Tyler

President Tyler lived 72 years, was vice president and president, was the son of the governor of Virginia, served in the military during the War of 1812 (though he saw no action), was elected to the House of Representatives and later the Senate and was the first vice-president to ascend to the presidency through the president’s death, which set a whole lot of precedents we still follow today.

Out of all of that, what interested me was those 15 kids.

How many bedrooms are there in the White House anyway. Yeesh.

They were probably as crowded as I was growing up with seven brothers and sisters in a Nebraska farm house. His first wife—mother of eight—died while he was president.

Here are some quotes about Letitia Tyler:

Letitia was shy, quiet, pious, and by all accounts, utterly selfless and devoted to her family. (Mary here-they just don’t make wives like this anymore.)

1st wifeShe met John Tyler, then a law student, in 1808. Their five-year courtship was so restrained that not until three weeks before the wedding did Tyler kiss her — and even then it was on the hand. (Mary again–the man clearly came uh…uh…let’s call it…un-restrained later…thus the eight children)

The most entirely unselfish person you can imagine…Notwithstanding her very delicate health, mother attends to and regulates all the household affairs and all so quietly that you can’t tell when she does it.” (Mary with more to say–they owned slaves–it’s not like the woman was doing any heavy lifting.)

Their 29-year marriage appears to have been a singularly happy one. (Mary–I’m glad for them–except if the woman was so shy and quiet how SURE are they about her happiness. But fine, whatever, they were ecstatic)

As First Lady, she remained in the upstairs living quarters of the White House; she came down just once, to attend the wedding of her daughter (Elizabeth) in January 1842. (Me again–??? Excuse me? She only came DOWNSTAIRS ONCE???? Again with the dubious ecstacy.)

Pardon me while I wonder if she was, by chance, hiding from her husband and potential baby #9. Perhaps she was under the floorboards upstairs, waiting quietly, hoping he’d fall asleep for once in his freakin’ life.

After his first wife’s death, Tyler remarried within a year, to Julia Gardiner. You really can’t blame the guy, I mean c’mon, he had eight kids to take care of. These days, that’ll get you your own reality show. Please insert your own Jon & Kate Plus Eight jokes here. (Mary sez…Right here, folks, this is clearly identified as a P & P Classic post, because THIS JOKE clearly does NOT apply!)

Julia_TylerHere are a few words about Julia Tyler. She began seeing Tyler in January 1843, a few months after the death of the First Lady while he was president. (Mary wonders if she’d heard about the eight kids. Such things could be hushed up back then)

One of Tyler’s daughters, Letitia, never made peace with the new Mrs. Tyler. (Gotta go with Letitia here)

She was thirty years Tyler’s junior and it would be simple to make trophy wife and gold digger comments, but honestly, she had seven children with the man. No doubt she was hiding from him after a while, too. Crowded under those floor boards. In fact, that’s probably where the first Mrs. Tyler was. Alive and well and in hiding.

His second wife was YOUNGER than four of his children.

And I found this particularly fascinating. . .two of Tyler’s grandchildren are STILL ALIVE. Doesn’t that strike you as weird? Tyler lived at the same time as John Quincy Adams. He served in the War of 1812. Think of that! Tyler was the first president born after the constitution was ratified. He goes back almost all the way to the beginning and he’s still got LIVING GRANDCHILDREN!!!????

That makes me feel really strongly connected to the past. It’s still a very young country in some ways, I mean let’s face it, not a single one of Julius Caesar’s grandchildren are even CLOSE to alive. And don’t don’t get me started on Moses’ grandkids, they are DUST, baby.

Tyler also brought Texas into the union, so—as writers and lovers of western romance—we all gotta give him snaps for that.

FiredUp - CoverHere’s your chance to win Fired Up. Leave a comment telling me how you told your husband you were expecting…or if you haven’t had that particular experience, name the most interesting, intriguing, terrifying, funny ‘there’s a bun in the oven’ story you know.

I wrote a while back about a woman, still alive, who’s husband served in the Civil War. You can read that HERE.

And to add one more bit of intrigue, I will have you know that I once shook the hand of a man who shook the hand of a man who shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln. And that’s the truth. Unless he was lying. But Pastor Gradwald had an honest face, so I think it’s true. I’ve washed my hand since, but still…………….

