Sept. 19, 2023

Episode 43: That B**** Maria Goodwin

Sarah E. Nicholas to Jane H. Nicholas Randolph, March 30, 1821 In which Sarah E. Nicholas writes to her sister Jane H. Nicholas Randolph about an incident in the streets of Baltimore. Kathryn Gehred is joined by Amelia Golcheski, the CEO and Executive...

Sarah E. Nicholas to Jane H. Nicholas Randolph, March 30, 1821

In which Sarah E. Nicholas writes to her sister Jane H. Nicholas Randolph about an incident in the streets of Baltimore. Kathryn Gehred is joined by Amelia Golcheski, the CEO and Executive Director of the Cashiers Historical Society.


Sarah E. Nicholas to Jane H. Nicholas Randolph, March 30, 1821, Published in “Jefferson Quotes & Family Letters,” Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.,  



Your Most Obedient & Humble Servant
Episode 43: "That B**** Maria Goodwin"
Published on September 19, 2023

Note: This transcript was generated by with light human correction


Kathryn Gehred  00:04 Hello, and welcome to your most obedient and humble servant. This is Women's History podcast where we feature 18th and early 19th century women's letters that don't get as much attention as we think they should. I'm your host, Katherine Garrett. This episode is part of our season on wit, the theme is about 18th century and early 19th century women and wit, that could be somebody trying to be funny, somebody being particularly clever. We're going a lot of different ways with it. I am delighted to introduce to you a lovely friend of mine, Amelia Chesky. Amelia and I met when we were both tour guides at Monticello. And we became very good friends. But now we've both moved on to different things. So Amelia, tell me a little bit about what you're doing now.

Amelia Golcheski  00:51 Well, first of all, thank you for having me, Katie. I'm a longtime fan. First time guest. So excited to be here. I am currently doing two things. I'm wrapping up a dissertation and a PhD in Appalachian women's labor history. So while you're looking at the 18th and 19th century, and women, I'm looking at the 20th and 21st century, and women and Whitten kind of social networks. So that is one thing I'm doing. The other thing I'm doing is I am the new executive director of the cashiers Historical Society, which is an organization devoted to preserving and sharing the history of the cashiers Valley, which is in western North Carolina. So I get to do Appalachian women's history in a public history setting, which is very cool. That's awesome.

Kathryn Gehred  01:46 Did your experience in public history at Monticello help prepare you for some of the things you're doing now?

Amelia Golcheski  01:51 Yes. wholeheartedly, unequivocally. Yes, in ways big and small. And I think you and I have been really lucky, because it's a great place to kind of start a career in public history, because you learn a lot of a lot of valuable lessons pretty early. So I've definitely brought that with me to the cashiers Historical Society.

Kathryn Gehred  02:18 I imagine now, with your new role you're not quite as public facing? Do you remember giving tours at Monticello? What was your favorite part of giving tours?

Amelia Golcheski  02:27 Yes, it's hard to forget giving tours at Monticello. And there are two things I really loved about that job. And the first thing was, you know, giving tours to engaging visitors. Like, I know, it's kind of sappy and corny. But when you get to talk about history and history of Jefferson, so often, and really importantly, includes history of race and history of injustice and history of you know, what does equality mean? Like, I still think about some tours I gave with visitors who asked really hard questions, and we had a really, really cool dialogue. I think about that, you know, all the time. The second thing I really loved about giving tours at Monticello, was how you're just constantly moving, have a summer day at Monticello, is organized chaos. And somehow, that is a place that recruited incredible guides. And so we we developed a friendship while working on chaotic summer days. And you know, we've certainly developed friendships with other guides who were doing that. And it was just a lot of fun. And it felt like important work, because of the history we're talking about. And that is something I'm really grateful for.

Kathryn Gehred  03:43 I agree, organized chaos is a good way to describe it.

Amelia Golcheski  03:47 Yes, organized chaos. And there's also this rhythm and you're just working in a team, which is kind of cool, and not something you really get to do in a lot of large museums.

Kathryn Gehred  04:00 So sort of asking you to reach back into your memory a little bit. We're going to be talking about a Thomas Jefferson family letter today. It's Jefferson, like adjacent, but it was available online on the Jefferson Family Letters website. So I'm like, well, here we go. So I wanted to bring somebody who knew a little bit about the family. And I just wanted to ask you after giving all these tours at Monticello, how would you describe Thomas Jefferson's white grandchildren? Because we talked about them a lot on this podcast. I have a lot of Ellen Randolph, her stick them up on the podcast because she's so funny. But what's your perspective on Thomas Jefferson's white grandchildren?

