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Strength And Honor: The Life Of Dolley Madison [Paperback]

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Item description for Strength And Honor: The Life Of Dolley Madison by Richard N. Cote...

Based on more than two thousand of Dolley Payne Todd Madison's letters and accompanied by period illustrations, offers a biography of the popular First Lady who was renowned as a hostess and heroine of the War of 1812.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   464
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.25" Width: 6" Height: 8.75"
Weight:   1.56 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 30, 2004
Publisher   Corinthian Books
ISBN  1929175205  
ISBN13  9781929175208  

Availability  0 units.

More About Richard N. Cote

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Cote studied political science and journalism at Butler University. After serving several years on the staff of the South Carolina Historical Society, he spent the 1980s and early 1990s exploring South Carolina's social history and exotic local microcultures.

Richard N. Cote currently resides in Mt. Pleasant, in the state of South Carolina. Richard N. Cote was born in 1945.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General
2Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Historical > General
3Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Specific Groups > Women
4Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > 19th Century > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Strength And Honor: The Life Of Dolley Madison?

4 stars for subject, 2 stars for execution...  Aug 1, 2006
Strength and Honor: The Life of Dolley Madison by Richard Cote is fascinating at times, but not always well written. I would rate it 4 starts for subject and 2 stars for execution.

Dolley Payne Madison was one of our most beloved First Ladies and the queen of Washington society. In fact, she set the standards for graciousness and hospitality that present first ladies strive to match. How she ended up in the White House is an amazing story. The child of southern plantation Quakers, her father freed all his slaves (according to Quaker beliefs), which forced him to give up his agrarian way of life. He moved his large family to Philadelphia to make his way (unsuccessfully) as a merchant. At this time, Philadelphia became the capital of the United States for ten years while Washington was being built. The young, beautiful, but modest Dolley found herself in the middle of much excitement. She married a Quaker lawyer, John Todd, and bore two sons. Life looked good for the young Todd's. But the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 claimed the lives of her husband, her infant son and her in-laws.

Within a year, she met married James Madison, father of our Constitution, wealthy plantation owner and Virginia congressman. The warm, lovely, vivacious and buxom Dolley was the perfect anecdote for the dour and understated Madison, who was 17 years her senior. Madison's star was on the rise as he became Jefferson's secretary of state for 8 years and then president for two terms. In fact, it was Dolley's personality that was in large part responsible for his re-election. His opponent, Charles C. Pinckney noted "I was beaten by Mr. and Mrs. Madison. I might have had a better chance had I faced Mr. Madison alone." Dolley will probably best be remembered for her heroism in saving White House treasures before the British torched it during the War of 1812.

Unfortunately, the writing style of Mr. Cote detracts from this story. First, the book seems disorganized and he jumps around (forward and backward) between years. He has a tendency to repeat the same facts over and over again. The book is filled with illustrations, but many of them are untitled (you have to check the Illustrations Credits at the end). And the list of family members from the Payne and Madison families is very unhelpful and poorly organized. A regular family tree would have been much better. Once Madison dies, Cote gives us only the sketchiest information about Dolley's life. Overall, I felt Strength and Honor did not live up to its potential.

Still, it was interesting to read about a time when our country was young, Washington DC was in its infancy and each president was trying to determine exactly what the role of president should entail. The Madison's also had a good number of influential friends and family members. This list included neighbors Jefferson and Monroe, as well as Dolley's cousin, Patrick Henry.

Having never read much about Dolley Madison, I found Strength and Honor an interesting book. I just feel that the author could have made it a much stronger work.

Got whiplash trying to go back and forth but still lots of good facts!  Nov 27, 2005
This book was at least not a completely sterile historical work. I have always been interested in the life of Dolley Madison. While it's clear that Mr. Cote' loves history and is excellent at fact gathering, I felt this book was poorly constructed, which is a shame, given the wealth of material. Still, not a bad book to read to glean more information on a very important woman in history.
Great Subject, Clunky Writing, Passionate Author  Jul 14, 2005
I've never read any biography on Dolley Madison before and I'm glad to have read this. It was a good use of my time and I am now in love with Dolley Madison. I've also selected several chapters of this book for my daughter to read to help her with her AP History class next year. She and I have enjoyed discussing various aspects of Dolley's incredible life.

