Sunday, February 7, 2010

meet martha

Sometimes a book falls into my lap and I feel it's God's gift to me. This is one of them. It's straight out of the 18th-century and filled with historical tidbits that whisk me away. Ever think of George Washington's wife as anything but the mother of our country - old, dowdy, and gray? Well, look again!

When I saw this book, the first thing that struck me was the cover. Here is a lovely woman in a sumptuous dress looking decidedly unMartha-like. How did they do that?! To achieve it, the LSU forensics team took a later portrait of Martha Washington, age-regressed it 25 years via computer, then gave the image to an artist who painted this portrait. The painting is now at Mount Vernon, the Washington's Virginia estate. Small wonder George rode up to this young widow's house, introduced himself, and "the attraction was mutual, powerful, and immediate."

At almost 6 feet 4 inches and a hero of the French and Indian war, George was no slouch himself. Suffice it to say that theirs was one of the most enduring love stories of the 18th-century. Both Martha and George were devout Christians who fashioned their lives around their faith.

What historical figures intrigue you the most? Which time period are you drawn to?


  1. I like the late 1800s as I live in the south, I like Scarlett O'Hare type.
    Don't like anything back futher than that.


  2. What a striking woman. And a beautiful book cover. I think this sounds like a book for me! The 17th - 19th centuries are my favorite.

    In my research I've come across Jessie Benton Frémont (1824-1902, wife of Civil War General John C. Frémont. Her husband explored the Colorado River, etc. and was called "The Pathfinder". She was a remarkable woman and wrote about her husbands expeditions. Do I hear a story called "The Pathfinder's Wife"? I would love to write about her someday.

    Have a blessed day!

  3. Me, too, Carla - 17th to 19th centuries, thank you very much! I just love the sound of "The Pathfinder's Wife" - what a wonderful title! You can claim that right now for a future novel:) You've given me someone new to learn about - Jesse Fremont. You are up to some great things with your WIP!

  4. Edna, You are one of many readers who like the Civil War era/southern stories. I think you'll like Ann Gabhart's new Shaker novel set in Civil War Kentucky due to release this July. I'm reading it now and it's so interesting. Ann's spunky southern belle gives Scarlett some competition! Thanks so much for stopping by. Happy reading this week!

  5. Oh, what a neat story about that painting - thank you so much for sharing! As to favorite time periods, mine is the WW2 era. Looking forward to reading Sarah Sundin's new book (as I think we've discussed!). :)

  6. Yipppee, Ruth! I always love it when you chime in:) Coincidentally, I just saw Sarah's link to her great review on Booklist (I think it was Booklist) and I thought of you. She's getting some really fine feedback. I know this is one novel you're ready to read. In a genre that's finally coming into its own! Can't wait to get it myself:)

  7. They have had some wonderful "shows" at Colonial Williamsburg about Martha and some of the other wives of the officers. Thanks for posting this review. It sounds interesting. I had not heard about the age-regressed portrait.

  8. Carrie, This book is really interesting and I think you would enjoy it. Being a Virginian, you would know many of the places referred to therein. I think Carla was right in saying she is striking-looking. I'd love to see a good pic of George - terrible teeth and all!
    So good to see you here. Off to do some blog visiting of my own...

  9. I'm old friends with Martha. I have this exact same book! You've inspired me to write a blog post on my favorite historical figures and favorite biographies. I love the past and tend to romanticize it, thinking I would love to live in it. I conveniently forget hindrances like the fact that I would be blind without my glasses and would have died in childbirth!

  10. You find the most interesting books, Laura. Do they jump out at you off the library shelves or do you internet search them out?

    As to what time period I like to read about...hmmmm, I'm pretty eclectic, I think. I love historical and contemporary novels. For historical though, I'm willing to let an author lead me into any time frame as long as the story is good.

    My heroes from history -- I'd have to say Sojourner Truth. She was such a remarkable woman -- born into slavery, uneducated, yet she was a powerful speaker and did so much for her people...and met Lincoln twice I believe.

