Current time:0:00Total duration:5:25
0 energy points
Video transcript
I'm Walter Isaacson with the Aspen Institute and i'm sitting here with bestselling author of Cokie Roberts talking about founding mothers and women in the revolutionary period let's talk about Martha Washington and much can be learned from the letters that she wrote to the general tell us about her well Martha Washington really led by example she was someone who understood the call of duty and followed it and she was explicit as you say about how difficult that was at various times we don't have many of her letters because she destroyed them and which is very irritating referred to have done but we do have Mount Vernon the home where the Washington's lived has done a very good job of trying to find as many letters as possible and she the general as she called him George Washington asked her to come to camp when the soldiers were in winter camp every winter during the eight long years of the revolution because he felt that she was very important to treat them around and she didn't like going to camp it was unpleasant it was uncomfortable but also she had to go across very dangerous roads and she was a prime target for hostage taking and the British were taking Patriot wives hostage and of course she was married to the chief patriot but he did feel that her presence and that of the other officers wives kept the soldiers from deserting which they were often threatening to do because they weren't adequately paid or fed or closed or housed and she would go to Mount Vernon over the summer really enslaved people would work with her to make cloth and preserve fruits and vegetables and cure meats and then she would come into camp with a carriage full of stuff and everybody would cheer Lady Washington is here and they loved her there was a wonderful scene in founding mothers your book in which she arrives in cambridge explained that well that was the first camp of when her the first winter that the soldiers were in Harvard Yard Harvard and Harvard dorms right and she got there she had been threatened with being taken hostage in Virginia and she wanted to show that she was not afraid and that she was devoted to the American cause because there were some rumors around that she might be pro-british so she showed up in Cambridge and everybody came to see her everybody wanted to see her and mercy Otis Warren actually who was a propagandist of the revolution wrote a letter and this is where I think we do a disservice to these women because of course they don't expect us to be reading their mail 200 years later but she wrote and said General Washington was a wonderful man and all that and Lady Washington was very nice but General Lee was very impolite and marked by ugliness and who which Lee is this this was yes Light Horse Harry Lee so she didn't expect us well night it's good that we have those rights act Rana close I should i should say an aside here Walter women's letters are particularly interesting because the men as you well know knew that they were doing something extraordinary and that if they succeeded their letters would be preserved and published and they wrote with that in mind so their letters are well thought through edited sometimes ponderous and pompous but the women's letters are just telling you the news so they are filled with humor with sadness with perplexity with all kinds of different pieces of information so that in one sentence they'll say something like we really should declare war on France and in the next sentence a I need that bonnet with the lace that I left at home and in the next sentence say Jane had a baby this week you know so you're getting all kinds of different that the full society is presented to you in a way that it isn't in the men's letters and the men's letters to the women often are much more human and real than the men's letters to each other I'm one of my favorites as John Marshall the great jurist who wrote to his wife from Raleigh North Carolina when he was riding the circuit that he had gone off with no breeches and that there was no Taylor to make him bridges and I don't know what he was wearing but I'm sure he wouldn't have written that to anybody but his wife it reminds us to that as we recreate history it's through documents first-hand accounts and we're so lucky that we have some if not all of the letters from back then write letters diaries government records and let's remember that we're missing that a little bit these days so it'd be good if people wrote a few more letters kept their emails or maybe wrote some Diaries because emails actually do tell stories more than you would think so hold on to them all right thank you cookie