Amelia Golcheski  04:38 It's interesting because I often just think about the white female grandchildren. For some reason I don't really think a whole lot about you know, Meriwether Lewis Randolph I, maybe it's because like you my interest is and women gender history. So I often just think about the white, female grandchildren. On, and it's kind of a split. When I think of Ellen, I think of a little a little snooty, maybe her nose is a smidge in the air. And she's a lady with some demands. And then when I think of like Cornelia and Virginia, and some of the other gals, I think like, Oh, these are just really sheltered women who grew up in rural Virginia on a mountaintop, with an eccentric grandfather, and like a weird family dynamic between their parents, and so TLDR, I think, sheltered, bookish, maybe don't have great social skills outside of their family, because again, rural Virginia on a mountain top,

Kathryn Gehred  05:55 and the mother who's giving them an education that she received in pre revolutionary France. So compared to everybody else, with their female education, they've got something completely different. A completely different idea of like, what's funny or interesting. So I totally agree, like it's sheltered. It's this little, this little mini Society of them and all of their siblings are they get each other really well, but they don't necessarily get other people.

Amelia Golcheski  06:23 Yeah. Which, you know, we all have that friend group, or we all have like that relationship with a cousin or a sibling. And when you're out in public, you realize like, oh, yeah, no one understands this dynamic. And that is really what I think about the Randolph grandchildren. They're like, fine in their isolated little world, but they're speaking a different language than a lot of the other people coming to Monticello, are the people they're encountering outside of rural Central Virginia.

Kathryn Gehred  06:54 That seems fair. So this letter is from Sarah E. Nicholas, to her sister, Jane H. Nicholas Randolph. And so Jane is married to Thomas Jefferson, his oldest grandson, Thomas Jefferson, Randolph. So it is the sister in law of Thomas Jefferson's grandson. Definitely a family letter. We're getting a little bit far removed from Jefferson. But you know what? That's sometimes that's where the fun letters are. Well, yeah.

Amelia Golcheski  07:23 And it's hard to get too far removed. She's married to a guy named Thomas Jefferson Randolph. Yeah, very true. Thomas Jefferson, his shadow is very, very long for his grandchildren.

Kathryn Gehred  07:38 Yes. Again, like you said, when I think of the Jefferson grandchildren, I mostly think of the women because those are the letters that I read the most, and they're the most funny. So Thomas Jefferson Randolph, when I think of him, I think of a letter that his mother wrote about him when he was a child, where she talks about how he seems to learn absolutely without Bennett,

Amelia Golcheski  07:58 That's what we call in the 21st century, a burn.

Kathryn Gehred  08:06 She's always talking about how he is not a good student, and like maybe he'll be a farmer, that 18th century test parenting a little bit when it comes to Thomas Jefferson Randolph. But he is the one who ends up managing Monticello after Thomas Jefferson dies. He's the one who starts the process of settling Jefferson's estate. And he's living close by to Monticello. So at the time of this letter, this is written on March 30th 1821. It is, as I said, from Sarah Nicholas to Jane ah, Nicholas Randolph. Jane and Sarah are the daughters of one of Thomas Jefferson's political protegees Wilson, Carrie Nicholas, and his wife, Margaret Smith, Nicholas. So Margaret Smith, was part of a prominent Baltimore family. And she married Wilson, Carrie Nicklaus, and moved to Virginia. And they were, again prominent Virginians. Wilson, Carrie Nicholas was good friends with Jefferson and basically followed his political ideologies, which is a good way to get into Jefferson's good books. And so his daughter ends up marrying Thomas Jefferson's oldest grandson. They married in 1815. So that's about six years before this letter. At this point, they're living on one of Jefferson's plantations called tufton. Very close by to Monticello, if you've ever been to the Thomas Jefferson center for historic plants, that's tufted. What you can do. They do good tours at the Center for historic plants on like certain occasions,

Amelia Golcheski  09:34 and it's beautiful go there during roof season. It's absolutely gorgeous.

Kathryn Gehred  09:40 Jane is at this point. 23 years old. She's a mother of four already.

Amelia Golcheski  09:45 And how many children did she go on to have

Kathryn Gehred  09:49 She and Thomas Jefferson Randolph had 13 Children 12 of whom survived to adulthood.

Amelia Golcheski  09:54 Wow. Wow, that's a huge family. And Thomas Jefferson Randolph was one of

Kathryn Gehred  10:03 he had 10 siblings who survived to adulthood. So you've got a million cousins and aunts and uncles.

