First Ladies of the Republic: Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, and the Creation of an Iconic American Role

First Ladies of the Republic: Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, and the Creation of an Iconic American Role

by Jeanne E. Abrams


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How the three inaugural First Ladies defined the role for future generations, and carved a space for women in America

America’s first First Ladies—Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, and Dolley Madison—had the challenging task of playing a pivotal role in defining the nature of the American presidency to a fledgling nation and to the world. In First Ladies of the Republic, Jeanne Abrams breaks new ground by examining their lives as a group. From their visions for the future of the burgeoning new nation and its political structure, to ideas about family life and matrimony, these three women had a profound influence on one another’s views as they created the new role of presidential spouse.

Martha, Abigail and Dolley walked the fine line between bringing dignity to their lives as presidential wives, and supporting their husbands’ presidential agendas, while at the same time, distancing themselves from the behavior, customs and ceremonies that reflected the courtly styles of European royalty that were inimical to the values of the new republic. In the face of personal challenges, public scrutiny, and sometimes vocal criticism, they worked to project a persona that inspired approval and confidence, and helped burnish their husbands’ presidential reputations.

The position of First Lady was not officially authorized or defined, and the place of women in society was more restricted than it is today. These capable and path-breaking women not only shaped their own roles as prominent Americans and “First Ladies,” but also defined a role for women in public and private life in America.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781479890507
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 11/15/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 328
Sales rank: 295,574
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Jeanne E. Abrams is Professor at the University Libraries and the Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Denver, where she is also Director of the Rocky Mountain Jewish Historical Society, and Curator of the Beck Archives, Special Collections. She is the author of Revolutionary Medicine: The Founding Fathers and Mothers in Sickness and in Health (NYU Press, 2013).

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

Introduction Forging the Role of First Lady 5

1 Martha Washington The Road to the First Ladyship 45

2 Abigail and John Adams The Long Apprenticeship to the White House 101

3 Abigail Adams The Second First Lady 157

4 Dolley Madison: The First Lady as "Queen of America" 201

Conclusion The First Ladyship Launched 253

Acknowledgments 263

Notes 265

Bibliography 289

Index 299

About the Author 313

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First Ladies of the Republic: Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, and the Creation of an Iconic American Role 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
mweinreich More than 1 year ago
Reading about our wonderful first ladies in our new nation was a wonderful insight into the bravery, loyalty, and courage these ladies possessed. From Martha Washington, to Abigail Adams, to Dolley Madison, these women infused their knowledge, their dignity, and their willingness to see that this new nation started off with their best foot forward. It was amazing to read about even though they lacked the ability to vote, they were ladies who were quite instrumental in their husbands' lives as well as the decisions they made. There were some things that I learned about these ladies, things that made me proud and gave me a sense of what service to one's country really meant. These women gave up a lot to stand by their husband often having to do their best in order to foster relationships with foreign countries, diplomats, and people from opposing parties, who thought of our nation as a babe in arms and perhaps felt that they could take advantage o this fledgling country. They were wise, accomplished, and showed a type of gentility that laid the groundwork for the position of First Lady. They gave to the position honor and oftentimes, they became the person sought out in not only social settings but also one to get the President's ear. Each of their husbands seemed to value them not only as a wife but also as a confidant seeking their wise counsel on how to best chart a course for our new nation. To these ladies, America owes a debt of gratitude. They all gave up quite a bit to champion both their husbands and the new nation that they all dearly loved.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent overview of our early first ladies. There are important facts that we haven't been previously exposed to. Very interesting. Worth the time and money.
byrstn More than 1 year ago
First Ladies of the Republic by Jeanne E. Abrams is an in-depth look at the first three First Ladies. Martha Washington, Abagail Adams and Dolly Madison each left their mark on the office of the First Lady. They each walked a fine line between what they knew of the regal queens of Europe, especially Great Britain and what they knew the colonist wanted in their leaders. They were inventing the office as they lived it. This was not an easy task. One would have thought that most colonists wanted nothing to do with the lifestyle of the European monarchs. And yet this was what they knew. So, for these first three First Ladies to define the office was no small task. The book reads like a history textbook a lot of the time. And the author is repetitive in descriptions and historical facts. At times it seemed she was lost in the history and had to bring herself back to the task of writing about Martha, Abagail and Dolly. The reader was left wondering just what the subject was. The book is extensively researched. Abrams used the ladies own word in letters written to each other and to friends and relatives to tell their story. Overall, this was an enjoyable read and left me with know much more about these three groundbreaking women. I received a free copy of the book from NetGalley and NYU Press in exchange for my honest review. Thank you.