Nov. 21, 2023

Episode 45: You Must Not Complain Of My Silence

Episode 45: You Must Not Complain Of My Silence

Elizabeth Mason to Mary Barnes Mason, 3 March 1811. In which Elizabeth attempts to update her daughter Mary on the latest news from home while her family distracts her.

Elizabeth Mason to Mary Barnes Mason, 3 March 1811. In which Elizabeth attempts to update her daughter Mary on the latest news from home while her family distracts her. 

Elizabeth Mason to Mary Barnes Mason, George Town, 3 March 1811, George Mason’s Guntston Hall. 


Your Most Obedient & Humble Servant
Episode 45: “You Must Not Complain Of My Silence”
Published on November 21, 2023

Note: This transcript was generated by with light human correction


Kathryn Gehred  00:07
Hello, and welcome to Your Most Obedient & 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, Kathryn Gehred. This episode is part of our season on the theme of wit. Today, I am delighted to welcome Dr. Kate Steir. She is the museum curator at George Mason's Gunston Hall. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast, Kate.

Kate Steir  00:37
Thank you. I'm so happy to be here.

Kathryn Gehred  00:39
Kate and I actually met in the wilderness of the Adirondacks. Neither of us had master's degrees, and we were just having a really good time. We go way back

Kate Steir  00:51
When we were baby historians,

Kathryn Gehred  00:53
When we were baby historians, and then somehow both of us ended up in the 18th century.

Kate Steir  00:58
We met in the 19th century and we've just been going backward. Yeah.

Kathryn Gehred  01:04
I'm very excited to talk to Kate about this letter. Can you tell me a little bit about your work at Gunston Hall?

Kate Steir  01:13
Yeah, absolutely. So I am the curator at George Mason's Gunston Hall, which is now a public private partnership dedicated to preserving the physical building of George Mason's Gunston Hall, as well as 500 surrounding acres and using that, to interpret the political ideas of George Mason and the legacies going forward, as well as the ways in which those ideas both impacted and were impacted by all of the other people who lived at Gunston Hall, including members of the Mason family, and the people who were enslaved and indentured at the site.

Kathryn Gehred  01:56
Awesome. For my listeners who might need a refresher, can you tell us who George Mason is? And why is he important?

Kate Steir  02:04
Oh, absolutely. So George Mason was the primary drafter for the Virginia Declaration of Rights. And the Virginia Declaration of Rights is exciting for people outside of Virginia, because it was really the first state constitution to lay out a Bill of Rights. And so a lot of the ideas in there and some of the language got copied into first other state constitutions and ultimately, into the national Bill of Rights itself.

Kathryn Gehred  02:40
So was he one of the guys who went to the College of William and Mary and was very enlightenment heavy? Or how did he get his philosophies?

Kate Steir  02:50
He was pretty much self taught. His father died in a boating accident at a very early age. And so George was raised primarily by his uncle, John Mercer, who was a bit of a character who was a trained lawyer and had one of the biggest libraries in certainly in Virginia, and perhaps in the colonies. And so, young George had access to all of these books. And one of the books we have in our collection, actually is his copy of John Locke's Two Treatises on Government that he signed and dated when he got it and he was 17.

Kathryn Gehred  03:29

Kate Steir  03:30
So he wasn't at William and Mary, he didn't really like traveling, but he was sitting and thinking about deep enlightenment thoughts.

Kathryn Gehred  03:39
Interesting.He was a moody, John Locke teen.

Kate Steir  03:44
Oh, deeply, deeply.

Kathryn Gehred  03:48
What do you think is the most important thing that you think more people should know about George Mason and Gunston Hall?

Kate Steir  03:54
That is an excellent question. I think, for me, one of the things that I think is so powerful about George Mason is that he had a lot of different ideas, some of which were really widely adopted in the Declaration of Rights, and some of which were not so widely adopted, for example, he was at the Constitutional Convention, saying things like, we shouldn't have a president at all. And there should be a triumvirate that decides things. And so I think he's a really interesting example of how many different ideas were floating around during these sorts of framing debates around a lot of our central documents, either at the state or the national level. And that there were a whole lot of ideas in the mix. And people didn't necessarily agree with one another even at that time, or we're speaking with one voice. And he is also one of these figures, who wrote wrote really eloquently about freedoms. And he did also enslaved people. And that sort of something he was very conflicted about. He seemed to think that that was an overall negative thing. And yet his sort of personal life shows not a lot of action on that particular ethical stance. So I think he's a really interesting figure, for those reasons, kind of politically. Yeah.

