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Facing the Wrath of Rachel Jackson's God with Melissa Gismondi

If you know anything about Rachel Jackson, chances are you know her best as Andrew Jackson’s wife. You might also know that Rachel died in late 1828, just before Andrew became president. 

During Andrew’s presidential campaigns in 1824 and 1828, his political enemies attacked Rachel as an adulterer. Legally speaking, she was. In the early 1790s, Rachel and Andrew learned that her first husband, Lewis Robards, had never finalized their divorce. The Jacksons’ marriage was seemingly illegitimate. After a court granted Robards a divorce in 1794 on the basis of Rachel’s alleged adultery, Rachel and Andrew married again just to be safe.

But when these private events became public years later, Andrew’s opponents used them against him.

Rachel died from a heart attack in 1828. Andrew attributed her death in part to the public slanders against her. 

What you may not know is that Rachel dwelled deeply on God Almighty. While she labored in his Kingdom on Earth, she dreamed of the Almighty and his Kingdom of Heaven. Rachel was an evangelical Christian. And her fear of God’s judgement shaped her life and her relationship with Andrew.

On today’s episode, Dr. Melissa Gismondi offers us a portrait of a devote woman tormented by the changing world around here.

Gismondi, an expert on Rachel Jackson and the early republic, is a Senior Producer on the popular radio program Backstory

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About our Guest:

Melissa Gismondi, Ph.D., is a senior producer for Backstory, a program of Virginia Humanities. She holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia. An award-winning writer and multimedia journalist, Gismondi's work has appeared in The Walrus and The New York Times. In 2019, she was selected by acclaimed author Charlotte Gray and the Writers’ Trust of Canada to be part of their inaugural Rising Star program.

About our Host:

Jim Ambuske leads the Center for Digital History at the Washington Library. He received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia in 2016 with a focus on Scotland and America in an Age of War and Revolution. He is a former Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia Law Library. At UVA, Ambuske co-directed the 1828 Catalogue Project and the Scottish Court of Session Project.  Ambuske is currently at work on a book entitled Emigration and Empire: America and Scotland in the Revolutionary Era, as well as a chapter on Scottish loyalism during the American Revolution for a volume to be published by the University of Edinburgh Press.