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Thread: Martha Washington was a Hottie

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    Verbose Veteran daBaroness is a glorious beacon of light daBaroness is a glorious beacon of light daBaroness is a glorious beacon of light daBaroness is a glorious beacon of light daBaroness is a glorious beacon of light daBaroness is a glorious beacon of light daBaroness's Avatar
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    Default Martha Washington was a Hottie

    I found this on Yahoo news and thought it was great!



    America’s first first lady: Foxy or frumpy?
    Historians use technology to revamp Martha Washington's image
    By BRIGID SCHULTE WASHINGTON POST
    COURTESY OF MICHAEL DEAS The Washington Post
    UPDATED: Anthropologists used a 1796 portrait to generate an image of how Martha Washington might’ve looked in her 20s.
    WASHINGTON — This just in: Martha Washington was hot. Or at least hotter than we thought.
    Our image of the mother of our country, vague and insubstantial as it is, is drawn from portraits painted after her death showing a frumpy, dumpy, plump old lady, a fussy jumble of needlework in her lap, wearing what could pass for a shower cap with pink sponge rollers underneath.
    But today, 250 years after Martha and George tied the knot, a handful of historians are seeking to revamp the former first lady’s fusty image, using the few surviving records of things she wrote, asking forensic anthropologists to do a computerized age-regression portrait of her in her mid-20s and, perhaps most importantly, displaying for the first time in decades the avant-garde deep purple silk high heels studded with silver sequins that she wore on her wedding day.
    Take that, Sally Fairfax.
    History is about to be revised.
    “We always see Martha with a withered face in her old age. But she was quite a beautiful woman in her younger years, and Washington loved her deeply,” said Edward Lengel, senior editor at the Papers of George Washington project at the University of Virginia. “What’s happening now is revisionist. But I think it’s a whole lot closer to the reality of what she was.”
    Contrary to popular opinion, even among some historians, Martha was not fat when she married George. Yes, she liked to read the Bible, but she devoured gothic romance novels, too. She capably ran the five plantations left to her when her first husband died, bargaining with London merchants for the best tobacco prices. And unknown to most, while George was courting her she had another suitor, a Virginia planter with much greater wealth and stature. In a little-known letter, Charles Carter wrote to his brother about what a beauty she was and how he hoped to “arouse a flame in her breast.”
    “He was clearly sexually excited by her,” said Patricia Brady, a historian who wrote the first revisionist biography of Martha a few years ago. “When Martha decided to marry George, she didn’t marry him just to be a kind stepfather to her two children. He was a hunk, and I think she decided to make herself happy. People are just starting to see her as a real person.”
    The fact that so little is known about Martha is, in part, her fault. After George Washington died, she, as was the custom of well-known people then, burned their correspondence. So we know George wrote two youthful love letters bursting with yearning and passion to Sally Fairfax, even though she was the wife of his good friend. We have a really bad poem he wrote as a teen to a young Virginia beauty (“Rays, you have, more transparent than the sun ... “). We have no idea what he wrote to Martha.
    But each generation of Americans, Lengel and other historians say, has played its part in solidifying Martha’s stodgy image, transforming her into an icon of demure Victorian perfection in the 19th century and, in the antiheroic 20th century, the mousy, fat widow that dashing and virile Washington married only for money.
    Emily Shapiro, a curator at Mount Vernon, wandered through the museum on a recent day, pointing to the most famous images of Martha. All are, as one historian describes it, of the double-chinned Old Mother Hubbard variety. To Shapiro, the white-haired images, painted shortly after both George and Martha had died, fostered a sense of legitimacy for the fledgling country. “The country was still so young,” she said. “I think it was reassuring to see its leaders as older, distinguished, stately and gray-haired people.”
    She stopped before a darkened case displaying Martha’s wedding shoes, which even she and Mount Vernon Executive Director James Rees describe as a little sassy and definitely “over the top” for the time. Because the shoes are so delicate, they are displayed for only a few months every 10 years or so. The sparkly buckles are gone. And the once royal purple has faded to a soft lavender. But even after all these years, it’s clear that these were some shoes.
    “They were the Manolo Blahniks of her time,” said Brady, the historian and author. “So much false information was given out about the stupid cherry tree and the wooden teeth, it’s put this sort of a layer of dullness over him, and of course, if he’s dull, she has to be dull. Nobody imagines that they were in love and in pain and liked to dance, that what real people go through, they went through.”
    In the 20th century, attempts to restore George’s humanity inevitably led to fabrications and exaggerations about his love life and his military adventures, Lengel said. Early efforts to humanize Martha painted her as crabby and difficult to get along with.
    In 1958, the Sally Fairfax letters surfaced at the Houghton Library at Harvard University. “I profess myself a Votary to Love,” Washington wrote, confessing his love for Sally shortly before he was to marry Martha. The letters hit like a bombshell. A new narrative was born for the turbulent times, one of Washington marrying tired old Martha for convenience while pining for Sally. The defining books of the time took pains to portray Martha as a dull homebody and the second choice of history.
    “Martha Washington was neither beautiful nor brilliant. She lacked artistic skill, except perhaps in fine needlework. The letters she wrote were an incoherent jumble of affection and gossip.” That was James Flexner, the preeminent Washington scholar of the 1960s and ‘70s. He describes Washington’s marriage to Martha as an “escape” from the burden of his passions for Sally. The 40-year union, he wrote, “began badly.” Martha, he wrote disdainfully, was “diminutive and plump.”
    That sets off revisionist historians such as Brady. Although Martha had borne four children (only two of whom survived) by the time she met Washington, she hadn’t packed on the pounds yet.
    Brady examined purchase orders and clothes inventories of the time. “Martha was very short. (About 5 feet.) But she was not dumpy. We know that because of the account books that she and her first husband kept. Everything they ordered from England refers to her tiny hands, her tiny feet, her small waist, her slim arms,” Brady said. “When you were buying at a distance like that, you had to be honest. If you said you were slim and they sent you a small dress and you weighed 200 pounds, it would really be a waste of money.”
    It was Brady who took a miniature watercolor-on-ivory portrait of Martha in middle age, which her grandchildren said was a “striking likeness,” to forensic anthropologists at the Louisiana State University Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services, or FACES, Laboratory. These scientists do age progressions to determine what kidnapped children might look like as adults. Brady asked whether they could reverse the same process: Use the bone structure of a middle-aged Martha to figure out what she would have looked like as a 25-year-old about to marry the future father of the country.
    Mount Vernon bought the portrait, which hangs in the education center.
    “I wanted to rescue her from old-ladyhood,” Brady said.
    In drawing a new portrait of their relationship, which perhaps might not have started in love, but grew into it, Brady relied heavily on the two letters from George that escaped Martha’s fire. Both were written in the early days of the Revolutionary War. He addresses her as “My dearest.” They are warm and filled with concern for her.
    Lengel recently discovered a rare letter from Martha to George in 1777, where she calls him “My Love.”
    “There’s enough circumstantial evidence really to show that they were very close,” he said. “All these years, Martha has been an afterthought. It hasn’t been until now that people have taken the time to see who she really was.”
    And the story that her purple wedding shoes have been trying to tell.