Kathryn Gehred  05:33
I think it's interesting when we're trying to look into like, what would the founders think on anything? And it's like, yeah, which founder? What year? What time? It's an impossible question, that that's gonna be your standard of how we're gonna make decisions. We're in trouble.

Kate Steir  05:48
I kind of find him to be really fascinating for that reason. He got along with some people sometimes other times, not so much. He had 17 objections to the Constitution, when to the convention, by the end disliked it so much. He refused to sign it.

Kathryn Gehred  06:05
Love that for him.

Kate Steir  06:06
Yeah. Oh, yeah. See, he comes up with a Bill of Rights and then is like, no, because they wouldn't put it in. Fair, why bother at that point?

Kathryn Gehred  06:18
All right, well, awesome. But enough with these men? Oh, yeah. Let's talk about this letter. This one you sent me. It's a very sweet letter. Thank you for sharing it. We're gonna be talking about one from Elizabeth Mason to Mary Barnes Mason, and give me a little introduction.

Kate Steir  06:35
Yeah, absolutely. So one of the things also to let you know about the Mason family and our collection at Gunston Hall, is that in subsequent generations, there were two house fires. So we don't have the level of documentation that, say, George Washington or Thomas Jefferson does. And I think it's also to me really striking thinking about this is still sort of a Virginia gentry family. This is still a group of people who were literate in this family and who were sort of conversing with other families who are pretty well preserved in terms of their documents, and there's still so much we don't know. And there's still so many things lost. So we don't have anything written by any women who lived at Gunston Hall during their time at constant Hall, which is really fascinating to me. And so this is the earliest letter actually, that we have in our collection written by a woman. And it's 1811. And I also have to give a shout out to our collections technician Ed Quigley, who's actually a George Mason student for doing a lot of work in the database to navigate all of the Elizabeth Mason's to make sure that we're talking about the right one, because they reuse names in this family. This Elizabeth Mason married one of George Mason's nephews, and she is writing in this letter to her daughter, who we don't know the exact age but was probably about 11 years old, and seems to have left home to kind of study out of school, perhaps, for the first time.

Kathryn Gehred  08:15
Oh, I didn't realize Mary was so young.

Kate Steir  08:17
So she's probably about 11.

Kathryn Gehred  08:18
Yeah, that's cute. All right. So she's just left home to go to school. And where is that school?

Kate Steir  08:26
So it says George Town, which is another thing that I found interesting. I can't officially confirm this. But my suspicion is that means she was at Georgetown visitation, which is an all girls Catholic Preparatory School in the neighborhood of Georgetown and associated convent. This family was not Catholic. Although George Mason, his second wife was Catholic, they kind of different stages had really close associations with a lot of especially in the Maryland, sort of really well known Catholic families. There seems to be something interesting religiously going on with this family as well. Some of their children were baptized Lutheran, some of them Episcopal. So some questions there. But it wouldn't be unreasonable. The family did have a house at Georgetown, and they moved kind of into the suburbs after this couple started having their children. And by suburbs, I mean fairly far out in Maryland, especially at that time. And so it might be reasonable for them to send children to be educated at visitation, they would have known that school in that neighborhood. And also by that period, it was a place that some of these kind of Virginia DC area reasonably well connected families might send girls, even if they weren't Catholic themselves.

Kathryn Gehred  09:49
Cool. Interesting. I guess it's 1811. It's a little later. I'm so stuck in the 1700s with like Thomas Jefferson trying to find out how to educate his daughters or I was like, Yeah, Catholic school in France. It makes sense but in Maryland,

Kate Steir  10:02
Yeah, Georgetown visitation is kind of interesting too. I know for example, I used to work at Tudor place historic house and garden in Georgetown, which was a house owned and built by the Peter family who the first woman in that couple was George Washington step granddaughter. And so when you get to Washington step, great granddaughter of the three girls, the two sort of older girls got to go to Philadelphia, and the youngest daughter went to visitation. You can see both the development of more and more girls education in the kind of DC area but you can also see maybe a sentence of like, were going to a DC school versus a Philadelphia or New York school kind of fits in socio economically as well as politically

Kathryn Gehred  10:54
Interesting. All right, so let's dive into the letter.

Kate Steir  10:58
Happy to do that.