All of this American history seems so distant and yet here we are with people living who’s lives were directly touched by people who go way back to the beginning, or very nearly.

I like that.

Not enough to have 15 children, but I like that.

My blog                     My website

Updated: September 24, 2013 — 9:57 am

Booth Saving Lincoln? Wha-a-a-a-t? ~Tanya Hanson

Our visit not long ago to Washington D.C. and Gettysburg helped reinforce my interest in anything “Lincoln-esque”.

Knowing that, my daughter passed on to me an interesting fact she recently came across. Booth saved Lincoln’s life.

Meaning, Edwin Booth, brother of the assassin, and Robert Todd Lincoln, son of the president.

Here’s the story. Robert Todd Lincoln (1843-1926), the oldest of the president’s four sons and the only one to survive childhood, spent most of the Civil War years at Harvard. His mother refused to let him sign up to fight, a circumstance said to embarrass the president.

In February 1865, however, Robert joined the staff of General Ulysses S. Grant, remaining until the end of the war. Accompanying Grant to Appomattox Courthouse, Robert witnessed General Lee’s surrender. Robert Lincoln went with Grant to Washington DC on April 13, 1865, but declined to go with his parents to Ford’s Theatre the next night.

Edwin Booth, (1833-1893) was the middle son of Junius Brutus Booth, one of the finest Shakespearean actors of the day. Edwin himself became regarded as a great Shakespearean actor, playing Hamlet more than any actor before him, and some say, since, including one run of 100 consecutive nights.

 

Unionist Edwin and his brother John Wilkes Booth, a virulent secessionist, were not close. Apparently, Edwin once wrote that his brother was “insane” on the subject of secession and feared Lincoln would be made King of America.

The precise date of the first Booth/Lincoln connection is not known, but it occurred either late 1864 or early 1865. In a 1909 letter to Richard Watson Gilder, editor of The Century Magazine, Robert Todd Lincoln recalled his dangerous situation on a train platform in New Jersey, and Edwin Booth’s heroism. …

”There was of course a narrow space between the platform and the car body. There was some crowding, and I [Robert] happened to be pressed by it against the car body while waiting my turn. In this situation the train began to move, and by the motion I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped somewhat, with feet downward, into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform. Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name.”

Edwin Booth, however, did not recognize the young man whose life he’d saved. After joining General Grant’s staff, Robert shared the incident with Colonel Adam

the President Edwin had voted for.

Just for fun: This photo below is a Lincoln impersonator we met at a historic Gettysburg inn where we had a traditional 1860’s dinner. His recitation of the Gettysburg Address had us in tears.

Any other amazing historic coincidences to share? How about whether or not you saw/liked/disliked the movie Lincoln?

Coming soon from The Wild Rose Press:

Updated: August 10, 2015 — 1:26 pm

THE PHILADELPHIA DERINGER ~ A Little Gun That Changed History

 The Philadelphia Deringer is a small percussion handgun designed by Henry Deringer and produced from 1852 through 1868. The term derringer is actually a misspelling of the maker’s last name. Kind of like kleenex (with a small k), the term derringer is now used to describe any pocket-sized pistol.

The original Deringer pistol was a single-shot muzzle-loading pistol. That means you had one ball of lead backed by the power of a measure of black powder. No multi-shot shootouts with this little beauty. Subsequent models were made to use the new cartridge type ammunition–aka a bullet–but a derringer never held more than two shots.

Derringer often refers to the smallest usable handgun of a given caliber. They were frequently used by women, because the size made the pistol easy to conceal in a reticule on slipped into a stocking garter. Derringers are not repeating firearms. The original cartridge derringers held only a single round, usually a .40 caliber cartridge. [.40 refers to the diameter of the bullet, in this case .40” or 10.16mm.] The barrel pivoted sideways on the frame for reloading.

The famous Remington derringer, sold from 1866 to 1935, was designed with a second barrel on top of the first. This meant two shots instead of one, without much more weight to carry around. On this two-shot pistol, the barrels pivoted upward for reloading.

