The Widow Washington

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 11 Jun 2019

Member Reviews

When writing a biography of someone about whom there are very few primary sources, the choice is stark – either write a very short book or use the life to explore general issues and topics relevant to the times. This is what the author has chosen to do here, and the result is a meticulously researched and detailed account of Mary Washington’s life, as far as it can be ascertained, and more generally of the times in which she lived. It puts her into her historical context and gives a lot of background information. Thus a mention of her son’s education leads to a disquisition about education practices, a mention of his health to a description of medical practice and so on. This is certainly all very interesting and informative but I found it made for some dull reading at times, and the book ends up being a scholarly text rather than an entertaining biography. Worthy, for sure, but sometimes tedious, and although I learnt many facts about Mary I failed to get close to her as a person.
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This book is about Mary, Mother of George Washington.  I found it an interesting and eye-opening account of the life of a woman I knew little about.  The life of Mary, as researched and presented by Martha Saxton, was memorable and logical from the presented information.  Well written and engrossing read.  Unfortunately, I did not find the time to read this prior to publication.  My apologies to the writer, publisher, and NetGalley.
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Enjoyed this book. Kept me interested all the way through. Would recommend to a fellow reader.  Love the cover.
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The Widow Washington by Martha Saxton is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early June

The life of Mary, George Washington's sainted, orphaned, and widowed mother, has been told early in colonial American history, only to have her image tarnished after the Civil War, long after she had died in the biographies of her eldest son, due to stories of her temper, beating her slaves, and asking the often cash-strapped Martha and George for money. Saxton's telling involves much begetting, bequeathing, doctor’s visits, and documentation of personal inventory. We gradually learn that she worked with a staff of slaves to maintain a farm, had babies in quick succession, brought five children in the 18th century, and not able to afford many extracurricular activities for them, except tea service, needlework, and riding horses. Later, when George enters the military, Mary becomes really worried about his health and safety; when Martha replaces Mary with George's letter correspondence, she descends further into a state of tension, instability, and anxiety.
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“The Widow Washington” gave a perspective on a woman history hasn’t always been favorable to. Knowing what life was like for women (especially widows) during her time gave me a fresh perspective. 

Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I knew little about Mary Ball Washington this book opens up the world of George Washington’s mother an enigma to many she is revealed to be a strong woman a plantation owner.?Really well written found it a very interesting read.#netgalley #fsg
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The story of Mary Washington, George Washingtons  mother easy to read and seemingly well researched i would recommend
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Thank you for the opportunity to read this book however, I was not able to "get into" this book.  I am sure others will enjoy it.
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Martha Saxton does an excellent job of delivering a reassessment of the one dimensional perception of  Mary Ball Washington. I loved how she delved into the history of Mary's family and fleshed out the story with historical documents. I've always been fascinated by the extended presidential families and this biography was long over due. Saxton does solid writing and I believe gives readers a more balanced view about the mother of George Washington.
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Mary Washington has often been portrayed in a negative light by historians. This novel attempts to repair her reputation by showing her as a strong and hardworking plantation owner. While this novel is a bit dry at times, it shows the strained  relationship with her son George Washington. I highly recommend this for those who are interested in the women behind the Founding Fathers. Full review to come!
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Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I clearly remember during my freshman orientation at Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington,) being asked if anyone knew who Mary Washington was. Of course we know her as the mother of our country’s first president, but not much is known about her as a person.  Martha Saxton does a fine job painting a picture of what Mary Washington’s life was like, drawing from limited primary sources.  She weaves information gleaned from documents like letters and wills with general facts about life in Virginia during the 1700’s. It was interesting to find out more information about some of the sources of the names of buildings on campus, like Ball, Custis, and Westmoreland Halls.  A fascinating biography of the mother of one of the most powerful historical figures of our country, George Washington.
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Book Court - Where I'm the Judge and Jury

CHARGE (What is the author trying to say?): To explore why Mary Ball Washington, the mother of George Washington, has never been recognized for her influence on t’he life of George Washington.

FACTS: With the author’s acknowledgment of the lack of primary sources about the life of Mary, Ball, she then goes on to spend much effort outlining how her life might have unfolded. This proved rather tedious. The prologue states: “I am not normally drawn to write about women whose fame derives from men or about slaveholding women.”Rather than simply stating history, she tries to rail against it. One example: “Mary’s status in those formative and porous years as a slave owner at or before her third birthday, and her daily intimacy with her independent mother, contributed to her air of command.” I find that ludicrous. I doubt she realized she owned slaves at the age of three! Orphaned at age 12, Mary was raised by an older sister and married the widower Augustine Washington at the age of 22. Mary’s first child, George, was born on February 22, 1732. Much of what follow are generalizations of child-rearing practices of the time, not specific experiences of the Washingtons. When George was 11 his father died. The Washingtons’ life from that point was described as “austere.” The author offers no indication that Mary had any unusual influence over George. With her lack of education and provincial nature, it seems quite impossible that Mary had the effects on George that the author theorizes. The number of footnotes made the work very unreadable.

VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Not guilty. This book was a disappointment.

#TheWidowWashington #NetGalley
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A thoughtful and thorough insight into the woman who is usually given extremely short shrift in biographies of her son. Well-researched and intriguing.
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The Widow Washington by Martha Saxton is about, what some might say, a misunderstood woman of history, Mary Ball Washington, the mother of George Washington. 
Mary had her strengths and weaknesses. Yes, she was a religious, hard-working woman in a time that was definitely not a friend to the female gender. The cards were stacked against her, and in some circumstances she came ahead and persevered. In others, you were pushed to dislike her in how she treated others , , in what I would call , missed oportunities and chose the wrong path. Also, she could have made better moral choices in regards to how she treated her servants (aka the word I despise...slaves). It was hard and horrid enough for how they were treated, yet she did not make it any easier for them. 
A fascinating read thatgave me more insight to this historical figure then I ever thought possible.

Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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The detail recorded by the author truly amazed me. Years of school books did not prepare me for the facts itemized in this story. I was aware that women weren't treated very well in the prewar English colonies. Life was short. There was disease. Babies and husbands died young. But families took care of each other, didn't they? Women didn't mistreat slaves or separate children from their parents, did they? Sometimes I liked Mary Washington. She was a woman accustomed to frugality and hard work. She loved her family and her God. Sometimes I didn't like her. She seemed totally ignorant of the hardship and heartache she carelessly caused by separating her slave families to suit her own convenience. She was a slaveholder of her time and not alone in her blindness. I found myself even more disappointed in her oldest son, George. He was truly a military and political force for years, before, during and after the war, spending money for appearance sake while closing his eyes to his mother's needs, not investigating when she told him she was being robbed by the overseer he put in place. If you want a brand new perspective of the times, this book may be for you.
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