What was going on here? 'For his official hostess, Jefferson relied on the wife of his secretary of state, the enthusiastic Dolley Madison.'

 

This is how it came about. Her husband and I were discussing something and it was only a few weeks before the arrival of an Italian delegation of Royalty and Dolley had an important question.

She wanted to know who was establishing the protocol for meeting the Italian Delegates because they were the first Royalty to visit the United States since it had formed.

I said, 'It wasn't that important as we were all equals and the Italians knew to expect it. That wasn't what Dolley meant. She said 'That's OK for men, you can just pretend you are on a hunt and extend it for the rest of the time but it does not work that way for women.'

She was right about the hunt. When hunting with Royalty everyone is the same. It does little good for a Duke to think that he can step in front of an Earl to take a shot because his status is higher than an Earl. Many things can go wrong and in fact in some countries it was the other way around, a Earl was higher than a Duke. You can easily see how the rulers from different countries could go on a hunt together and end up at war with each other. It nearly happened several times when and Duke stepped in front of an Earl to take a shot.

Maybe I am confused about the titles involved but many of the titled people also got confused and there were a few that ended up dead on the ground because they were confused as to rank. I think there were wars long ago that got started this way. So it was often decided ahead of time that on a hunt 'all men were created equal' so that nobody got killed.

Now on this matter of women's rights I was certain Dolly was correct about the female part although I didn't understand it. She was almost always right about everything.

She said, 'We need to establish a lot of things. Am I expected to bow or will a curtsey suffice?'

She had me on that one. Suddenly I didn't know what I was going to do. These were the first Royally to visit us. Before then European royalty thought we were savages who would chop off their heads and send them home in a barrel, so every Royal was afraid to visit us.

Now Dolley Madison was headed toward asking to be put in charge of women's liberation in America and of course that meant the world because we were establishing all sorts of new rules of conduct based on this new concept called freedom and I had left the women out completely.

Such things as status are always more important to women.

I had two daughters but they were just girls and the Royals would have had them dancing for them in no time at all.

How on earth was I going to catch up? I was years behind on considering and understanding this issue. So it took me about three seconds to conclude that Dolley would do fine if she took charge of all that since she would scream bloody murder as she already had when ever she was treated unfairly by anyone on the face of the earth.

Her screaming bloody murder might be needed with the oppressive Italian Royalty and it certainly did not hurt that she would have those screams in reserve so she was perfect for the job but I held out for three minutes pretending to consider other options. I didn't fool her a bit. I asked her, 'Do you know the story of the mouse, the cat and the bell?

She knew she had me where she wanted me so she took almost a minute and a half to answer as if she were considering other options while her husband looked on with mild amusement* and then she said 'Yes'.

It was up to her to decide whether to curtsy or bow. So from that day forth the women of America have bowed to no one and they have Dolley Madison to thank for it.

Dolley Madison became Thomas Jefferson's hostess and became the standard bearer for the freedom for all women.**

 

*James Madison wondered what the big deal was about and doubted that it made much of difference until after the visit by the Italians. He was aghast at their blatant attempts to train everybody in Washington to act as their court but he had never dealt with royalty. I'd been to Europe and I knew what we were up against. They could simply ask for a glass of water and by using the same words with different inflections make you feel like royalty, a child, a slave, a pauper or an abandoned slave.

There were four thousand years of freedom that we were trying to take back for the common man and the Royalty of Europe sure did not want to give it up without a fight.

**She was not even five feet tall and could not have weight much more than about 85 pounds wet but she had the vitality of 20 women, the interests of 40 women and the brains of a dozen women. I could never figure out how they got so many friendly people in such a tiny body and yet they never quarreled at all.

I am wondering why there is not a Dolley Madison web site? More attention has been given Betsy Ross and I don't recall her at all.

The women of America and in fact the world owe more to Mrs. Dolley Madison than any other woman in the history of mankind since Eve.

 

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2004-8 John Pinil