If you plan to use this pretty little thing, keep in mind that the bullet moved very slowly–about half the speed of a modern bullet. It could actually be seen in flight. Still, at close range, such as at card table or in a stage coach, it would be deadly.

Another thing to consider, should you want a character to carry a derringer: it took a lot to load and prepare the pistol. I’ll let you read for yourself.

“For loading a Philadelphia Deringer, one would typically fire a couple of percussion caps on the handgun, to dry out any residual moisture contained in the tube or at the base of the barrel, to prevent a subsequent misfire. One would then remove the remains of the last fired percussion cap and place the handgun on its half-cock notch, pour 15 to 25 grains of blackpowder down the barrel, followed by ramming a patched lead ball down onto the powder, being very careful to leave no air gap between the patched ball and the powder, to prevent the handgun from exploding when used. (The purpose of the patch on the ball was to keep the ball firmly lodged against the powder, to avoid creating what was called a “short start” when the ball was dislodged from being firmly against the powder.) A new percussion cap would then be placed on the tube (what today would be called a nipple), and the gun was then loaded and ready to fire. (The half-cock notch prevented the hammer from falling if the trigger were bumped accidentally while carrying the handgun in one’s coat pocket.) Then, to fire the handgun, a user would fully cock the hammer, aim, and squeeze the trigger. Upon a misfire, the user could fully re-cock the hammer, and attempt to fire the handgun once more, or, equally common, switch to a second Deringer. Accuracy was highly variable; although front sights were common, rear sights were less common, and some Philadelphia Deringers had no sights at all, being intended for point and shoot use instead of aim and shoot, across Poker-table distances. Professional gamblers, and others who carried regularly, often would fire and reload daily, to decrease the chance of a misfire upon needing to use a Philadelphia Deringer.” http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Derringer&action=edit&section=3

And how did this little pistol change history? It was the weapon used by John Wilkes Booth to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln in the Ford Theater on April 14, 1865.

Our first First Lady


             

I often get ideas for this blog from my ‘It happened on this day in history’ calendar.  When I turned to today’s entry I saw it noted that today was the birthday of Martha Washington and I thought it would be interesting to look up fun facts on her for this blog.  Once I started my research, though, I discovered my calendar had it wrong.  Other sources I checked all agreed that her birthday was, in fact, June 2nd.   Be that as it may, however, I’m going to list the information I dug up, much of it news to me.

Personal Stats

  • Full name:  Martha Dandridge Custis Washington
  • Born: June 2, 1731
  • Place of Birth: Williamsburg, Virginia
  • Father: John Dandridge
  • Mother: Frances Dandridge
  • Husbands (2)
    (1) Daniel Parke Curtis (died 8 years into the marriage) Children: 1 daughter and 1 son
    (2) George Washington  Children (none)
  • Education: No formal education
  • Religion: Episcopalian
  • Died: May 22, 1802
  • Place of Death: Mount Vernon, Virginia

 

Interesting/Fun Facts

  • She married her first husband when she was 18 – he was twenty years her senior.  Their home was called the White House Plantation.
  • The death of her first husband left her wealthy in her own right.
  • Martha did NOT enjoy role of First Lady – she felt trapped by it
  • She had a ship, a row galley, named in her honor – The USS Lady Washington. 
    It was the first U.S. Military ship to be named in honor of a woman. 
    It was also the first U.S. military ship to be named for a person who was still alive.
  • She is the only woman whose portrait has appeared on a U.S. currency note.  Hers was the face on the front of the $1 Silver Certificates of 1886 and 1891 and on the back of the one issued in 1896.
  • She was the first American woman to be commemorated by a postage stamp – the 1902 eight cent stamp.  In subsequent years she had two other stamps issued in her honor – a 1923 four cent stamp and a 1938 one and a half cent stamp.
  • She often followed her husband into the battlefield when he served as commander in chief of the Continental army.  In fact, she spent the infamous winter at Valley Forge at his side, and was instrumental in maintaining some level of morale among officers and enlisted troops.
  • She was opposed to her husband’s election as President of the U.S and refused to attend his inauguration.
  • The title ‘First Lady’ was not coined until after Martha’s death.  She was known as ‘Lady Washington’.
  • She was jealous of her privacy and destroyed most of the letters she wrote to her husband as well as the letters he wrote to her.

