Be like Eliza….

I’ve never found history boring and have found the more one learns, the more there is always to learn. (The same can be said of science and other “subjects”, or areas of learning. Yes, math is included in this.)

Last night, even with a hockey playoff game going on in the background, I finished Tilar Mazzeo’s work Eliza Hamilton.  Eliza’s life was a Shakespearean type drama and Greek tragedy rolled into one. Eliza was born into the Schuyler family of New York, who were cousins to the Rensselaer family. Does this name sound familiar? Eliza’s father, Phillip, fought in the Revolutionary War and was one of George Washington’s top generals. This is how she came to meet Alexander Hamilton.

Mazzeo divulges into Eliza’s life before and after Hamilton and how her life afterwards was always under his shadow. Mazzeo also goes into how history isn’t always what we think it is and there is always much more to each story given. Mazzeo goes deeply into the Maria Reynolds affair: did it really happen and was it a cover up for something else going on? The whitewashed history books don’t talk about people’s fiances and back door dealings that all of the Founding Fathers partook in. Mazzeo’s biography of Eliza is only the third of fourth book I’ve read that tackles this subject. The two best history teachers I had were the only ones who discussed this and Hamilton’s link to the Crash of 1792.

Eliza not only lost Alexander in a duel. Her oldest son, also Phillip, was killed in a duel shortly before Alexander was. Eliza dealt with situations and events most people could not picture today yet she survived and preserved what she wanted to preserve of Alexander’s legacy. Eliza also took her grief and made it into something positive.

Be like Eliza.

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Ladies We Don’t Know

I just finished reading the book First Women by Kate Anderson Brower.

Ms. Brower begins with Jackie Kennedy and ends with Michelle Obama.  I love the way she weaves their lives in and out of each others’ stories and has quite a few amazing tidbits to tell about each one (for those of us who don’t keep up with the gossip columns).

I’m picky about history and biography books.  I hate fluff stuff and I hate gossip stuff.  I don’t care Nancy Reagan had an astrologer.  Whatever floats your boat.  This narrative stays away from the negative and focuses on the positives and the real-life relationships each First Lady had with her husband, the staff, her family, and the people around her.

I know some people who worship the First Lady and the mystique.  However, Ms. Brower does an excellent job of going behind the mystique and looks at each woman with a critical eye.

This book is appropriate for middle school and up.  Yes, there are references to some of the Presidents’ extra-marital activities but nothing worse than what cable TV shows.  Again, written very nicely and handled professionally.

This book shows a very different side of a small chunk of modern history.  It’s a relatively easy read.  A great book for some relaxing reading.

National Biography Day

Today, Monday, May 16, 2016 is National Biography Day.

What is your story?  What do you want people to know about you?

What is your favorite biography?  Who do you like to read about?

I had a coworker many years ago who told me she only read biographies.  The reasoning was that she actually gained inspiration and insight from them.  She told me she also learned a lot about famous people, people she didn’t know about, and a lot of unknown history as well.

As a small business owner, one piece of advice I have read over and over is to read biographies of famous people, especially business people.

Many people have truly amazing backgrounds and it is quite amazing how they came to be famous, or infamous.

After Abraham Lincoln, the most striking biographies I have ever read are those on Andrew Johnson, his successor after Lincoln was murdered.  Johnson truly climbed from the bottom to the top even though he set the United States back many decades after the Civil War and in some respects this country has never truly recovered.

Harry Truman is another fascinating person with an amazing biography.

My favorite biographer is David McCullough.

Who is yours?

Book Review: Abigail Adams by Woody Holton

Yes, even Abigail Adams fought the man, as we would say today, even though one of the men was her own husband, John Adams, second President of the United States, and so was her son, John Quincy Adams, third President of the United States.

There are many “aha”moments reading this book: why we never hear about her except the “don’t forget the ladies” comment.  She wrote and wrote and wrote prolific letters for a person today we would consider “undereducated.”  She read the classics to her children when they were young: six, seven, eight years old.  And I don’t mean the classics we call classics today: the classics from the worlds of Greece and Rome.  Even though not allowed to have property, she ran a business, a farm, and assisted her husband.

Abigail Adams thought for herself.

Even in death she gave all of her property to female heirs because she knew they would never get anything besides what she gave them.  How is that for recompense?

This book shows and shares a side of a person who everyone should know about.  Yes, people probably malign her but she was a product of her society and its’ beliefs.  However, she went above and beyond and lit the candle for the rest of us.

If Abigail can do it, we can do it.