Sunday, May 10, 1998

Letter to Editor: Defense of Motherhood and George Washington

[Click on the images below enlarge for easier reading.]

On the Thursday before Mothers' Day in the Year of Our Lord 1998, The Mount Vernon Gazette printed the article to the left with the title "George Washington and his mother: No love lost".

I received the paper before noon that day, unusual for most weeks it was delivered near 4 p.m. This week I saw and read the article and had a letter to the editor that same day, before close of business, though I dated the letter on Mothers Day, three days later.

Shown to the left is a much annotated version. If you click on the image it should be enlarged enough to ease the effort in reading it.

The scholarship on the article printed by The Mount Vernon Gazette was sadly deficient.

I had been asked by Christ Church in Old Town Alexandria where George Washington attended church to speak on the relationship of George with his mother Mary Ball Washington as a special Mothers Day Sunday lecture between the two morning services.

Consequently, for some two months I had been researching the question of the mother and son relationship of the Washingtons, which provided the basis for my Letter to the Editor which is shown to the left.

I knew the letter was too long to be published as it was, yet I thought there was value in providing a more thorough discussion of the question for the benefit of the Editor.

I believe there were 15 paragraphs, and the Editor selected 8 to print in the paper two weeks after the article.

The printing of the Letter to the Editor created some notice among the many women's groups who did not like to see the Mother and Son relationship maligned as has become all too popular in certain circles of academia.

I have seen many articles that defame Mary Ball Washington, but few based on the facts or of the concept "Before you choose, criticize, or abuse, walk a mile in her shoes."

In addition, the Letter to the Editor was seen by an aide to Governor James S. Gilmore, who called and asked if I might like to be named to a Board or Commission. When "out of the blue" I asked about the Mount Vernon Board of Visitors, he said, "I am so glad you asked, it just so happens we have a vacancy there."

Since I had been a volunteer at Mount Vernon for a year or so, I did not want to embarrass anyone, so the letter at the bottom was my letter to Jim Rees, at the time given the title "Resident Director" now "Executive Director", providing him a copy of the Letter to the Editor before it would be printed so he would know what to expect and not be "blind-sided", suggesting that some one had written the article for him as the head of the Mount Vernon organization.

Richard Gamble is a scholar on the relationship between George Washington and his older half-brother, Lawrence.

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