Amelia Golcheski  10:11 And then Jane is one of 13, one of 12.

Kathryn Gehred  10:14 Yes, 12 siblings, nine of whom reached adulthood. Wow. It's big family marrying into big family. And the Nicholas family, I had a harder time finding exactly people's birth dates. With Thomas Jefferson's kids and grandkids. We've know everything pretty clearly. But I couldn't find for the author of this letter, Sarah, I don't know when she was born, I could not find it. I was able to find her on some genealogies. But it's one of those genealogies that just says the name and doesn't give any information after that, to me from the letter, it feels like a letter from a younger sister to an older sister. But I can't guarantee it. That's just the vibe that I get. I can tell you that she was not married at the time she wrote this letter. She was living with her mother in Baltimore. So it's 1821. She is living in Baltimore with her mother, some of her siblings, and she is writing a letter sort of checking in with her sister as to what's going on in their lives. One source I looked at said that Sarah and her sister Margaret never married. If you look at their Wikipedia page, it says they did marry but the source they cite, I can't access without visiting the Special Collections at my library. And I'm sorry, I didn't do it. So I can't confirm it. But at this point, for sure, maybe forever but at this point for sure they are unmarried. Okay. One of the other things I found out while doing this genealogy trying to find out more about the Nicholas's, their sister Mary Nicolas, Mary, John Patterson, and people who have been listening to a lot of episodes of the podcast might recognize the name Patterson and Baltimore, because he was a brother of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, the Baltimore woman who married Napoleon's brother, and Warsi through dresses and caused a big scandal, which you can learn more about in episode 23. Where decent nature spreads a shade.

Amelia Golcheski  12:02 You know, what is this the six degrees of separation from Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, I love it. I love it.

Kathryn Gehred  12:10 I was excited to find that out. And then he actually does come up in the letter because she mentioned the house at Damasco. And that's John Patterson's house. So the Patterson family does actually come up.

Amelia Golcheski  12:21 That is amazing. It truly a small world.

Kathryn Gehred  12:26 The early Republican, white Gentry is so small, it feels like little in little in groups. And once you start recognizing the names, and then you start recognizing like street names and things, it becomes very annoying.

Amelia Golcheski  12:38 Fun, is it a little too familiar.

Kathryn Gehred  12:42 So a little bit more specific context for this letter. She's writing as I said in March of 1821, Sara and James father, Wilson, Carrie Nicholas has recently passed away he died in October of 1820. And so no, they had been a prominent family. Her father had been governor of Virginia from 1814 to 1816. But like so many other Virginia planters, he was in debt. And actually, right after his governorship, he became the president of the Richmond branch of the Bank of the United States, which, by early 18th century, folks will note that's a bad time because the bank folded in the panic of 1819, completely folded, and he had been putting his own money into things to try to keep things afloat. We always make a big deal that Thomas Jefferson died about $100,000 in debt, which is a huge amount of debt. Wilson, Carrie Nicholas died over $280,000 in debt.

Amelia Golcheski  13:37 Wow. That? Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it's like terrible timing. Um, what happens to his family with that kind of debt,

Kathryn Gehred  13:49 they find themselves in the same situation as a lot of these Gentry women at that time where you either have to support yourself in some way, something like some people started schools, some people started ins that they would manage. But that was sort of seen as a big fall from grace, particularly if you had just been the wife of the governor of Virginia. But it seems like Margaret Smith, Nicholas had a lot of connections in Baltimore. So she's able to do the thing, where you take your family and go live with other family members, and maybe put some younger boys in the military and sort of try to sort of basically survive. It's tough for the younger women in a family with where the situation has happened because it's hard to marry well, when you have don't have a dowry at this point. So I that is part of the reason that I think so James already married, like Jane is married to Thomas Jefferson Randolph who has his own debt issues, but she's sort of settled has a household of her own four children. Sarah Nicholas, and her sisters at this point are in a little bit more precarious state living with family members in Baltimore. At this time. They have class status, they have the gentry status. They have education. But they've got no money, negative money.

Amelia Golcheski  15:07 That's not so good for women during this period, if only romantic comedies existed, or this exact situation, because otherwise there's really, really no way out. It seems like there are quite a few parallels between Jane Nicholas Randolph's siblings and Thomas Jefferson, right off siblings. Do we know if there was any kind of cross mingling social networks between Randolph's and Nicholas's?

Kathryn Gehred  15:40 There definitely were Yeah, the Nicklaus family and the Randolph family were really close in this way. But I think it's one of those things. Everybody was sort of looking out for themselves there. They're just trying to get whatever they connections that they could.

