American Presidents





James Madison American Presidents Teacher Guide

A Discussion on Dolley Madison
April 9, 1999 on C-SPAN
Recommended Use:
Secondary or College Level

Holly Cowan Shulman, Visiting Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland, leads a discussion on the wife of the fourth US President.



Before Viewing American Presidents on C-SPAN
Discuss the following with students: Traditionally, what are the roles and duties of women, especially married women in our society? How have these roles changed over time? What are the roles and responsibilities of the first lady, the spouse of the president? Point out to students that the office of president of the United States encompasses both the ceremonial duties of a head of state and the official duties of the chief executive. How might both of the presidentís "jobs" impact the role of the first lady?

Are the first ladyís responsibilities written down? What is the source of these duties? How has the first ladyís role changed over time? What is the current first lady known for? Have students share information they know about other first ladies. What are some ways a first lady may influence the president? What kind of influence can first ladies have in their own rights?

Have students review the roles of a first lady, and create a list of personal attributes that a successful first lady would have.

Define and discuss the importance of these (suggested as particularly noteworthy in Dolley Madison) and other attributes:

  • Hospitable
  • Gracious
  • Conciliatory


While Viewing American Presidents on C-SPAN
Part I
Directions: Explain how the following circumstances contributed to Dolley Madisonís success as a first lady according to information presented by Ms. Shulman.

a. President Thomas Jefferson was a widower.

b. President Thomas Jefferson was eager to establish a republican society.

c. Washington, D.C. was a small, undeveloped city without an established society.


Part II
Directions: Ms. Shulman states that Dolley Madisonís reputation rests on three of her achievements. Describe her achievements by identifying the old standard of behavior or norm, and the way in which her actions set a new standard.

a. Decorating the White House
Old standard:New standard:
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b. Courage during the War of 1812
Old standard:New standard:
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c. Role as Hostess
Old standard:New standard:
______________________
______________________
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Part III
Directions: Identify the sources of the following quotes. Explain the context of the quote and what it indicates about Dolley Madisonís achievements as a first lady.

a. "The profusion of my table so repugnant to foreign customs arises from the happy circumstances of abundance and prosperity in our country."
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b. "Those who aspire to distinguished gallantry do not appear in boots."
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c. "I am not the least alarmed [at the British armyís approach on Washington, DC during the War of 1812.]"
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After Viewing American Presidents on C-SPAN
As a class, discuss the following questions: What sources does Ms. Shulman use to support her arguments? Which sources are from Dolley Madisonís "public life"? Which are from her "private life"? What did Ms. Shulman mean when she said that Dolley Madison had created a "third world" beyond her public and private life? What was the significance of this third world?

How did Dolley Madison challenge conventional behaviors? Why? Do you believe that her behavior was remarkable? In what way? In what ways did her personality contribute to her success as a first lady? In what ways did the time and place she lived in contribute to her success?

Write a short essay in which you take and defend a position on the following statement: Dolley Madisonís success as a first lady paralleled the success of the new republic. Provide evidence to support your statement from resources including the C-SPAN program and the American Presidents web site.



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