Washington Mythology

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A major booby trap for a Washington biographer is the proud belief that “George Washington slept here.” When a neophyte, I would benevolently inform hostesses that Washington had never been within a hundred miles of the place, and then (metaphorically) 1 would have to flee for my life. Now I smile and say nothing. Members of old Southern families outdo Northern claims that Washington slept somewhere by confiding that their ancestresses refused Washington’s proposals of marriage.

Perhaps the ultimate myth has been confided to me by two Southern blue-bloods, altogether independently of each other: Martha, the story goes, had revealed to one of their forebears that George Washington was a woman. A probable source for this can be ascertained: during the Revolution the Tory press teased the rebels by printing that Washington had been seen unawares wearing petticoats.