Amelia Golcheski  15:53 Yeah, and maybe the Baltimore Nicklaus women didn't have a whole lot to chat about with the like, outdated. Parris taught. Randolph girls of Monticello. I mean, that might have been a situation just different interests, different personalities, despite very similar social situations.

Kathryn Gehred  16:14 Yes, that did occur to me because it's 1821. Thomas Jefferson is still alive at this point, he passes away on the Fourth of July 1826. And so his family has not quite hit the brunt of this yet. But this is sort of a glimpse into their future. Oh, wow. Once Thomas Jefferson dies, that they have to sell the house and all of that. So it's an interesting historical moment. And I think once I read the letter, you'll notice some tone differences between this a Nicholas letter and maybe an Ellen Randolph Coolidge letter, you can see a little bit of difference in style. So this letter, Sarah II, Nicolas, to her sister, Jane, ah, Nicholas Randolph, and Jane is married to Thomas Jefferson's oldest grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph. Alright, so hopefully, I haven't confused you too much with all those names and didn't stumble over them too badly.

Amelia Golcheski  17:06 No, no training at Monticello is really great, because you just get used to a whole lot of people with very similar names who have very different relationships with one another. So we're great. We're good to go.

Kathryn Gehred  17:21 All right, so I'm gonna go ahead and read the letter.

Sarah E. Nicholas to Jane H. Nicholas Randolph

Baltimore, March 30th 1821

Such an adventure, my dear Jane as I have had, “but I will not anticipate.” I suppose that you know that mamma went to Atamasco last sunday to spend a fortnight, and Margaret, with what aunt Carr calls her “fidgety disposition” determined to spend that time with Sister C.—& accordingly went over on monday, and being moved by the aforesaid disposition she came over to pay us a visit on thursday although she had been complaining ever since dinner the day before & though her sister Smith advised her not to turn out, she sat with us about two hours, when she prevailed with me to return with her. I accordingly put on my coat & hat and set out with her. 

It is the usual custom here for the ladys to walk arm in arm in the street but M. always objects very much to it & it is only by main force that you can prevail on her to do it, and as I did not feel disposed to have a fight in the street this morning I did not offer her my arm. More particularly as I had a wreath of flowers in one hand and a book & bag in the other; I flatter myself you are beginning to feel a little impatient for the adventure, but do have a little patience I have just got to it.

We walked on as well as we could, conversing very sociably on one thing or another till we got to Mrs. Meredith’s corner, (which I suppose you know is one of the corners of Washington Square) when I got a few steps before her, and turning to make an observation, I saw her standing at the corner apparently looking up street. I had just time to ask what she was looking at when her head turned slowly down street & she fell from the pavement into the gutter. Great God how frightened I was! (but don’t you be so she is quite well now.) I ran to her and found her, as I thought, dying. I raised her as well as I could and screamed “help!” and “murder!” so loud that in an instant I had about a hundred assistants. They carried her into Mrs. N- Williams’s, I screaming all the while at the very top of my voice.

It is utterly impossible for you to form the least idea of my alarm, she had something of a fit and though they say she was very slightly convulsed I thought it was horrible. I never saw anything half so dreadful. I believe I went on like a crazy person. She did not come quite to her senses for an hour, she was then brought home in a carriage and put to bed. She complained a good deal of her head that evening, but came down to breakfast the next morning & has been quite well ever since, except a dreadful soreness from the fall, which was a pretty hard one. She was so much better yesterday that she insisted on going over the bridge again. 

After she was taken into Mrs. Williams’s she was put on the floor and supported in the arms of  an old waggoner who was the first person that came to us, two gentlemen both strangers rubbed her hands and I stood over her screaming loud enough to waken the dead, & rubbing her forehead & nose. John Gettings came to me & asked if he should send for any of my family, I tried to recollect but could not remember that I had any family. He then mentioned Mrs. Hollins, I screamed out “yes! Run for God sake!” and in half a second my dear Mary Jane was in the room. I wish you could have seen how she took command of the party, until she came although the room was full of men and women there was not one who had presence of mind to do anything. When she came in she exclaimed, “When did you ever hear of any one being held up in a fainting fit? Lay her down instantly!” And everyone obeyed her as if she had been commanding officer. She then ordered her wrists to be rubbed with mustard, and had revived her considerably before the doctors arrived. And all this time, she says, I was standing up trying what ugly faces I could make. 