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    Default Re: Martha Washington was a Hottie

    This really got my attention! The rumor in my family is this (which I have not yet confirmed)... Before meeting George Washington, Martha was married to a man with the last name of Drake. Well, that is the family name and a direct line to my biological grandmother. So according to my family history/rumor mill, I am related to her by marriage. Again, I am not sure. But if I am... It's cool my great great XXXX grandmother is a hottie! I just wish her good looks had passed down more in tact! Oh also according to the rumor, she was widowed from Drake when she met George.
    Last edited by Gwen; 02-06-2009 at 12:06 AM. Reason: adding the widow info
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    Guild Royalty - Elected Official Verbose Veteran Ysobelle is a glorious beacon of light Ysobelle is a glorious beacon of light Ysobelle is a glorious beacon of light Ysobelle is a glorious beacon of light Ysobelle is a glorious beacon of light Ysobelle's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martha Washington was a Hottie

    Thank you SO much for posting that! That's great!
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    Default Re: Martha Washington was a Hottie

    What a great story. Now I have to go off and find a picture of these shoes.


    ETA: I found them on the Mt. Vernon web site. Beautiful.

    http://www.mountvernon.org/
    Last edited by SHpepperKat; 02-06-2009 at 12:37 AM.
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    Guild Royalty - Elected Official Verbose Veteran Ysobelle is a glorious beacon of light Ysobelle is a glorious beacon of light Ysobelle is a glorious beacon of light Ysobelle is a glorious beacon of light Ysobelle is a glorious beacon of light Ysobelle's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martha Washington was a Hottie

    Quote Originally Posted by SHpepperKat View Post
    What a great story. Now I have to go off and find a picture of these shoes.


    ETA: I found them on the Mt. Vernon web site. Beautiful.

    http://www.mountvernon.org/


    I was just coming here to post that! Man, eight MILLION photos if all you want is the damned "Just The Right Shoe" thing. The real ones are far more interesting!

    Closeup:
    http://emuseum.mountvernon.org/code/...urrentrecord=6


    And check out the fragments of her YELLOW silk wedding gown. How fabulous!

    http://www.mountvernon.org/learn/col...x.cfm/pid/626/
    Last edited by Ysobelle; 02-06-2009 at 12:51 AM.
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    Default Re: Martha Washington was a Hottie

    OMG!!!! The portrait and my mom look so similar. She looks so elegant and regal, for lack of a better word...
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    Default Re: Martha Washington was a Hottie


    But you know what? Behind every good man there's a woman, and that woman was Martha Washington, man, and every day, George would come home, she'd have a big fat bowl waiting for him, man, when he'd come in the door. She was a hip, a hip, hip lady, man.

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    Default Re: Martha Washington was a Hottie

    Quote Originally Posted by Ysobelle View Post
    I was just coming here to post that! Man, eight MILLION photos if all you want is the damned "Just The Right Shoe" thing. The real ones are far more interesting!

    Closeup:
    http://emuseum.mountvernon.org/code/...urrentrecord=6


    And check out the fragments of her YELLOW silk wedding gown. How fabulous!

    http://www.mountvernon.org/learn/col...x.cfm/pid/626/


    The first thing I found when I went looking for the shoes was that right shoe thing. Then I went to the Mount Vernon site. They are so beautiful.

    And that yellow silk is amazing.
    Thanks for sharing that too.
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    Default Re: Martha Washington was a Hottie

    Oh my god, those shoes! I'm having a hard time imagining a whole dress of the right style out of the silk, since it would have had to be like the shoes (cutting edge).

    I love the age regression portrait most though. She's lovely. And it's a much-needed revamp to the image of the Washingtons.
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    Default Re: Martha Washington was a Hottie

    This story confuses me.

    Basically the revelation is...she wasn't always old?

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