My daughter's and my only complaint is the clunky writing style, and the almost constant interruption of the chronological flow of the book. Someone's dead, then they're alive again. Some parts were so hard to understand, I had to just skip past them.

Still, it was a worthy book and I'm glad that I read it. Cote's passion for Dolley is evident and I was very pleased that he presented her in the best possible light and did not hold back his profuse praise of this worthy woman. No political correctness. He treats with compassion her conflicts of slave ownership.

As I read the chapter, Hostess to Heroine, I actually found myself indignant and angry with the British for burning the President's House. I also was very disgusted with her son, Payne Todd, for his miserable, cruel neglect of his mother in her last years.
The Forgotten Heroine and Co-President  May 13, 2005
Richard N. Côté, is a historian with a background in eighteenth and nineteenth century history of the South. Côté is a journalist and has served as a staff member of the South Carolina Historical Society. Côté has written several other books including Mary's World: Love, War and Family Ties to Nineteenth-century Charleston, The Redneck Riviera, and Theodosia Burr Alston: Portrait of a Prodigy. Mr. Côté is also the Editor-In-Chief of Corinthian Books and when he is not busy researching or writing new material he spends his time traveling across the country to speak, teach, and hold book discussion and signing events.

In the introduction Côté lets the reader know that he became a serious fan of Dolley Madison while he was writing his first biography Mary's World: Love, War and Family Ties to Nineteenth-century Charleston. One of Côté's purposes in writing this book is to educate the majority of Americans under fifty whom in his opinion only know about Dolley Madison through her famous image on snack cakes and ice cream packages. His goal is to present a complete portrayal of the life and times of Dolley Madison that both fans and non-fans alike will find entertaining to read. Côté states at the outset that this is not going to be a biography that reads like an encyclopedia but a book, which he hopes, will spark more people to become fans of Dolley Madison. Côté examined the papers of Dolley at the University of Virginia and set out to try and find material that had not been available or used before by previous books on Dolley.

Côté describes in detail the bravery that Dolley displayed on August 24, 1814. Dolley stayed as long as possible at the White House in waiting for her husband to return. Dolley
arranged to bring with her what she felt to be of value to the new nation. She should be remembered for the rest of her life for what she saved for our country and her Strength and Honor. Côté discusses in exacting detail the previous two years of fighting that had already occurred. It is almost as if one is in the battle that he is describing.

The second chapter starts out with the birth of Dolley Madison and then explains her confusing and complex family ancestry. Côté provides a thorough history lesson on everything one needs to know about the everyday life of a Quaker. Côté also
describes all the rules and regulations in finite detail for all things a Quaker is supposed to abide by. Côté identifies whom in Dolley's family is no longer a Quaker and how they become Anglicans.

Then Côté describes how Dolley felt every time her family moved somewhere else and her close relationship with her many
siblings. Côté focuses on the little known fact that for many
year Mrs. Madison's first name was spelled incorrectly as "Dolly" and not "Dolley." This happened he explains through her biographers and in early encyclopedias and so after her death many commercial companies continued to spell her name wrong. To date he notes that there has been much confusion about how long she lived in North Carolina and what her actual birth date was.

Côté paints a picture of the various homes and communities Dolley lived in while she was growing up in North Carolina and Virginia. He describes the types of furniture that was in the houses. He discusses Dolley's cousin Patrick Henry and what it was like for her and her family to live at his large Scotchtown house. Côté identifies how Anglican children are brought up and compares them to how Quaker children are brought up. During the time that Dolley was born women were not educated, she was brought up to be a proper lady, respect her family and
be very polite in society. Dolley learned the domestic arts early as she was the eldest daughter in a planter's family. Quakers were not supposed to abuse slaves and were the 1st for emancipation.

Dolley's family moved once again this time from Virginia to Philadelphia. Her father John Payne had chosen to manumit his slaves, move the family to the city, and become a laundry starch maker. Dolley had been a simple girl from the country and Côté thinks that this is when Dolley learned all about fashion and sophistication. Côté considers this to have been like a "fashion education" to Dolley and that she would remember what she learned when she became Thomas Jefferson's official hostess at the White House.

