Thursday, February 4, 2010

I Prefer my History with Breasts

The problem with being a history geek and a female is that it can get monotonous listening to lecture after lecture about what men did.

And what men said.

And where men fought.

So today's Banner lecture at the Virginia Historical Society was especially satisfying because it was all about an historical figure who did not stand to pee.

Dolley Madison: A Documentary was a combination lecture and partial viewing of a new PBS film (to be shown here in March) about an especially interesting female figure in American history, one who couldn't walk out of her house without finding ten men hanging around like a bad smell, hoping to catch her eye.

A woman who, although originally a Quaker, decided not only to marry outside her faith, but immediately started lowering her necklines to reveal more bosom and shoulder than was conventionally acceptable (a cousin sent her handkerchiefs and suggested she use them to shield her shelf from public view).

A woman, in other words, who made her own rules.

I suspect Dolley had strong pheromones, based on the gaggle of hopefuls and the passionate declarations of the shy and intellectual James Madison, already a political superstar, who spoke of the flames burning inside of him for her.

Not to mention his inability to think of anything else except her.

For a man presumed by all to remain a life-long bachelor, those are passionate words.

Come to think of it, those are passionate words coming from any guy.

But it was more than just the emotions she elicited in men.

Her far-sightedness in creating a White House for the people, right down to using only American-made furniture and, as her final act before fleeing the soon-to-be-burnt White House, taking down the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington lest it be marched through the streets of London as a symbolic war trophy, were brilliant and historical.

But then I've always believed that breasts give my sex an intellectual edge.

It's about time the history powers-that-be spread the word to the masses.


  1. I love Dolley Madison, too! I don't think there are any more female-focused lectures at the VHS for the rest of the year, though. Bummer.

  2. You'd think that for Women's History Month, the March lectures could have at least been female-centric. It's not like there aren't plenty of fascinating women in our history to choose from. Girl power!

  3. Didn't she used to be a pastry?

  4. Funny, that's one of the things the lecturer mentioned that people think of when you say Dolley Madison.

  5. Karen-
    The Virginia Historical Society is honored that you have been attending our Banner Lectures. Your observations about these events are very much appreciated. We would like to invite you in to have lunch with the speaker and some VHS staff before one of our upcoming lectures. Please call or email me so we can arrange the details.
    Jennifer Guild

  6. All these years I've been a history nerd and it never paid off in food! Thanks, Jennifer, for your invitation and yes!