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Ties That Bound: Founding First Ladies and Slaves

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  51 ratings  ·  11 reviews
Behind every great man stands a great woman. And behind that great woman stands a slave. Or so it was in the households of the Founding Fathers from Virginia where slaves worked and suffered throughout the domestic environments of the era, from Mount Vernon, Monticello, and Montpelier to the nation’s capital. American icons like Martha Washington, Martha Jefferson, and ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published April 21st 2017 by University Of Chicago Press
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Marilyn Getts
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A challenging and thoughtful book about the slave holding Presidents, Washington, Jefferson, & Madison. The lives of the slaves are developed through the records of production. Each plantation had its records of items produced and slave assignments. There are also financial transactions of who was bought, traded, given away as presents, and who was sold. There are a few personal accounts of slaves, but they are few and far between. There are some letters and comments by their masters.

Nov 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this book primarily to update my own book "George Washington's Liberty Key," especially in light of criticism in some quarters as to how Washington attempted to free his slaves. I thought the book did a wonderful job of explaining the constraints laid on by the color-line social contract between owners and slaves, constraints which came from not only family members (differing views of presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison, their respective, surviving first ladies, and other ...more
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Founding First Ladies are icons. We know little about their daily lives, accepting them as women who stood by the men who shaped the United States and little else. This book introduces us to the day to day lives of Martha Washington, Martha Jefferson, and Dolley Madison, their families, and their interactions with their enslaved servants, but we get to know the viewpoints and attitudes of their husbands as well.

I enjoyed this read not only because I love to read history but because Ms.
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
An important historical expose on slaves living with the founding fathers and their wives. Although I felt the writing tedious at times )and repetitive with many names to remember, the author makes you reflect on the incongruity of a founding nation based on the premise of freedom and equality, yet their leaders have slaves and slave concubines. The author's final chapter discusses the need to educate more on the role of the slaves on tours of these presidential homes as these men and women (and ...more
Toby Murphy
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fantastic book that offers insight into a part of history that is underrepresented and perhaps ignored. Schwartz does a great job of crafting a book that weaves many aspects seamlessly. Not only does she highlight First Ladies and their slaves but also the time period. Many times I was disappointment in hearing that these women are not so idyllic. I hoped for more discussion of their actual relationships or treatment but that may be due to lack of material. A must read for history fans.
Bonita M. Felice
Jun 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Ms. Schwartz certainly did her homework on this book. I enjoyed the book and appreciated her thoroughness. My only criticism would be is that some stories or circumstances were repeated too many times.
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic account of the intricate relationships between first ladies & the slaves who served them. I learned so much from this book, and it was excellent research for the novel that I hope to write soon.
Soc Page
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
about the intricate ties, social and financial, between prominent colonial American ladies and the slaves owned by their families.
Mary Ellen Barringer
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
A thoughtful book that created more questions about these women and US history than it answered. And I think that is good. Tremendous insights into what it was like to be a woman in the 18th century. Perhaps the greatest disappointment is learning about Dolly Madison's inability to control spending and to free her slaves. Definitely a worthwhile read.
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Jul 09, 2017
Ron Ross
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Dec 11, 2018
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Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good read. Certainly changed my understanding of Dolley Madison, about whom I knew the least.
I have visited Mount Vernon and Monticello; really wanted to ask about Sally Hemings when our tour arrived in Jefferson's bedroom, but thought it prudent to keep quiet. At the time of my visit, in the mid80s, the Hemings relationship was just getting wider dissemination.
At any rate, this book is a most worthwhile read.
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