Elizabeth Mason to Mary Barnes Mason at Mr. Bronaugh’s George Town.
Montpelier, March 3rd 1811

My dear Mary

You must not complain of my silence and as you suppose, neglect. You know, mary, how much I have to attend to and how little time I have to call my own, but latterly I have been making a act of shirts for your father, while they were on hand I could rarely take time to eat, but last night I made a finish of them, and now I shall devote a little time to my Mary.

In the first place we are all well, Elizabeth I think will take to the mountains very soon if she is not taken into custody, she is the wildest child in the world, we have not yet determined on sending her to Georgetown. She often talks of you and wishes very much to see you. Barnes has grown very much. He has like Elizabeth left the house but is not quite so crazy as she is. He often talks of you and very often sends for you. He sometimes sets off himself to bring you home. He is now standing by me asking questions and telling me a great deal to say to you. Little Ann is a sweet little girl. She talks a great deal, not a word understood by any person but Minta (she pretends to know what she says.) Minta thanks you for the calico you sent her. In return she has sent you a bag of walnuts. She desired you will not forget her cap border you promised to work for her.

I have given up the thoughts of visiting you in the spring but have not given up the pleasure of seeing you. You are to come home at Easter. I must get the favor of your uncle Temple to bring you up in the Stage but your Father says you are to stay only one week at home. I am very anxious to see you and wish most sincerely that the time had already come. It gives me great pleasure to hear of your industry and attention at school. Continue so my dear child that you may the sooner return to us for I really cannot part with you more than one more year.

Remember me very kindly to Mrs. McCarty. Mr & Mrs. Bronaugh tell them I shall expect the pleasure of seeing them this summer and shall be much disappointed if they do not come. Tell them I have two very pleasant rooms ready for them. Mr. La Trepellien has been with us all the winter, he talks of returning to Leesburg soon, he has net a trimming for your Toilette. While he was netting he often said “Mary does not think of me and knows not that I am working for her.” Your fathers sister and Brother desires their love to you. Minta and every servant belonging to the farm send their love to you, write to me as soon as you receive this and let me know what you are doing at school.

God bless you. Your sister Ann requires a little of my attention, for the present I must bid you

Adieu, remember me to Rebecca Goll.

Elizabeth Mason

Kathryn Gehred  14:25
Lovely. Thank you. It's just so cute. Now knowing that she's writing to an 11 year old, she's keeping it simple. But to me this feels like a letter that an educated woman wrote. For the most part. The grammar is pretty good. Like there's some sort of spelling issues. I think she spells lately like laterally and things like that. But for the most part, this comes across as textbook family letter.

Kate Steir  14:48
Yeah, absolutely. I would agree with that.

Kathryn Gehred  14:51
I noticed that she titles it from Montpelier. Do you know where that is?

Kate Steir  14:55
Yeah, so that was the name that her husband, John. On Thompson Mason gave to his home. I'm not sure the scale of it, but I think we can call it a plantation. She calls it a farm. And they certainly had people who were enslaved there in Maryland after they moved out of DC. And I think it's a really interesting name, given that George Mason didn't always get along particularly well with James Madison. So I think that's really fascinating. And also that Madison often gets the kind of father of the Bill of Rights billing, essentially, because George Mason got sort of so grumpy about not signing the Constitution, because there was no bill of rights that he kind of doesn't get the credit for it nationally. So I think there's something really interesting going on in the naming, but that is interesting. It was a choice.

Kathryn Gehred  15:50
It's not like little Gunston Hall

Kate Steir  15:53

Kathryn Gehred  15:54
I like this letter, because you can really feel the atmosphere that she wrote it in. You can tell she's in a room where these kids are, because people are like interrupting her and asking her to add things. And there's an enslaved woman. Minta is watching the kids. But people are still talking to her. And when she sort of pauses when she has the bit where she talks about Minta and saying that she sent you a bag of walnuts. It's this little scene where she's writing a letter and people are like, What are you doing? And she's like, Oh, I'm writing to Mary. And everybody's like, Oh, tell her this. Tell her this. Tell her this. Much. I just love that just like brings a little scene from a team 11 to life for me.

Kate Steir  16:34
Yeah, there's a lot of movement and a lot of characters. And I feel like I've read a lot of letters that seem very sort of stately and organized. And this one is sort of, like spurts of energy as all these different people are trying to get in on it.

Kathryn Gehred  16:52
Yeah, exactly. Which is like so feminine and someone who's managing a house and raising kids. That's the best you can do. That just struck me rereading this. I thought that was kind of sweet. Also, I do like that. She says that George is telling her things to add. doesn't add what George?

