I just finished reading Catherine Allgor's book, A Perfect Union, Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation. Here are a few of things I found interesting:
- One of Dolley Madison's biggest contributions was that she created ways for the men who were the American Government to get things done. In 1800 the congress had no structure or rules. The new government of the U.S. and the men who were a part of it believed that there was only one possible common good and that anyone who didn't agree with their view was wrong. People like John Madison and Thomas Jefferson believed that there should only be only one party in American politics.
- Two of the things that Thomas Jefferson detested most were " the English and political, intellectual woman." Elizabeth Merry the English ambassador's wife during the Jefferson administration embodied these things. In contrast Dolley Madison was always very careful to be what woman of the time were expected to be, nurturing, polite and seemingly uninterested in politics. In fact she was a smart and very political woman.
- Picture this 🙂 On June 1, 1812 when the House of Representatives was debating the resolution to go to war with Britain the Federalist tried to stop the war resolution with a filibuster.
- Dolley stayed at the White House until just a few hours before the British marched into Washington and burned the White House. The true story of her staying until the large painting of George Washington had been saved is part of our identity as Americans.
- Dolley created the "unofficial office" of First Lady.
- The author, Catherine Allgor is a fascinating woman. According to her biographies and interviews on the web she worked as an actress for eleven years and then went back to school to study history. She attended Mount Holyoke College and then got her PhD from Yale. In a short autobiography in 2000 after her first book Parlor Politics was published she said;
anniversaries. Holding my first book in my hands this fall
would be meaningful moment enough. But it was exactly ten
years ago this fall that I sold my stuff, packed up my car
and arrived at Mount Holyoke. I had no idea of what "I was
going to do when I grew up," had never turned on a computer
or written a paper. And now a book"
I thoroughly enjoyed A Perfect Union. After reading so many presidential biographies it was fun to learn about a woman of the same period. Dolley was 8 when the declaration of Independence reached the town she was living in and she lived until 1841 when she died at 81. It was also fascinating to learn the key role she played in creating our country and to think about how many of her lessons and strategies are still relevant today.