From modest Quaker beginnings as the child of financially insecure parents and the wife of a stolid young lawyer to the excitement and challenges of life as the nation’s first First Lady—arguably the most influential role in the American government’s formative years—Dolley Payne Todd Madison (1768-1849) led an extraordinary life. David B. Mattern and Holly C. Shulman have culled a particularly rich selection of her letters to illuminate the story of the woman widely credited with setting the standard for successive generations of Washington’s political women. This collection will prove an invaluable resource in current political and historical circles, where the role founding mothers played—both as supportive family members and as crucial political negotiators—is increasingly recognized and studied.
Organized chronologically into five sections reaching from her correspondence as a young adult in late-eighteenth-century Philadelphia up to the letters of her widowhood in 1840s Washington, and with a helpful contextualizing introduction to each section, The Selected Letters of Dolley Payne Madison provides a long-overdue biographical sketch of one of the early republic’s most fascinating personalities.
The Selected Letters of Dolley Payne Madison was made possible through a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission
A fascinating and readable collection that provides ready access to the most important items of Dolley Madison’s correspondence. The result is a volume that gives both the scholar and the general reader an indelible portrait of this significant participant in the shaping of the United States during its early days as a nation.
The Selected Letters contains historically important material, uniquely available from these editors who are so well qualified to present it. I enthusiastically recommend this volume, both as a complement to James Madison’s papers and as a record of Dolley Madison’s life in its own right.
David B. Mattern is Senior Associate Editor of the Papers of James Madison and the editor of James Madison’s "Advice to My Country" (Virginia). Holly C. Shulman is Research Associate Professor, Studies in Women and Gender, at the University of Virginia and editor of the Dolley Madison Digital Edition (Virginia), an online archive of the First Lady's collected letters.