Kate Steir  17:11
Yeah. Also, Barnes

Kathryn Gehred  17:13
a Barnes Barnes. Sorry. I said George, Barnes is telling her. Starting sort of at the beginning, she says she's making so many shirts, she could rarely take time to eat, what is going on?

Kate Steir  17:24
And also, what is the time crunch on these shirts?

Kathryn Gehred  17:29
She says active shirts, but is that like a count of shirts? Put on like a how many shirts? What is happening?

Kate Steir  17:35
It's baffling. I don't know. So like, how long has it been since she's written? Because like things were getting lost in the mail. So the idea that it's been so long that she thinks her child feels neglected? I don't know.

Kathryn Gehred  17:52
I'm sorry, small child off to boarding school. There's so many shirts to make you know how it is?

Kathryn Gehred  18:01
Well, I'm glad that that was a little bit baffling to you as well. Yeah. Because also, that's another thing that somebody who's a white woman owns enslaved people, that seems like a job that she would have the enslaved staff take care of. But is she making these shirts herself? Is she just supervising it and complaining about it? I just wasn't sure exactly was going on there.

Kate Steir  18:19
I was curious about that. That's such a good question. And it's interesting to me also, because the only person that she names she talks about this larger group of enslaved people, sort of as one voice sending well wishes to marry which again, you know, I have some questions about but the only person she names as Minta, which makes me again, kind of wonder about their relationship. Are there other people who are enslaved in the house? Or is Minta sort of doing this work? And the other people who are enslaved at Montpelier have other skills? Is it mostly men? I mean, I just don't know the answer to these things. And I looked, I did not find a will for either Elizabeth were for her husband. I found these sort of 1960s and 70s descriptions of the family who talk about them having a great seat and sort of living as gentleman. One thing I do kind of wonder about is this is the wife of one of George Mason's nephews, so not the child of an oldest son. And I know that George Mason and actually his mother and Thompson, were deeply concerned about the family money supporting all of the children and kind of worked to make sure that they all got things but I do kind of wonder if they're maybe members of the gentry, by sort of association Perhaps more than wealth, I know that Elizabeth's husband worked as an attorney. But again, I don't know how much of that was because he was passionate about the law. And that was, you know, a thing that educated men did. And how much of that was also that he was working for wages to support this lifestyle. Right? I truly can't tell you that interesting.

Kathryn Gehred  20:24
When she's describing the kids, she is very funny. I'm glad you picked this for wit. As for the way she describes what is clearly a small child, she says, I will take to the mountains very soon as she's not taken into custody. I like this. I like this little hill raiser.

Kate Steir  20:42
To me it was so interesting, because I've been thinking a lot about girl hood throughout time and sort of expectations of what little girls were like. And so to have the sort of wild child running about in the mountains threatening to be taken into custody,

Kathryn Gehred  21:01
She literally been like arrest.

Kate Steir  21:04
I'm not entirely sure, but I think that's a really reasonable reading.

Kathryn Gehred  21:08
Oh, that's so funny.

Kate Steir  21:09
Yeah, I did the math on this. Elizabeth's about eight contacts. So like, really, at that

Kathryn Gehred  21:18
All of the damage that she's causing? Do we know much about Elizabeth and her future life does she end up being a wild woman in the mountain

Kate Steir  21:27
She does not end up being a wild woman in the mountains, she ends up getting married, not having a terribly unusual life so far as I could tell for a woman have this kind of upper upper middling, social class, there's only one letter I was able to find that we have that was written by Elizabeth, since about seven years later when she's a teenager. And it has a very vivid description of her youngest brother weaning, and also includes some words for breasts that I'm pretty sure I can't say on a podcast. Which I was like shocked to find,

Kathryn Gehred  22:07

Like, does she say Bubbies?

Kate Steir  22:08
Oh, no, she does not. That I think I can say on the podcast. That is the closest I could find to either confirming or denying her wild nature.

Kathryn Gehred  22:20
Oh, I love that.

Kate Steir  22:23
It's a different letter. But it's also very enjoyable, because she sort of sits down. It's like, I don't know what to say. I guess I'll start by talking about mom's breasts.

Kathryn Gehred  22:32
How old is Barnes at this point?

Kate Steir  22:34
He's four.

Kathryn Gehred  22:36
That's cute.

Kate Steir  22:37
They're so young for the way that this mother is describing them also and like what they want and how they're expressing themselves. It also is kind of striking to me in terms of like, what did child look like? Yeah, yeah. This four year old is very articulate. He's telling her things.

