Documentary Editing, Association for


Date of this Version

Summer 2006

Document Type



Documentary Editing, Volume 28, Number 2, Summer 2006. ISSN 0196-7134


2006 © the Association for Documentary Editing. Used by permission.


Why is Dolley Madison considered one of the most important nineteenth-century American women and the greatest First Lady until Eleanor Roosevelt assumed the position in 1933?" In their introduction to Chapter Three, editors Mattern and Shulman pose this question as the thesis of The Selected Letters of Dolley Payne Madison (92). The editors' question is a provocative one. Who remembers Sarah Childress Polk? Ida Saxton McKinley? Others, such as Abigail Smith Adams or Edith Bolling Wilson, come to mind but their roles were not like the ones Dolley Madison fashioned for herself as First Lady. In this volume we see how Dolley Payne Madison (hereafter DPM) created a position as the consummate hostess and conversationalist, filling the expected role of women in public life at that time. This edition ably documents the prominence of DPM as a First Lady.