“When George Washington was elected president, he did what a good boy should do: He rode to Fredericksburg, Va., to tell his mom,” explains Washington Post reporter Gregory S. Schneider.
“Mary Ball Washington was 80 years old, ancient for a woman of that time, but still formidable. George’s visit, according to some accounts, produced one of the great archetypal mother-son conversations.”
George: Guess what? They want me to be president.
Mom: I’m dying.
George, flustered: Well, as soon as I get settled in New York, I’ll come back and …
Mom: This is the last time you’ll ever see me. But go, do your job. That’s more important.
George and his mother had an unusual relationship for the 1700s, more like what you might see in a sitcom from the 1970s. She was indispensable to him but intolerable. She hectored him; he performed Enlightenment-era eye rolls with quill and ink.
Two hundred years ago, when the mythology of George Washington was being etched in marble, Mary Washington enjoyed a flowering of attention as the Grandmother of Our Nation. Then historians recast her as a controlling shrew.
There’s so much material.