I wish you could have seen her take me off, she is the finest girl in the world but then ‘twas’n’t her sister. She swears that I did nothing but break Margaret’s comb and scream. But I did! I sent for three doctors, opened her coat, & poured at least a quart of vinegar on her face. She had a visit the next day from Mrs. Williams and Mr. Greenwood, a handsome young Uniitarian parson who was very active in assisting her. She thinks that she has made a considerable impression on him and is in great distress at his being an Unitarian.

Do you think that bitch Maria Goodwin even came near her or sent to enquire how she was? Though twas all over town in three minutes after it happened. She talks of going to Virginia this spring & I will never forgive you if you pay her any sort of attention if she goes. 

But I have not told you by far the worst part of the frolick, we lost about 30 dollars worth of property by it. Her coat is ruined past all redemption, & mine is very nearly as bad there had been a great deal worth of rain the day before & the gutter was full of water and mud, & she fell just into it. & in raising I got as much mud as she did, I trod on her comb and broke it into three pieces. And she had on a pair of new shoes which were cut all to pieces by the curb stone. And all this was brought on by her obstinacy, for if she had only taken arms like a decent person I could have saved her the [illegible] she shall never have her own way again.

Mamma is still at Atamasco & we do not expect her down till the last of this week. We have not heard from her since she went up, but she was quite well the day she left us. Her bile was healing fast. I have a fine peice of scandal for my next which shall be written on wednesday. I had intended writing it to day, but I’ve been writing a long letter to John and am so tired. Have not heard from him directly, but through W- Campbell. Understand he is well. 

Your dutiful sister


The doctor thinks Mags indisposition was occasioned by her eating hard fried perch for dinner the day before. He only gave her a dose of calomel. 


Amelia Golcheski  23:32 No notes. Just perfect. What a rich text. What a rich text.

Kathryn Gehred  23:42 Oh, and I found this letter. I was so excited. I like everything about it. She knows she has a good story. And she's like, I've got to write this as best as I can to really sell this and I'll bet she was great in person as a storyteller from just reading this.

Amelia Golcheski  23:58 Yes. And I don't know how much anyone was thinking about like comedic timing and writing about, you know, day to day occurrences. But the postscript post script is really like chef's kiss perfect. Yeah, it was just some hard fried fish that caused all of this. All of this Whoa. Can you help me just kind of keep track of everyone? Sure. We know. Sarah is writing to her sister Jane. And it's about Margaret, their sister who took a tumble? Yes. Okay. And then Mrs. Hollins Mary Jane Hollins, do we know anything about her?

Kathryn Gehred  24:43 That is a great question. And I do not. I know that. Jane H. Randolph. her middle name is Hollins. So I'm imagining it's a relative of some type. She says it's not her sister. I'm a med Gini, it's a family member. But that is somebody who I was not able to pin down.

Amelia Golcheski  25:04 That is really good to know. And then who is John at the end?

Kathryn Gehred  25:09 No, I believe that might be John Patterson, of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte fame. I think that's who that is.

Amelia Golcheski  25:16 That makes much more sense with the out of Moscow. At the beginning of the paragraph. You are a detective. And I'm thankful for you connecting all of the dots for me.

Kathryn Gehred  25:27 I was also struck by Mary Jane Hollins as taking control of the room, like a commanding officer.

Amelia Golcheski  25:34 Yes. And it's just so clear. Sarah is a storyteller. And this is so rich, because I think it really tells us a lot about women and expectations for how women should appear in public and maybe also some, like, embarrassment that these women of a certain class are like, Oh, my goodness, and old way there was the first person who came to us Can you imagine? And, you know, this is like a moment when they have fallen significantly from grace for financial reasons. And like, you know, beggars can't be choosers, the person who steps up and helps you even, you know, it's an old Waggoner. It's like, Come on, guys, just the things they think she thought to relay tells us so much about both the world she was living in, and the world she thought she was living in, if that makes sense, her perception of her social circle. And then what we know with like, the backstory,

Kathryn Gehred  26:39 I want to dig in what you said about like the way women were expected to present themselves in public, maybe dig in a little bit into the is the usual customary here for the ladies to walk arm in arm in the street. But Mo is objects very much to it. I thought that was sort of interesting, because they're on their own. It's two ladies sort of unexploited walking in a city street, which I don't know if I would have expected that to be sort of socially allowed back then. But it is but they're supposed to walk arm in arm. So what does that mean?