    And Mary Ann Shadd. She was born to free-born blacks in 1823. Her father worked in the Underground Railroad and Mary Ann was educated in a Quaker school and became a teacher herself. After the Fugitive Slave Act was past, she and her brother moved to Windsor, Ontario where Mary Ann started a racially integrated school. That woman was way ahead of her time and she received opposition from both Blacks and Whites. So what does the woman do? She starts her own newspaper to promote civil rights, integration, moral reform. Now that's gumption!

    Hmmm....I guess you could say one of my favourite time periods in history would be the years the underground railroad was in operation.

  11. Mary, Isn't the cover even better in person?! I tried to make Martha larger but she likes staying small. Guess she was just shy of five feet. She and George must have looked quite striking together as she came up to his chest!
    I'm like you and tend to romanticize the past. Your comment about poor vision really struck a chord with me. I'm just about legally blind without my glasses/contacts (no kidding) so would have certainly been no Lael in the woods. Someone would have had to lead me around. And as for childbirth...

    Can't wait till you start your posts on historical figures! I'll be right over:)

  12. Kav,
    I'm so glad you won the Love Finds You book on the underground railroad as I didn't realize what a good fit that was for you with your interests.

    Sojourner has always fascinated me, as well. And I'm not familiar with Mary Ann Shadd's story. Wow - what a woman! I've been learning about Phyllis Wheatley who came on the scene a bit earlier. She was owned (hate that word) by a family who realized early on (about age 4 or so) that she was incredibly bright/gifted. They taught her to read and she began writing, even composing poems for George Washington, etc. Busy as he was, he acknowledged them and thanked her. The family she lived with gave her a great deal of freedom, no pun intended, and she became more like a family member than a slave. I'd love to find a book on her life though I haven't looked yet.

    Which brings me round to your next question - this Martha book was found in our library here as I was looking for George books:) Believe me, when I saw this one on the shelf, poor George was promptly forgotten. And I couldn't bear to part with my library copy so found a new one on Amazon for only $5!

    Hope heaven holds lots of books - all bestsellers, of course:)

  13. Interestingly enough, I feel the same way about YOUR book! What a lovely treasure to have stumbled upon :)
    I've read a little about Martha (though not this book) she had some terrible tragedy in her life before she was Mrs. Washington....she lost a husband, children...I dont see how woman made it through such loss.

    I've always been drawn to an older time....the late 1700s/1800s. I would have loved to have been neighbors with the Ingalls family :) it was such a wonderful family to visit the site of the Kansas little house last spring. Also think Annie Oakley would have been fun to know....and Beatrix Potter. So many!

  14. My library has this book. Yay! Thanks for spotlighting it. I'm more drawn toward historical characters who were regular folks, although the well known personages intrigue me too. I'd find it very hard to choose any single one, but because of my current research I've become fascinated with Joseph Brant, the Mohawk warrior who influenced most of the Iroquois to fight with the British during the Revolutionary War, who was highly educated, devoted to his people, and who made several trips to England. He was an extraordinary man of his times.

  15. Heather, That is so humbling you felt that way about my book. Bless you for saying so! That's the kind of response an author dreams of with her readers. I'm so blessed.

    You sound like you know quite a bit about Martha. One of her great tragedies was the death of her young daughter from a seizure. A shared tragedy was their inability to have children. George laid the blame at her door though he loved her dearly. I tend to think his bout with smallpox made him sterile. But we'll never know. A good historical mystery!

    I love the Ingall's clan, too! You are so fortunate to have visited their homeplace. Your art reminds me of Little House times:) And Annie Oakley is a fav of mine. We have the Beatrix Potter videos for kids and they are soooo good. Has your daughter seen those? The music and everything is great and my boys watched them over and over.

    Can't wait to see what you're doing over at your blog today!

  16. That book looks wonderful, definitely going to have to see if my library has it.

    I will admit I've always preferred European history to American. I have a love a royalty which probably began when I was 4 years old, and got up to watch Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding at 3:30 in the morning.

    I enjoy reading about the Romanov family, especially Nicholas and Alexandra. Their story is so tragic though.

    I also love Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. I cannot wait for the recent movie to come out on DVD, since I'm not even certain it played in the theaters here.

    For American history, I will admit I've developed a recent love of the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods. I also like the Progressive Era. My favorite story in American history though is the Lewis and Clark expedition.

    BTW, I am really loving reading your blog.

