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The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  399 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
In The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers from Smithsonian Books, historian Thomas Fleming, author of The Perils of Peace, offers a fresh look at the critical role of women in the lives of Washington, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Madison. Fleming nimbly takes readers through a great deal of early American history, as our founding fathers struggle to reconc ...more
ebook, 480 pages
Published November 3rd 2009 by Collins Reference (first published October 14th 2009)
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Jan 06, 2011 Hannah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating clarification: 4.5 stars

This book marked a very satisfactory conclusion of my 2010 reading challenge, and will certainly have a permanent spot on my bookshelf. Thomas Fleming's foray into the lives of America's six founding fathers and the various female influences on their lives might have, in a different writer's hands, been trite, repetitive or uninspiring. Not the case here, and if you are a casual to moderate fan of this genre of non-fiction American history, I seriously urge you to
Jul 30, 2010 Fergie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting take on the Founding Fathers and their ladies. The only complaint I would have was that, at times, I found the author to be biased in his treatment of his subjects. For instance, he seemed to take a harder stance against John Adams while spending an extreme amount of time defending the honor of Thomas Jefferson. Towards the end of the book, Fleming devoted, in my estimation, an overwhelmingly large amount of time and pages to discuss the historical dilemna of whether Thomas Jeffer ...more
I did learn some new things in this book, and some of the chapters were quite enjoyable. However, throughout the whole thing, the author seemed to display judgmental prejudice against some founding fathers while giving a much more generous and fair treatment to others on similar topics (morality, slavery, debt).
I learned a few things and enjoyed hearing more about the founding father's personal lives and how they shaped their public personas. This book has some good content, but is detracted by
Jan 24, 2011 Norma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I highly recommend this book. It offers an alternative view of history based on the private lives of the icons we call "The Founding Fathers": Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, John Adams, Madison and Jefferson. I am one of those people who believe that you cannot altogether separate what someone is privately from a public persona. Thus, for me, this narrative filled in the outlines of these lives with vivid colorful detail. The book is written by a historian who uses primary sources and tells you ...more
Paul J
Feb 18, 2016 Paul J rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a nice change of pace and angle. Fleming studies our founding fathers from the perspective of the women they loved. The book covers the Washingtons, Franklins, Adamses, Hamiltons, Jeffersons, and the Madisons. I found some of the family situations disappointing, but all were intriguing. Fleming does enter into the controversy of whether there was a long standing affair with Sally Hemming and takes a more conservative view that he did not. The last chapter regarding the Madisons is espec ...more
I'm giving this book a few stars for its sections on George Washington and Ben Franklin. And the it gets a big thumbs down for its treatment of Thomas Jefferson. Mysogynistic, assuming, terribly researched...please. I know my Jeffersonian history and this guy is not on our team.
Apr 01, 2010 Mackay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
This is a great book, covering Washington, Franklin, John Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison--and more importantly, covering them from the perspective of the women in their lives.

Each biographical sketch is complete, interesting, and often presents new information (such as the Jefferson/Hemings DNA studies and restudies), yet each is admirably brief and beautifully written.

Fleming made me revise my "Founders Supper," those whom I'd want to have dinner with were that possible. Jefferson had
Barbara S.
Apr 21, 2015 Barbara S. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
This book wasn't bad, but there wasn't a lot of information that I hadn't seen elsewhere. It covered the marriages, crushes, family relations, and other relationships of some of the most important founding fathers. However, this was mostly information that I'd already read about in other biographies. But it is a good overview of the subject and was a pleasant read.

As others have mentioned, the author is dubious about the Jefferson/Hemmings issue. He comes to different conclusions that other aut
Ann Aldrich
Sep 28, 2014 Ann Aldrich rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very detailed study of the relationships between five Founding Fathers -- Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Franklin-- and the women in their lives. In addition to presenting a lot about the characters of the men, you also learn about the characters of the women, the relationships between the men and their mothers (quite significant), the relationships between the five men (Adams and Jefferson hated Hamilton; Adams hated Franklin, Adams and Abigail hated Jefferson but were ev ...more
May 04, 2010 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't say enough about this book. I think it is insightful, interesting, and offers a different viewpoint than regular founding father's bios. I also love that it is like six bio's in one. I will surley re-read this book in 10 years.
Oct 13, 2012 Bekah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The founding wives had to deal with a lot of loneliness. The founding fathers took off sometimes for years to lead armies, broker peace treaties in Europe, and plan revolutions in other cities.
Angie Tonkery
Apr 18, 2015 Angie Tonkery rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! This book, a sort of mini-synopsis of our founding father's personal lives, was chock-full of interesting tidbits, some of which I knew, some I didn't. I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it and that it's perspective changed mine on the characters of the legends of our nation. I walked away with a deeper respect for two of them, a renewed interest in two more of them, confirmed dislike for yet another and for the last, a compassion I didn't have before and a sense of humanity that I hadn't seen ...more
Feb 16, 2010 Andrea marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
One of my retiree friends in Venice, FL highly recommends this - said she felt like she had spent a month in their homes :)
David Monroe
Dec 31, 2009 David Monroe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I wish I liked it more. I found it too gossipy and loaded with innuendo without supporting source material.
Mar 22, 2016 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I do enjoy the not so known history of events. For me it's this underside of well known history that that is more interesting. This book is full of "the woman is the neck that turns the head", to quote My Big Fat Greek Wedding. This book got pretty personal, I did feel like I was a spying on these people. So many little known tragedy's and problems that are not commonly known.