Amelia Golcheski  27:11 It is so, so interesting. And I love pieces of history like this, that make us really question all of our kind of perceptions of the past. Because as we know, as historians of American women's history, we know that women had rich fulfilled lives outside of the home, in early America in you know, really forever, right? Like women were not solely tied to this like sphere of domesticity. They went into the world, they had social networks. And you know, these networks really fueled so much of labor care, labor, etc, etc. What else were they gonna do? I mean, do they have jobs? Like, are they school teachers? Are they running in? Sounds like they're living with their mom and Baltimore? So why wouldn't they leave the house? Sometimes I think we assume that women a 19th century America, we're all Emily Dickinson's. And, you know, holed up doing embroidery and writing poetry and no impact women. We're not solely tied to the home, especially young women who are not married. Yeah. But then when you said they're not tied to the home, they're out walking, but the customers to like, lock arms as if to ladies, like locked arms together will ward off any potential

Kathryn Gehred  28:45 nefarious if someone's gonna run and grab? Yeah, yeah, exactly,

Amelia Golcheski  28:49 exactly. But they can't get both. Yeah, exactly. And, you know, they're not wearing like, huge hoop skirts or anything like that. Yet. It's just kind of interesting to imagine, you know, like, Jane Austen characters walking through Baltimore. And, you know, I could totally see a sister being like, come on. Don't Don't touch me. You know.

Kathryn Gehred  29:16 She has the like, teasing tone set, where she says, What at car calls her fidgety disposition. I did laugh when she was like, as I did not feel disposed to have a fight in the street this morning. I did not offer my arm. I think she's very good at being either, you know, writing in the sort of Jane Austen II very high class way and then lowering the tone a little bit for comedic purposes, which sends me it's one of my favorite things.

Amelia Golcheski  29:45 That's so good. And my favorite primary sources illustrate that people weren't really that terribly different 200 years ago, like the basic human instinct of law like, kind of ribbing, someone making fun of someone or saying like, Ah, she was being a little difficult. I don't want to cause a scene, so I let it go, but I'm going to tell you about it. That's not a modern concept. People have been doing that for years. And there's something kind of cool about that. Because we can all relate to exactly what Sarah was writing about here.

Kathryn Gehred  30:23 It sounds like she perhaps just fainted. Then they said she had some type of fit. Like maybe it was a seizure or something, but it doesn't really seem like it was that serious. But the fact that falling from the gutter falling into the gutter cause that much damage, I think paints really interesting image of what the streets looked like at this point. I know from you know, horrible history shows and stuff like that, that things were gross back then. And people just do their chests in the streets. But this really brings it to life.

Amelia Golcheski  30:51 You start to wonder, particularly when she talks about how their clothes were destroyed, their shoes were destroyed. I think we can all imagine how disgusting The streets were, I mean, trash and animal waste, and, oh, nobody wants to go back to 18 2001 Baltimore to like, see and smell it. Like that's just not the thing. But I am wondering, how uneven were things? How tall was this gutter? It wasn't like she fainted and just kind of like, tripped over a very tiny curb. It seems like there was a little Gulf there. I don't know what the streets were made out of probably shells considering the proximity to the bay, Chesapeake Bay, slash the Atlantic Ocean.

Kathryn Gehred  31:41 I hadn't thought about that. You're totally right. That's got to be shells because that would cut up her shoes.

Amelia Golcheski  31:46 Totally cut off her shoes probably cut up her arms depending on how she fell. She was probably not looking her best old mags when she got up. I wish we knew what mags said to Sarah. When she found out Sarah sent this to Jane because I bet she was steamin. Because not only did an old Wagoner reach out not only did she ruin her shoes, not only did she embarrass herself in front of a Unitarian minister, she was probably cut up and I'm paid.

Kathryn Gehred  32:23 Yeah, true. True. The physical side of it is not as emphasized as like the social embarrassment and the material losses. Another thing about the way she wrote the letter where she's self deprecating about how much she's screaming, she has a little parenthetical where she says, Great, God, how frightened I was. But don't you be like she's like, don't worry. I'm not just like making fun of my sister who is now in in horrible.

Amelia Golcheski  32:49 Like, it's like spoilers. She's okay. But let me paint a picture for you. There's something so delightful about that. And you wonder, you know, if in different circumstances like could she have been a writer, a writer for a public audience, she's obviously a writer here. And the time and care she took to send this to her sister is really evident. But as we think about the possibilities for women in this period, you know, if her family's on pretty significant debt, I don't know if a writer writing career is an option for but she clearly has the ability to do it. I mean, she's really talented, which makes reading this so darn fun. Exactly.