Kathryn Gehred  22:57
That's really cute. And I like the little and mentor. Joking and babbles and Minta pretends to understand it, because that is like humor that translates to this day. So about Minta? Do we know much I know, it's tough to find sources about enslaved people that work at plantations like this. But do we know much about Minta and her life?

Kate Steir  23:17
We don't. But and that was one of the things that I found really interesting about this letter, because I can try to infer maybe some things about her from the way that she's interacting with these children. But that's really sort of all that I certainly have on her.

Kathryn Gehred  23:38
I definitely got she's the enslave sort of nurse, Nanny caretaker person, just from how she's interacting with the kids. Maybe she had other roles. I'm always interested to know more about this.

Kate Steir  23:52
Yeah, absolutely. And one of the things that I was wondering about is her own family situation. I don't have any information about that. I can tell from the other letter that Elizabeth nursed the children herself. But I don't know if that's true for all children. I don't know if Minta was also serving as a wet nurse in other circumstances for an perhaps, although again, I do know that later on, Elizabeth was breastfeeding by at least some of the younger children. But I don't know if mentor had children of her own. I don't know how much older than, you know, say Elizabeth she was or excuse me, older than Mary. She was things I'd like to know. But things that I also even the questions raised, I think, good ways of thinking about this early 19th century period. Yeah.

Kathryn Gehred  24:43
I did enjoy them into paid for her Calico with walnuts, and that Mary was going to like so her cat boarder. And so it's like, they don't have access to like a lot of money, but they're just sort of like bartering with each other for things. I thought that was interesting.

Kate Steir  24:55
Yeah. And it's also really interesting in terms of I mean, there's the relationship of slavery mediating this relationship. And then there's also like care, the fact that Minta is at least taking care of the younger siblings. But the implication, and I don't think I'm reading too much into this to say seems to be for Mary as well, or at least sort of being this kind of maternal figure in the household in some ways. And then there's also this kind of like economic exchange happening at the same time. And these are things that don't always like map so easily from one on to the other. And I found that really, really fascinating.

Kathryn Gehred  25:40
I had a conversation about Phyllis Wheatley, about how sometimes it can be hard for people to imagine moments in enslaved people's lives where they could be experiencing joy. And I think, sort of similarly difficult to imagine the type of economic things that happen to on a plantation where it's like, she's paying for something with walnuts, but she herself has like the same legal capacity as the walnuts. But the fact of the matter is that all of these people are humans, and that humans need to, like, interact with each other in a certain way. And so yes, somebody is going to, like pay for something with something, and like, do favors for each other. It's just the way that things ended up happening. Mary, so to recap border, and she paid her back for it and walnuts, and it was just the way that that exchange happened.

Kate Steir  26:25
Yeah absolutely. And that it doesn't change the fact that Minta was trapped in this kind of larger structure where whatever relationship she had with even these children who she was taking care of, could ultimately make decisions.

Kathryn Gehred  26:46
For her that impacted her life that she had sort of very little legal recourse someday this kid could get married, and you could be a wedding gift, because you got along so well. And you've got zero control over that.

Kate Steir  27:00
Exactly. And that is happening. And also Minta is a person and has a joke with a baby, because you got to do something with your day.

Kathryn Gehred  27:16
It's this horrible situation. Everybody says unusual institution. But it really was like it was such a bizarre institution.

Kate Steir  27:24
Well, and also just like, the kind of forced intimacy of these relationships, to be in a home with someone else, day after day, just it forces, conversations, it forces, eye contact, all of these things that aren't written than we don't see. But that make up the kind of textures of these relationships that are going on. At the same time, as an incredibly oppressive system that both people are participating in one person is benefiting from beautifully put,

Kathryn Gehred  28:06
I have such a hard time articulating this, but I think you put that rather well.

Kate Steir  28:09
It's genuinely hard every time I think about it so hard to talk about, because it's so hard to understand. And especially because we're sort of talking about, again, a lifetime worth of one person's experience. Also, in this case, who we know very little about, and kind of filling that in with what we know, from other people. It's really tricky. And I think in some ways, you know, a letter like this also helps to show kind of what that looks like.

Kathryn Gehred  28:38
Yeah, its like, putting you in the room a little bit.

Kate Steir  28:40
I'm kind of wondering if Mint is making a joke about how much she knows about the baby talking? Is the joke for her. Is the joke, something she's sharing with someone? Is it at the expense of one of these other family people? I don't know.

