The Queen of America
Mary Cutts's Life of Dolley Madison
Mary Cutts. Edited by Catherine Allgor. Foreword by Cokie Roberts
For biographers and fans of Dolley Payne Todd Madison, Mary Cutts's memoir of her famous aunt has been indispensable. Because Madison left behind no account of her life, the common assumption has been that Cutts’s account is the closest we have to Madison's autobiographical voice.
With this new, annotated transcription of both drafts of the memoir, The Queen of America offers scholars and general readers the first modern and contextualized version of this crucial piece of Founding-era biography. An opening essay by the acclaimed Dolley Madison biographer Catherine Allgor presents the memoir not only as a source for information on Madison herself, but also as a prime example of a nineteenth-century woman, Mary Cutts, making a bid for historical significance. Essays by Holly Shulman, editor of The Dolley Madison Digital Edition, and Montpelier research scholar Beth Taylor evaluate the historical uses and misuses of the document for understanding Dolley’s life and supply background information on Mary, the niece who fashioned Dolley Madison’s life into part of the historical record.
The questions raised by Cutts’s memoir are intriguing: Given that most of the story takes place before Cutts’s birth, whose voice are we hearing? What are we to make of the lies and omissions along the way? What family secrets is Cutts hiding, and whose are they? With Allgor as guide, we enter the fascinating world of nineteenth-century history in the making.
Insightful, engaging, and well-written, The Queen of America provides a brilliant examination of the meaning and limits of women's history.
The Queen of America reconstructs the earliest biography of Dolley Madison, written by a niece who probably heard her famous aunt tell her own stories. The editor and contributors evocatively place that memoir into the time of its creation—a time when cultural dictates obscured women's political activity rather than revealed it. This book offers an intimate glimpse into life-writing in nineteenth-century America.
Allgor is known nationally for her research about the role of women in American political history, particularly first ladies. She was appointed by President Barrack Obama to the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation Board of Trustees in 2011 and is an advisor to the National Women's History Museum. She is the author of "A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation" and "Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government."
Catherine Allgor, Professor of History and Presidential Chair at the University of California, Riverside, is the author of A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation and Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government (Virginia).