Kathryn Gehred  33:37 She is crafting this letter. If she's like, I'm going to make sure that my sister's in the right mind space, then I'm going to really just rip into my other sister. And then she's a little self deprecating, which I enjoy self deprecating humor. She's talking about how much she's screaming all the time. And the fact that she says she yelled murder,

Amelia Golcheski  33:55 help and murder. I mean, it's hilarious. Like, it's just hilarious to me. It she says, You know, I screamed help her murder so loud that in an instant, I had about 100 sustance. Now, did you have 100 Sarah, did you versus what we like to call hyperbole? I don't care. It's delightful. It's really delightful. And like, yeah, you want to catch attention, scream murder in a Baltimore Street and I'm assuming daylight and two women. I wonder how common that would be like two ladies one screaming murder. paints a really vivid picture. One of them lying in

Kathryn Gehred  34:41 the gutter like I can see that why the old Waggoner was like I've got to help

Amelia Golcheski  34:47 them even if they don't appreciate it.

Kathryn Gehred  34:51 Oh, and the two gentlemen both strangers rubbing her hands like that. Must be very intimate for this time. I can see also why you would be mentioning that in the letter.

Amelia Golcheski  35:03 I wonder which you've mentioned that and a letter to her mom. There's something I think really intimate about that. And it's like a case of, I'm going to tell my sister, or maybe not my mom. Like, I don't know if she'd like that. I don't think my brother would like that. But here's my sister who would find this very good part of the story, which just speaks to, again, female bonds, right? And knowing her audience, again, as a writer, she knows her audience here. And it's so funny. The two gentleman rubbed her hands, and I stood over her screaming loud enough to waken the dead.

Kathryn Gehred  35:50 Also relatable that is also how I handle a crisis. Let's talk about the hero of the day, Mrs. Hollins, where all these men are just rubbing her hands and not doing anything. This is Holmes comes in and says lay her down. She's fainting. And then you know it is it is 1820. So they're rubbing her wrists with mustard. Who knows if that's going to

Amelia Golcheski  36:11 help? I'm not gonna lie. That is my favorite part of the whole letter is like, this poor girl. They were dousing her and essentially a salad dressing like mustard and vinegar. So there's something I find so charming of this.

Kathryn Gehred  36:30 Oh, and when they say they asked her if she had any family, and she's like, I didn't remember if.

Amelia Golcheski  36:36 Yes, which you know, is great. Can you talk to me about the handsome young Unitarian person? Because I think there's something delightful about this. Oh my gosh,

Kathryn Gehred  36:51 Mr. Greenwood, handsome, young Unitarian parson. There actually probably is more about Greenwood. But I did not look up much about him. The fact that that she passed out she had a visit with a very handsome young Unitarian parson. And then she's in great distress at his thing.

Amelia Golcheski  37:09 Just feels like this poor gal. She's getting it all, you know, the mustard, the vinegar strange men. And she wakes up to this cutie. And then he's a Unitarian. He doesn't believe in the Trinity. That would knock her out yet again. She's been through it.

Kathryn Gehred  37:29 This is when she's really on a roll. She's talking about boys. She's talking about vinegar. She's joking. She's talking about screaming. And that's when she drops the swear word about Maria Goodwood witch, which I have never in my many years of reading 18th century documents. And I've read ones where they right burn this letter at the bottom, like a lot of those. She doesn't write that she's like, save this. This is gold,

Amelia Golcheski  37:55 your beautiful sister, save it. And I want everybody to know 200 years from now that that Maria Goodwin was a bitch. And someone who researches the women's movement and post women's movement, feminism and activism, like bitches all over that like that is a term that comes up quite a bit. And both the like, public, retake the term, take back the term use it differently. And some of those same people using that term about their colleagues. So it's very charming to be transported back to 1821. Where it's like, oh, at first I thought that word would not mean the same thing. I think it does. I think our girl Sarah is saying she does not like Maria Goodwin. Who is this? No good. Lady, Maria Goodwin, who got on Sarah's bedside.

Kathryn Gehred  39:04 See this is so funny, because I did absolutely no research into Mr. Greenwood. And I did so much research Annamaria

Amelia Golcheski  39:13 great. You picked the important part. I was looking

Kathryn Gehred  39:19 through historic newspapers. I was looking through the Baltimore directory of 1820. And I cannot find any mention of Maria, which is not unusual. It's normally men's names that appear in these things. So I was able to find a Thomas Pete Goodwin, who was in the commission business he advertised in the Baltimore Patriot quite a bit. But he died in February of 1820. So this might be a family member. There's not a lot of Goodwin's. There's possibly some relation to a Thomas P. Goodwin. It seems like it's somebody who is in business. It's not necessarily like an old Gentry family. But That's all I could find. So I don't know who Maria is, I can tell you that she doesn't appear in any of the other family letters. So it doesn't seem like perhaps she was paid any attention if she visited for

Amelia Golcheski  40:14 the I will never forgive you if you pay her meaning Maria Goodwyn any sort of attention if she goes to Virginia, like icing on cake, perfect. This is the drama we look for. Yes.

