A companion to first ladies by Katherine Amelia Siobhan Sibley

Women In History

By Katherine Amelia Siobhan Sibley

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The Adams family tightly controlled access to the papers still in its possession, restricting use to a mere handful of individuals, even as it put them on loan at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston and formed the Adams Manuscript Trust to decide the ultimate disposition of the papers. No family member took upon him‐ or herself the responsibility for 28 margaret a. hogan continuing Charles Francis Adams’s legacy of making these materials more widely available—until 1954, when the Trust ­ decided finally to release the material to the public.

Nor were the country’s citizens or visiting dignitaries sure how to address the presi­ dent’s wife (Caroli, 1987; Watson, 2000a). She would soon come to be known as “Lady Washington” or simply “Mrs. Washington,” despite the more regal p­ references of many public officials and newspapers (Fields, 1994: xxv). The term “First Lady” would not be in common use for some decades. Meanwhile the public and official George Washington faced conflicting expectations about the proper tone for the president’s receptions and about how the Washingtons should interact with the public.

She endured the tedious rituals of court etiquette, includ­ ing standing up for four hours while she waited to be presented to the royal family and other uncomfortable situations caused by lingering animosity toward all things American. But she also came to appreciate the “mother country,” enjoying a pleasant routine of social calls, garden walks with Nabby, and theater performances and ­concerts. Together, she and John explored 24 margaret a. hogan the English countryside and visited the Netherlands for several weeks, and Abigail and Nabby traveled to Bath along with William Stephens Smith, Nabby’s new h­usband, to see that noted vacation spot.

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