Evolving Narratives of Mother Washington

Author(s): Laura Galke

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "SAA 2019: General Sessions" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Ideal gender roles feature prominently in biographies written about George Washington. Once his father passed away, a young Washington was raised by his single mother, Mary Ball Washington. The narratives of Washington’s life, and his mother’s influence upon him, are dynamic, reflecting prevailing gender ideologies of the times in which they were written. Influenced by the cult of domesticity, Mother Washington was venerated in early nineteenth century. Transformative social movements, which questioned traditional gender roles or that promoted civil rights for women, often inspired critical appraisals of her. Despite negative portrayals, the modern communities that surround Mary Washington’s historical homes celebrate her with museums, street names, a monument, and eponymous institutions. One of these homes, Washington’s boyhood home in Stafford County, Virginia, was managed by Mary for over three decades. Archaeological investigations there underscore the dissonance between the material culture of his youth and popular stories about his upbringing. Social media has intensified social movements relating to women, bringing renewed interest to Mary’s depiction in Washington biographies.

Cite this Record

Evolving Narratives of Mother Washington. Laura Galke. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 449451)

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Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23165