Kathryn Gehred  28:56
That is a great point. Because you do like you get to know that's the parenting thing, right? It's like everybody understands their own toddler, but maybe the moms not with a toddler long enough to understand the babbling bit. Yeah.

Kate Steir  29:07
I don't know. I just find that relationship really, really fascinating. And I'm kind of curious that if Mintaka was writing this letter, how she would describe it. Yes.

Kathryn Gehred  29:17
That's so interesting. I like her. She's like, you're coming home for Easter.

Kate Steir  29:24
But only for a week.

Kathryn Gehred  29:28
She's gonna forget the carriages and stuff, but she clearly misses her. That's sweet. And I'll bet like at 11 Like she's probably somebody that's like her little buddy. It seems to me like Mary's her little buddy.

Kate Steir  29:38
That's one of the things that I found so interesting about this too. Like, one of the things I'm really interested in is sort of life cycles and how all of these people are, you know who they are, but that kind of changes at different moments in time. And 11 kind of on the early cut. of adolescence. But there's something about this letter that's like, almost written to a friend. I think you assumed she was older, I kind of did as well. And this to me is sort of an early moment of recognition from a parent of Yeah, sort of almost like this kind of adult tennis. Definitely. Yeah.

Kathryn Gehred  30:22
And she said she's glad she's doing well at school. Having been in the Washington papers world for such a long time. I almost never read a letter for somebody who's doing well at school. People being yelled at. So that was cute.

Kate Steir  30:35
Yeah, I mean, I haven't seen any of her transcripts. I have seen a good amount of like school girl dig who pause from this period. But not Mary's, specifically, school girl.

Kathryn Gehred  30:48
She sort of ends the letter classically with like, say hi to this person, say hi to this person, this person says, Hi, do you have that thing? Do we know who Mr. letra Pelion is?

Kate Steir  31:00
I don't, I have so many questions about him. He's such a striking figure.

Kathryn Gehred  31:05
I just pictured him working and being like, dramatic. Mary does not think of me and knows not working for. I don't know what's going on there. But I get a kick out of it. Yeah, another character I wish I knew more about. And then she sort of closes it abruptly as like, well, and requires a little of my attention. Goodbye, say hi to these people. Goodbye. Yep, I've got a baby. That's uh, she had exactly however much time she had to write that letter. And that was it.

Kate Steir  31:40
And that's why barns and comments are not going in.

Kathryn Gehred  31:43
What made you pick this letter, like I know, it's like, tough to find a woman member of the Mason family letter for one thing. But when you found this one, what struck you about it that you wanted to talk about it.


Kate Steir  31:54
We were talking about the theme of this season, being wiot. And there are so many good jokes in here. And also, in particular, I was thinking today about, it's really hard to be witty by yourself, you know, like, it's almost always a performance for someone. And the idea that this is such a kind of private, witty performance. It's like a very sort of cozy domestic letter. And yet, there are all these ways that humor both makes it come alive, but also kind of mediates the relationships between all of these different characters who emerge, and also helps me imagine my way a little bit more into what some of the other figures that Elizabeth is writing about could be thinking or why they're behaving in the ways they are.

Kathryn Gehred  32:44
I love that. It's like a sweet, little perfect little family letter, obviously, with the background of slavery complicating things completely, but it's a little window in time, which is what I always like about these. And what would you say is significant about this letter and these people in particular?

Kate Steir  33:03
Yeah, I think it's also to me, they're kind of that this interesting transitional stage. This is, you know, early 19th century. This is a period where I hear sort of a lot of ideas about motherhood, and the valor of this kind of new American women, the role that enslaved women played alongside this new ideal of motherhood. And there's something about the sort of busyness and intimacy, and kind of like messiness of what these family relationships actually looked like, as told through this letter that I really, really appreciate. And sort of all of it coming out at this little microcosm of this very busy room in Maryland somewhere.

Kathryn Gehred  33:52
That's awesome. Yeah, that's perfect. Kate, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. To my listeners, I will link to the citation of this letter. And you should all go visit Gunston Hall because it's fabulous. And as ever, I am your most obedient and humble servant. Thank you very much.

Kathryn Gehred  34:19
Your Most Obedient & Humble Servant is a production of R2 Studios at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New mMedia 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. 

Dr. Kate Steir Profile Photo

Dr. Kate Steir

Dr. Kate Steir is a curator, educator, and public historian specializing in the histories of material culture and slavery. She is the museum curator of George Mason’s Gunston Hall.