Kathryn Gehred  40:30 The fact that she describes it as a frolic though and like, yeah, you know exactly what's happening here. And all of this is brought on by her obstinacy that she's really going on and she gets so excited. She gets so wound up by writing that you can't even read her handwriting.

Amelia Golcheski  40:45 And like she will never have her own way again. No. Do we think Margaret or as I've been calling her mags is younger than Sarah.

Kathryn Gehred  40:58 I wish I knew, I wish I knew. But I could not find a single date with the Nicholas's. I always feel this, whenever I put this out in a podcast, there's some PhD, there's some Baltimore historian out there who's yelling at their computer right now. Because they're like, Well, of course, you should have looked at this source and found it, but I wasn't able to. So if you know, I love learning new things, please, please email me but be nice.

Amelia Golcheski  41:21 Please be nice. It's hard to tell what is heard. leaning into the story only and and two. Can you believe this? Here's a little hyperbole. But like to say, we lost about $30 worth of property by this frolic. I think these women really feel the weight of the financial precarity or insecurity, their father's debt has kind of landed them in? And what kind of options? Do they really have to alleviate that debt? I mean, yes, they could open schools, they could open the ends. But as you mentioned, they'd sacrifice some of their social standing, or any kind of last elitism that they're using as cultural capital. Which, if you don't have actual capital, and you're a woman who is not married, you're a woman who's in debt. You're a woman living with your mom. Like, what else do you have? Right? Do you sacrifice your cultural capital for you know, actual capital? I don't know. But it seems like this kind of tough predicament that, you know, young women have found themselves and yeah, like, I don't want to just dismiss this as like, kind of fun or frothy and like, oh, my gosh, can you believe a woman 1821 actually called another lady a bitch. Like, that's why I want to acknowledge that. And that, like, this tells us a lot about class and women's status and of the kind of limitations they have, by inheriting a heck of a lot of debt and living with their mom. This is an odd predicament that I bet, you know, 10 years before they never thought they'd find themselves in. Absolutely,

Kathryn Gehred  43:23 absolutely. You've summed up that letter better than I ever could. Amelia, thank you so much. That's true. That's what I love about these 18th century letters. There's always something richer than even in this like a silly story that happened. But look at the picture, it paints and look at what you can find out.

Amelia Golcheski  43:41 And do we have any sense of the scandal? She was going to discuss in the next letter. I mean, it feels like there's an Episode Part Two that needs to happen. I am

Kathryn Gehred  43:53 about to go through this database of just looking at some serif letters and see what I can find out because I need to find out the scandal. Thank you so much for coming on the show and talking to me about this. It's always a delight to talk with you.

Amelia Golcheski  44:07 Thank you for having me. It is always a delight to talk with you. And it's really a delight to get to talk about a source that is so entertaining and revealing. And wow, fun. This is a fun thing to read and discuss.

Kathryn Gehred  44:26 Thank you to the Thomas Jefferson Family Letters project for putting this online. These are freely available on the Monticello website that he put a ton of work into these and it's just a fabulous resource. So go check those out. For my listeners, I will link to the text of this letter in the show notes. Thank you so much for listening, and I am as ever your most obedient and humble servant. Thank you very much.

Kathryn Gehred  44:57 Your Most Obedient & Humble Servant is a production of R2 Studios at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. I'm Kathryn Gehred, the creator and host of this podcast. Jeanette Patrick and Jim Ambuske are the executive producers. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to listen to past episodes and check out more great podcasts from R2 Studios. We tell unexpected stories based on the latest research to connect listeners with the past. So head to R2 to start listening.

Amelia Golcheski Profile Photo

Amelia Golcheski

Amelia Golcheski is the CEO and Executive Director of the Cashiers Historical Society. She has over ten years of professional and educational experience and has honed her research, writing, and analytical skills to effectively communicate historical themes and content with a variety of audiences. She is working on a Ph.D. in History at Emory University. Her research examines the professionalization of women’s care labor in central Appalachia at the end of the 20th century.