This letter is from Martha Washington to her niece Fanny. Written just months after George Washington assumed the presidency, it is notable for Martha’s comments regarding her feelings about being First Lady. Martha clearly chafed at many of the restrictions imposed by her new public role (image courtesy of The Historical Society of Pennsylvania).
New York October the 23d 1789
My dear Fanny
I have by Mrs Sims sent you a watch it is one of the cargoe that I have so long mentioned to you, that was expected, I hope is such a one as will please you - it is of the newest fashon, if that has any influence on your tast - The chain is of Mr Lears choosing and such as Mrs Adams the vice Presidents Lady and those in the polite circle wares. It will last as long as the fashon - and by that time you can get another of a fashonable kind - I send to dear Maria a piece of Chino to make her a frock - the piece of muslin I hope is long enough for an apron for you, and in exchange for it, 1 beg you will give me the worked muslin apron you have like my gown that I made just before I left home of worked muslin as I wish to make a petticoat of the two aprons - for my gown - Mrs Sims will give you a better account of the fashons than I can - I live a very dull life hear and know nothing that passes in the town - I never goe to the publick place - indeed I think I am more like a state prisoner than anything else, there is certain bounds set for me which I must not depart from - and as I can not doe as I like I am obstinate and stay at home a great deal -
The President set out this day week on a tour to the eastward Mr Lear and Major Jackson attended him - my dear children has had very bad colds but thank god they are getting better My love and good wishes attend you and all with you - remember me to Mr & Mrs L Wn how is the poor child - kiss Maria I send her two little handkerchiefs to wipe her nose
I am my dear Fanny yours
Mrs F Washington