Join us for lunch and compelling discussion with Cassandra Good, a member of our 2019-20 class of research fellows. She will discuss her research topic, Children of Washington: The Custis Grandchildren and the Politics of Family in America, 1776-1865. A boxed lunch will be provided.
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Elizabeth Parke Custis Law, Sarah Miriam Peale, c. 1836. Purchased with funds donated by Melody Sawyer Richardson, Vice Regent for Ohio, 2008. George Washington’s biography usually ends with his death in 1799, but that was not the end of the story. There’s another, as yet untold story of Washington that extends long into the nineteenth century: that of the four children who carried on his legacy and remained stand-ins for the first president. The lives of this quartet—Martha’s grandchildren born of a son from her first marriage—offer an entirely new perspective on the life and enduring power of George Washington.

While Washington had no children of his own, Martha’s grandchildren via Daniel Parke Custis—Elizabeth (Eliza), Martha, Eleanor (Nelly), and George Washington (Wash) Parke Custis—grew up with the first president and, after his death, identified themselves as his family. Nelly and Wash were adopted and raised by George and Martha, living with them in the president’s house and capturing the public imagination. Despite having no blood relationship to George Washington, it was the Custises who chose to claim their place as Washington’s true heirs, serving as keepers of his memory and political legacy. Children of Washington will be the first book to trace the forgotten story of America’s inaugural “first family.” It spans from their births during the American Revolution, through their efforts to contribute to political life in the nineteenth century, to their deaths and ultimate erasure from national consciousness with the Civil War.

About Cassandra Good 

Cassandra Good is assistant professor of history at Marymount University. She is the author of Founding Friendships: Friendships Between Men and Women in the Early American Republic (Oxford University Press, 2015), as well as scholarly articles and shorter pieces for public audiences on sites including The AtlanticSmithsonian.com, and Slate. Her current project is a family biography of George Washington’s step-grandchildren in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, examining how the next generation shaped the family’s public image and political role in the new nation.

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