 

Quotations attributed to Martha Washington

  • “I am fond of only what comes from the heart.”
  • “I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances. We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us in our minds wherever we go.”
  • “Think of the magic of that foot, comparatively small, upon which your whole weight rests. It’s a miracle, and the dance…is a celebration of that miracle.”
  • “I live a very dull life here… indeed I think I am more like a state prisoner than anything else, there is certain bounds set for me which I must not depart from… “

 

All in all, it sounds like Martha Washington was an interesting, intelligent, strong-willed woman – one I would have enjoyed meeting.

Updated: June 21, 2010 — 12:55 pm

Love is Eternal…Mary Todd Lincoln

MarryingMinda Crop to UseWhile the Civil War raged, Southerners scorned her as a traitor to her birth. Citizens loyal to the Union suspected her of treason. She was holding her husband’s hand when he was shot by an assassin, and declared insane later in her life. Who was she?

Mary Todd Lincoln.Mary Todd Lincoln 1

Since I wrote about her husband Abe a few weeks ago, I decided to learn a little more about her. Mary Ann Todd was born on December 13, 1818, one of seven children born into a prominent family in Lexington, Kentucky. Her mother passed away when she was seven, and she later described her childhood as “desolate.” An excellent student, she spoke French fluently.

In 1839, Mary moved to Springfield, Illinois, to live at the home of her older sister, and here, the tiny young woman became a popular socialite. She dated both Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, but it was Lincoln who won her heart. At their wedding in 1843, he gave her a ring engraved with the words “Love is Eternal.”

Over the next eleven years, four sons were born to the couple who had settled in Springfield. Mary was known as a very loving, devoted mother, but sadly, only Robert (1843-1926) lived to adulthood. When her husband was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1846, Mary and the children lived with him in Washington for part of his single term. Back home in 1849, Abraham practiced law for five years before his interests returned to politics. After his well-known series of debates with Stephen A. Douglas, he was elected over three other Presidential candidates in November 1860 and inaugurated the next March as the 16th president.Mary Todd Lincoln 2

 Mary’s position as First Lady fulfilled her high social ambitions, but her White House years were a mixture of triumph and misery. Among her joys were refurbishing the White House and spending much time on visits with injured soldiers in hospitals. In addition to bringing them food and flowers, she read to them, wrote them letters, and raised $1,000 for the Christmas dinner at a military hospital. Mary provided support for the Contraband Relief Association which helped blacks who came to the North during the Civil War. She was ardently opposed to slavery, and she strongly supported her husband’s pro-Union policies.

However, Mary incurred ire for extravagant shopping orgies that were deemed unpatriotic during such hard times. Her reputation was soundly thrashed because she had relatives who sided with the South in the war. In fact, several kinfolk died fighting for the Confederacy. Resulting, her own loyalty to the Union was often suspect.

Mary Todd Lincoln 3Five days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses Grant in April, 1865, her husband was tragically assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Mary never recovered from the horrific event.  A month later, she left Washington to live in Chicago, trying a couple of years later to raise money by selling her old clothes through dealers in New York. I loved this tidbit. It reminds me of Princess Diana.

However, unlike Prince William who supported Diana’s venture, Mary’s son Robert — fast on his way to becoming a highly-regarded attorney– was highly embarrassed by her unsuccessful scheme. She moved to Europe for three years, visiting health spas to ease increasingly bothersome arthritis. Upon the death of son Tad, her irrational fears and behaviors alarmed Robert, her surviving son, and he instigated an insanity hearing.

A jury of twelve men declared Mary insane after witnesses testified to erratic behavior and habits. The judge admitted “the disease was of unknown duration; the cause is unknown.” Mary spent about four months in a private sanitarium in Batavia, Illinois. In September 1875, she went to Springfield once again to live with her sister’s family. The next year a second jury found her sane.

Later she traveled to France, visiting spas as her health began to decline. It is suspected she suffered from undiagnosed diabetes, spinal arthritis and migraine headaches. By the time she returned to her sister’s home in 1880, she was going blind. She passed away on July 16, 1882, at age 63. Since physicians wrote “paralysis” on the death certificate, the cause was probably a stroke.

