New First Lady Document Identified

  This post is the first in the series "Documenting a First Lady" Conditioned as we are to the accessible and often voluminous correspondence of many early Americans, it frequently comes as a surprise to both the public and scholars to find out that there are fewer than a half-dozen surviving documents written by Elizabeth Kortright Monroe.  According to their daughter, Eliza Hay, James Monroe burned his wife’s correspondence following her death in 1830.  Such an act would not have been considered unusual by their contemporaries, as individuals of this era held a strongly defined sense of what constituted private, rather than public, correspondence. To historians, however, the five letters that currently constitute Elizabeth Monroe’s entire body of correspondence function as a tarnished mirror, allowing only fleeting and incomplete glimpses of this enigmatic First Lady.   For decades, only one letter in her handwriting was known to have survived.   Addressed … [Read more...]