  17. Lori, I'm with you. Joseph Brant was so fascinating. He blew the myth of the ignorant savage right out of the water. Tecumseh is another favorite of mine among the Shawnee. Eckert's novel of him is a masterpiece (A Sorrow in Our Heart - very moving and disturbing (and long).

    Like you've said, it's real folks who inspire my writing. I think Carla and others would agree!

  18. Michelle, I'm so glad you like my blog. I'm loving having you as a blog reader! You've just listed other people and settins dear to my heart - the Romanovs and Lewis and Clark, as well as the British Royals. Think I've found another kindred spirit:)

    Recently I saw Ruth's great review of The Young Victoria (is that the right movie title?) over on her booktalk blog (it's in the margin under my blog roll, if you want to take a peek). The photo for it is just amazing! I really liked the movie "Mrs. Brown" about the older Victoria and the Scotsman she supposedly fell in love with. Funny and touching and very fine acting if you've not seen that one.

    Like you, I think the Romanovs are so interesting. My memory is sketchy sometimes but think Empress Alexandra of Russia was Queen Victoria's granddaughter, right? She and Niki had a wonderful love affair/ marriage but their story was so tragic like you said. I have always been fascinated by their beautiful girls, particularly Anastasia. One of my Kentucky cousins lives in Russia and I'm really wanting to go back and see Tsarskoe Selo. I was only able to tour the Winter Palace back then.

    Well, now that I've written a novel to you you'll think twice about coming back! Bless you today, Michelle. Thanks for your great comments!

  19. What a fantastic painting! She's beautiful and elegant and poised! What a great find, Laura!
    thanks for bringing it to our attention:)

  20. Thanks, Kristen. I know you love history like I do and this book really is a great find! Wish we knew more about Martha and other folks back then. They handled life with such grace and perseverance. I never spell that last word correctly!
    Hope your week is going super well!

  21. for me it's the 18th and 19th centuries.. my favorite!

    that is a great cover. I've never thought of martha washington as a beautiful, young woman.

    how is your writing going? getting any done?

    we are having some beautiful, sunshiny days down here (mixed in with the rainy days) so i've been spending some time outside getting the garden area prepared.

  22. It's amazing what they can do with computers. American History fascinates me from the beginning to the present. :)


  23. Hi Lisa,
    I saw your wonderful garden pics over at your blog but have been having trouble leaving comments on blogger the last few days. Am not sure why that is:( You look very industrious over there! I love the arbor entrance you've made and all the rest! Makes me want to dig in, mud:)
    Yes, the weather has been great. My mom is here and we're enjoying her so much.
    As for the writing, I rec'd the pages for CML today and am busy going over them. Reminds me that publication date is right around the corner!
    Bless you all down there in sunny Oregon!

  24. Susan, I'm with you - American history is truly fascinating. And it's so new/young compared to other countries. Wish I was as computer-savvy as the LSU forensics team! So good to hear from you. Happy reading and writing to you this week!

  25. No, I hadnt seen the Beatrix Potter movies! We do have the little collection of books. I'll have to see if they are on the ol' netflix!

    So far I've been to two Laura Ingalls homesteads--- the Kansas home and her Missouri house with Almanzo when I was about 12 and heavily into Little House :) there is still such a magic to those places!

    Hope you're staying warm and getting lots of writing done! I cant wait til the second one is out, I'll need some good summer reading!

  26. Thanks, Heather! Hope you can find the Beatrix movies:) And so glad you are already looking forward to summer reading. That bodes well for me! I'm working on Morrow's story again - well, reading it over a final time before it goes to print. Always a happy time for me. Bless you and stay warm and snug. I'm thinking you have more snow there today! I am still having problems with blogger so can't leave comments but am thinking of you - and others!

  27. Oh this looks good. I am just now allowing myself five minutes to catch up on your blog! I will be ordering it tonight!

    My favorite? Too many to count! I love reading and I am a history major in college.

  28. Laurie, I think you will love the Martha book. My mom was just visiting and she took mine away from me and devoured it! I'm not surprised you were a history major - but am delighted to find that out. I almost double-majored in history and English. Now I wish I'd gone with the history. But our education that way is ongoing. Thanks for wonderful books like this!