I do have to say....I'm not so fond of Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson anymore... Will be reading more of Dolley and Ab
This book is taking a closer look at the personal lives of the six most famous founding fathers, in particular their relationships to their wives and other important women in their lives. I'm not sure why the order of the sections is as it is (I think it should have started with Franklin as the oldest rather than Washington).

1. George Washington: it addresses the rumors of an affair with his friend's wife Sally Fairfax but concludes that GW was very happy with Martha. It was interesting to see h
Zohar -
Apr 05, 2013 Zohar - rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers by Thomas Fleming is a history book which tells about the lives of six famous men from the perspective of their relationship with the women in their lives. I do love books which tells us more history from the “trenches”, after all, there are very few big events which aren’t made of small, personal moments.

The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers by Thomas Fleming is what one might call “history light”. While there was no new information revealed in th
Jun 28, 2013 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers

American history iconoclasts throughout the twentieth century and beyond have altered Americans’ perceptions of our Founding Fathers by investigating their ‘private’ lives. Though many might label any attempt to delve into the private and most intimate aspects of our Founders’ lives as uncouth, vulgar, unnecessary and wrong—so many from the opposite side of the spectrum seek to raze the memorializing statuary commemorating the Founding Fathers and the pa
Mar 21, 2014 Jill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-lit, history
This book had some thorough research done for prep and was a fascinating read! I was never bored with it. I loved the premise used in this mini-bio collection was very appealing to me: the founding fathers were not perfect and are not demigods. I loved learning about the very ordinary (and often very painful) aspects of their lives. It was really refreshing to get to know them as people. Seems to me Fleming's dislike of Adams is a bit too apparent - enough so that I felt like I couldn't fully tr ...more
Feb 27, 2014 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a little dry... I was hoping for a little more excitement. I love factual reading and I love romance, just not together. It wasn't enough of either to keep me interested. I read the first three chapters, or figures, and just couldn't finish it. I gave it three stars because it is well written and backed up with wonderful sources. I actually enjoyed the sources more than the book, so thanks for pointing me toward awesome documents!
Jeannie Lee
Jul 27, 2010 Jeannie Lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I really enjoyed this book. It gave me a new perspective on our founding fathers. Reading how important their wives were (with one exception) in their lives was inspirational. I fell in love with almost all of the women in the lives of Jefferson, Washington, Hamilton, and Madison. I wasn't too found of the Adams', but I wasn't fond of Franklin either. I cannot find fault with any of them, they were exactly where they were needed. What stood out most to me was how each of these individuals were p ...more
Oct 23, 2011 AJ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The length it took me to read this should not be an indication on it's engagement. I know, the title sounds so boring! And the cover screams academic sleep inducing detail but it's rather dramatic and filled with amazing tidbits. Which founding fathers stabbed each other in the back? Had wives that hated each other? Fathered illegitimate children? Had raunchy affairs with French women? All this detail while proving meticulous researched footnotes and multiple viewpoints. At the end it made these ...more
Feb 04, 2013 Sharron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Well worth the time. I've read biographies of all of men covered by this book except for Alexander Hamilton but still felt I learned a great deal more about each of them. The word "intimate" in the title is, however, somewhat misleading as for for the most part, Jefferson being the exception, the book addresses the personal connections these men had with their parents, siblings, wives and children rather than their love interests or mistresses. Fleming does a good job of explaining how those rel ...more
Rena Jane
Enjoyed this stroll through the more private lives of the Founding Fathers. Not much new information. The author did research and present many sides of the Thomas Jefferson story of his children with Sally Hemings. I've read Annette Gordon-Reed's extensive biography of this relationship, and found it strongly believable. From Fleming's point of view, we'll never know, because the Jefferson he portrays was a very private and reserved man.

The story of James and Dolly Madison presents a nice coda t
Sep 22, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Well researched and thoughtful, also includes a sensible take on some of the "scandals" concerning our founding fathers that still turn up in the news from time to time.
Oct 08, 2013 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I genuinely enjoyed this look into the women and men who helped shape the lives of such influential 18th century figures. George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson all have their personal relationships analyzed, with particular attention paid to their love lives (marital and otherwise). I particularly loved the story of James and Dolley Madison. I always thought that theirs was a sweet relationship, and Dolley a very vibrant personality (the ac ...more
Kathleen Hanes
Brief sketches; informative and talented writing. I have read a great deal on early American life and the amazing man and women who formulated our country.
Feb 19, 2010 Sallie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A new book at the GBC library that looks interesting. I'll tell you later if that came true.

This was a very interesting book - another look into the lives of the men who fought for and founded this country. He delves into all the various speculations about these men - who the loved, who they fathered, who they hated etc. Fleming also gives you as much factual evidence as he can find about the truth of the speculations. I knew the least about Alexander Hamilton, and now I know more than I even wa
Keith McGowan
an interesting perpective on the personal relationships of the men who started the United States and the influence their spouses had
Rich Humes
Jul 10, 2014 Rich Humes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A rare look at the Founders that doesn't exclusively paint them as serial adulterers and hypocrites.

The best part? It shows the impact of the respective women behind the founders.
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Thomas J. Fleming is an historian and historical novelist, with a special interest in the American Revolution. He was born in 1927 in Jersey City, New Jersey, the son of a World War I hero who was a leader in Jersey City politics for three decades. Before her marriage, his mother, Katherine Dolan Fleming, was a teacher in the Jersey City Public School System.

After graduating from St. Peter's Prepa
More about Thomas J. Fleming...

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