Mary was buried next to her husband in the Lincoln Tomb Cemetery in Springfield. On her wedding ring, quite thin from wear, the words “Love is Eternal” were still visible.

 All in all, it doesn’t sound much like a HEA for the Lincolns, but I sure like that phrase, Love is Eternal. It broke my heart that Mary had to spend months in an asylum on the whim of twelve, make that 13, men. (I guess fourteen, counting her son.) But I was glad to find out Mary and Abe had support and some good times between them, although I cannot remotely imagine losing so many children. Mary Todd Lincoln 4

How about you? Any more info on Mary Todd Lincoln come to mind? Any other First Ladies whom you admire?

Updated: April 26, 2010 — 6:09 pm

“Writing is the greatest adventure in the world.” ~Abraham Lincoln

MarryingMinda Crop to Use

 Okay. I admit it. I’m reading Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, the current bestseller by Seth Grahame-Smith. It sounds real LOL…excerpts of Lincoln’s “journals,” motivations for his blood quests including avenging his mother’s death by a vampire…but this is what I found out about Lincoln. No vampire hunting in sight.  

Born poor on February 12, in 1809 in Hardin County, Kentucky, Abe Lincoln was no slouch at writing despite spending barely a year in a one-room schoolhouse. As a young politician, he wrote speeches in the long, ornate manner popular in the day, but he eventually simplified his style in deference to ordinary people.

The glorious, unforgettable Gettysburg Address, delivered on November 19, 1863 at the dedication of Gettysburg National Cemetery, is less than 300 words in length. But some of his phrases changed America. “…a new nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” “This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom….” “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Throughout his life, he read every single speech to his wife Mary before a public presentation of it. Mary’s wealthy parents had strongly opposed the marriage, and it’s claimed the union was tumultuous, but she is often considered one of Lincoln’s trusted advisers and confidants. Of the four sons born to them, only one survived into adulthood.

Although detractors considered Lincoln coarse and vulgar, referring to him as “the ape baboon of the prairie,” his rustic manner, wit and wisdom were highly regarded by the literary greats of his day, including Walt Whitman and Nathaniel Hawthorne. (If you haven’t yet read Whitman’s “O Captain, My Captain!” or “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” you’re in for something wonderful.)  Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the ground-breaking novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, claimed Lincoln’s writing deserved to be “inscribed in letters of gold.”

president-abraham-lincoln-abeIndeed,  Abe Lincoln has an important hand in enhancing the climate and culture of the 19th century, in addition to his role as the Great Emancipator. The Homestead Act he signed in 1862 “opened the West” and helped establish America’s heartland, even as it tragically displaced native tribes. Settlers could claim 65 hectares, 160 acres or a quarter-mile section, as their own as long as they farmed and improved the land for five years.  The Nebraskans in several of my books definitely have a homesteading heritage. 

WHen you carve your turkey on the last Thursday in November, you owe it to President Lincoln. He ordered government offices closed on November 28, 1861, for a local day of thanks. On that date, prominent magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale wrote him a letter, urging him to make an official “national and fixed union festival” of Thanksgiving.

 His proclamation setting the last Thursday of November as a “day of Thanksgiving and praise” was dated October 3, 1863, perhaps an attempt to ease hearts and lift spirits after the horrific battle of Gettysburg a few months before. One year later, the proclamation letter written by Secretary of State William Seward was sold to benefit Union troops.president-lincoln-lying-state

I found out some fun facts about our 16th president in doing my homework for this blog.

1. He was the tallest president at 6’4″

2. He carried letters, bills, and notes in his signature stove pipe hat.

3. He was the first president to have a beard.

4. He patented a system to alter buoyancy of steamboats in 1849.

5. He created a national banking system in 1863, resulting in a standardized currency.

6. He loved animals and had horses, cats, dogs, and a turkey as pets. His beloved horse, Old Bob, was part of his funeral procession.

7. He was the first president assassinated.

Although President Lincoln suffered from deep depression, usually called melancholia at that time, he often invented jokes and funny sayings for family and friends. I’ll leave off with several of my favorites.

1. If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?

2. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

3. Whatever you are, be a good one.

Anything else you’d like to add about this great president? 

Updated: April 3, 2010 — 8:02 am
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