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The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  532 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published November 3rd 2009 by Smithsonian (first published October 14th 2009)
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Apr 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“In their loves and losses, their hopes and fears, they are more like us than we have dared to imagine.”

A worthwhile addition to the histories of our founding. Superficially what seems trivial reveals a deep relevance for understanding both the founders and the product of their labors.

“Newspaper ethics in the nineteenth century did not put a high value on accuracy. ‘Faking’ a story … was accepted journalistic practice.” (Some things haven't changed.)

The universal themes seem to be of men driven
Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
John Behle
Jul 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Founding Fathers and their political histories are embedded in us from our earliest days of learning. Through each year of our education, the legendary feats, the leadership, the courage of these men become memorized and recited. They did forge our nation, after all. However, with all those high school history tests passed, we begin to think of them as monuments, as plaster busts in a marble rotunda. Oil portraits in a dusty hallway of an art museum.

But here in Fleming's well researched and deft
Jun 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
We tend to so revere these men in our school years learning how they forged a nation that we forget they were also sons, husbands, fathers, and grandfathers. We don't read so much about how the women in their lives shaped them, whether as a little boy, a young man learning about love, or a husband. Well researched and well told; I especially appreciated all the information that has come to light regarding Jefferson and Sally Hemings...not quite as simple or straightforward as is now assumed.
Angela Holland
I really enjoyed this book. It felt like it read more like a novel than a history book. There were things I learned about each founding fathers. I did not realize that John Adams may have been manic depressant, that Thomas Jefferson had migraines and that multiple presidents did not have kids. I liked the writing style and the research that the author put into the book. It kept me interested from the first page right up until the last page. It was nice to hear something about the founding father ...more
Jan 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 30, 2012 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
Paul J
Jul 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 Dolly and Aba
Apr 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
May 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
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.
Feb 16, 2010 marked it as to-read
One of my retiree friends in Venice, FL highly recommends this - said she felt like she had spent a month in their homes :)
Jul 30, 2010 rated it liked it
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.
David Monroe
Nov 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I wish I liked it more. I found it too gossipy and loaded with innuendo without supporting source material.
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As someone who studied and enjoys history, I find this one tough to take. It is boring, confusing and poorly written. I am personally insulted by the familiarity the author uses when talking about our towering historical figures, calling Ben Franklin "Ben" and one of the wives by the pet name used by her husband.

While we'll researched, I found this just too random and wandering. I looked up the author and was stunned to learn that he is an accomplished historian and author. This would have neve
Justin Glover
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting and filled with historical tidbits

I loved the attention to detail in this book. Although each section is dedicated to a particular Founding Father, Fleming draws on the shared familial connections and friendships to tell one contiguous story, which is the founding of our nation.
May 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Some of the imtimate lives were very interesting and others dragged and dragged on. I did finish and was shocked by some of our founding fathers. Just very glad the book is done!
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thomas Fleming doesn't disappoint.
I savoured this book.
Jan 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Very informative and well written. Puts current political situation in perspective.
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting information and insights into lives from another perspective, although at times I felt myself bracing at the male characterizations and depictions of the women in the book. I thought quite a bit about how the characterizations would be slightly more palatable from a non-male perspective. It will be a priority for me to find a book about the women, by a woman, for additional interpretation and insights.
Jun 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
May 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 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
Jul 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
Well, this would have been three stars, if not for Fleming's borderline obsession with the Jefferson paternity issue. That could be its own book entirely, among the quite problematic reasons that it is included. I'll get to those later.

Overall, this book on the Founding Fathers is fairly by-the-numbers, but at least I got a good Cliff's Notes version of their personal lives. My favorite section was easily Benjamin Franklin, only because I didn't know the finer details of his personal life, which
Ann Aldrich
Sep 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This book gives a whole new aspect of history as it sheds light on the founding Fathers of this nation in a human, personal way. We all know that the women in any man's life can be a maker or breaker of their destiny if they are men that truly love their wives. And many of these men were of that ilk. Devoted husbands, fathers and strong leaders in a new country that needed strength of character. It was a breathe of fresh air to see that these men were human and to learn about the women who were, ...more
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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
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