Female characters figure prominently in novels, plays, and other creative productions, but the life stories of actual women have long proven elusive subjects for biographers and historians — largely because the surviving documentary record is far thinner for women than for their male counterparts. Martha Washington, for example, destroyed her correspondence with her famous husband, and many women of the pre-modern era left no written record of their experiences. Celebrate Women’s History Month by joining Mount Vernon’s Robert H. Smith Senior Curator, Dr. Susan P. Schoelwer, for a lively conversation with two accomplished authors who have brilliantly met the challenges of writing women’s stories. In The Washingtons: George and Martha, British author Flora Fraser offers an insightful biography of a marriage; winner of the 2016 George Washington Book Prize, this remarkable double portrait illuminates the elusive Mrs. Washington as it provides fresh insights on the General. In Portrait of a Woman in Silk, art historian Zara Anishanslin crafts an innovative object biography; beginning with a fascinating silk dress, she presents the stories of four intersecting lives: the women who designed the fabric and wore the dress as well as the man who wove the cloth and the painter who recorded it on canvas.
Flora Fraser is author of Beloved Emma: The Life of Emma, Lady Hamilton; The Unruly Queen: The Life of Queen Caroline; Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III; and Pauline Bonaparte: Venus of Empire. The Washingtons won the 2016 George Washington Book Prize. She is chair of the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography, established in 2003 in affectionate memory of her biographer grandmother. She lives in London. Learn more about Flora here.
Zara Anishanslin is assistant professor of history and art history at the University of Delaware. She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Learn more about Zara here.