In reviewing Martha Saxton’s new book The Widow Washington: The Life of Mary Washington for the Washington Post, Marjoleine Kars, who teaches history at the University of Maryland, noted the challenges in writing about George Washington’s mother. She wrote that it was a task successfully met by Saxton, Professor of History and Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies and Elizabeth W. Bruss Reader, Emerita.
“Saxton’s task proved challenging as Mary left no journal and few letters. But by piecing together and reinterpreting insights from family correspondence, from the books Mary treasured and especially from her eldest son’s obsessive records, Saxton creates a sensitive and plausible, if at times speculative, picture that richly evokes Mary’s interior life and the world of a slaveholding widow and planter in 18th-century Virginia,” Kars wrote.
She concluded, “In Saxton’s able hands, Mary Washington’s story vividly illuminates the role white women played in the creation and transmission of wealth in early America, the frictions that patriarchal inheritance created between mothers and sons, and the tremendous price paid by the enslaved people who made much of Virginia’s wealth possible.”