CHARGE (What is the author trying to say?): To explore why Mary Ball Washington, the mother of George Washington, has never been recognized for her influence on t’he life of George Washington.
FACTS: With the author’s acknowledgment of the lack of primary sources about the life of Mary, Ball, she then goes on to spend much effort outlining how her life might have unfolded. This proved rather tedious. The prologue states: “I am not normally drawn to write about women whose fame derives from men or about slaveholding women.”Rather than simply stating history, she tries to rail against it. One example: “Mary’s status in those formative and porous years as a slave owner at or before her third birthday, and her daily intimacy with her independent mother, contributed to her air of command.” I find that ludicrous. I doubt she realized she owned slaves at the age of three! Orphaned at age 12, Mary was raised by an older sister and married the widower Augustine Washington at the age of 22. Mary’s first child, George, was born on February 22, 1732. Much of what follow are generalizations of child-rearing practices of the time, not specific experiences of the Washingtons. When George was 11 his father died. The Washingtons’ life from that point was described as “austere.” The author offers no indication that Mary had any unusual influence over George. With her lack of education and provincial nature, it seems quite impossible that Mary had the effects on George that the author theorizes. The number of footnotes made the work very unreadable.
VERDICT (Was the author successful?): Not guilty. This book was a disappointment.