Written by Nancy Moser
“First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.” This is the most famous tribute to George Washington, the father of our country. The greatness of Washington consisted not only in that he was first, but that he was first out of patriotism rather than ambition. Mount Vernon drew his heart far more than the presidency.
Martha, Washington’s lady, wanted Virginia, too, with home and family. But she followed her husband to Philadelphia, just as she had once followed him to winter camp* year after year. She was at Valley Forge. Throughout the war Martha Washington was crucial in upholding the morale of the Continental Army. She was crucial in upholding its commander-in-chief.
In Washington’s Lady Nancy Moser tells the story of Martha Washington. This is, of course, a historical novel, so I’ll start with the historicity of it. Facts are woven into the book – sometimes broadly, such as the oppressiveness of England’s rule that Americans could trade only with her, and sometimes more narrowly, such as the help of the Oneida Indians. There are parts of the account that are not really detailed. Whole years of the Revolutionary War can pass in several pages.
Washington’s Lady is not about the war so much as it’s about, well, Washington’s lady. It is also written first-person, from her viewpoint, and its perspective is limited where hers was. We hear about the 1779-1780 winter in MorristownMorisstown, and far away from Bunker Hill. – at least as bad as Valley Forge, though much more obscure – but Bunker Hill is hardly mentioned. Martha Washington was in
So how does Nancy Moser do in telling Martha Washington’s story? Very well. Martha suffered great loss in her life. She outlived two husbands, five siblings, and all her children. Moser brings her readers into a struggle toward faith, toward life – through all that stood in the way, war and death and sorrow. We are led through Martha Washington’s disappointments, her flaws, love, trials, and dedication to her husband, family, and the Cause.
Nancy Moser uses British spelling, and sometimes she uses words in an old-fashioned way. At one point George Washington says that the colonists cannot back down unless they receive consolation from England.
The story of the American Revolution is an amazing one, and George and Martha Washington were deep in the middle of it. As Nancy Moser illustrates, their lives reflected in a way that struggle – courage, sacrifice, and the ultimate dream of living in peace beneath their own vine and fig tree.
* During the winter months fighting traditionally stalled, usually stopping altogether. Wives would sometimes join the army at its winter camp, returning home when the weather warmed and warfare started again.