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October 20 , 2008

The Mother of Washington and Her Times


The mothers of famous men survive only in their sons. This is a rule almost as invariable as a law of nature. Whatever the aspirations and energies of the mother, memorable achievement is not for her. No memoir has been written in this country of the women who bore, fostered, and trained our great men. What do we know of the mother of Daniel Webster, or John Adams, or Patrick Henry, or Andrew Jackson, or of the mothers of our Revolutionary generals? When the American boy studies the history of his country, his soul soars within him as he reads of his own forefathers: how they rescued a wilderness from the savage and caused it to bloom into fruitful fields and gardens, how they won its independence through eight years of hardship and struggle, how they assured its prosperity by a wise Constitution and firm laws. But he may look in vain for some tribute to the mothers who trained his heroes. In his Roman history he finds Cornelia, Virginia, Lucretia, and Veturia on the same pages with Horatius, Regulus, Brutus, and Cincinnatus. If he be a boy of some thought and perception, he will see that the early seventeenth century women of his own land must have borne a similar relation to their country as these women to the Roman Republic. But our histories as utterly ignore them as if they never existed. The heroes of our Revolution might have sprung armed from the head of Jove for aught the American boy can find to the contrary. Thus American history defrauds these noble mothers of their crown—not self-won, but won by their sons.
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