Côté jumps back and fourth between what is currently happening in Dolley's life and then describes what James Madison, Jr. is doing, which is years before Dolley even met him. The reader is introduced to the man who became Dolly's first husband John Todd, Jr. in 1790. Dolley has two children with her first husband. Yellow fever strikes and Dolley loses her husband, her youngest son William Temple Todd and her in-laws in 1793. While Dolley was still in mourning her close friend Aaron Burr, the guardian of her surviving son John Payne Todd informed her that James Madison, Jr. wished to meet her.

Dolley married James Madison, Jr. who was seventeen years older then her less then a year after her first husband had passed away. Madison was not a Quaker, he was an Anglican planter and a major slaveholder. Dolley was disowned by the Quakers because of marrying outside her religion. The Madison's were married for forty-two years by the time James passed away in 1836. Côté describe what types of clothing the bride, the groom, and the guests might have worn to the wedding. Although Dolley had ceased to be a Quaker she still lived by the
"moral integrity" she had learned.

When Dolley returned to Philadelphia after her wedding she became immersed in all the culture, fashion, and politics that the city had to offer. She looked forward to a new and bright
future and a lifetime of gay parties, balls, and other society functions as the wife of a politician. This was a complete and total transformation for someone who had been brought up as a simple Quaker farm girl from the country. Dolley became an accomplished and sought after hostess, which Côté sees as her training ground prior to becoming the First Lady of the nation.

The next part of chapter six highlights the formative years of James Madison, Jr. Then Côté goes back to Dolley' s past and her prior marriage, then present time and the Madison's move to the Montpellier Plantation and then back to the past. It is quite distracting to follow all the jumping back and fourth. Côté gives a very thorough discussion of every female that Dolley meets and where they fit into the world picture from a historical perspective. Côté also describes the events going on in the 1790s with the "revolutionary feminist Mary Wollstonecraft."

Côté focuses on the many accomplishments of James Madison, Jr. in his lifetime. Côté points out the many important friends of James Madison's such as Thomas Jefferson, William Bradford, Aaron Burr, Hugh Henry Brackenridge, Philip Freneau, and Samuel Stanhope Smith. Dolley would become extremely close to Thomas Jefferson and was already very close to Aaron Burr. They spend a great deal of time expanding their home at Montpellier. Dolley learns how to become a "plantation mistress."

There are quite a bit of pages devoted to James Madison's inability to conceive a child with Dolley. Once Thomas Jefferson is confirmed as the new President he convinces James
Madison, Jr. to go back into politics by becoming his Secretary of State. The Madison's moved to Washington and stayed for eight years through Jefferson's presidency. Jefferson was a widow and he required Dolley to serve as his official Hostess for his entire presidency. Dolley honed her social skills, was quite the fashion maven, and truly understood more then most women married to politicians did about politics. Dolley was in the spotlight of the nation and received praise both good and bad for the way she dressed, her hairstyle, her manners, etc..

It was quite surprising that Dolley became involved in politics because Jefferson did not feel that women should be at all involved. Côté explains all the different social functions that Dolley was required to attend on Jefferson's behalf and Côté describes what a sloppy dresser Jefferson was. Dolley in helping Jefferson "had become the most important woman in
Washington society." After four years as the official hostess of President Jefferson, Dolley considered herself to be a veteran at this point and never realized how cruel the public
could be to her.

The next four years Dolley spent dealing with her recurring eye problem of conjunctivitis, her and her husbands attacks of "billius fever," her husband's "chronic bouts of weakness, and her ulcerated knee." Through all this she still managed to find time to secure a good school for her son and maintain an avid interest in politics. She suffered greatly when her
dear friend Aaron Burr was charged with treason and put in prison on the request of President Jefferson. Burr was acquitted and fled to Europe and left his daughter Theodosia behind. Dolley lost first her two nieces, then her sister Lucy Jackson in 1806, then in 1807 her mother, and finally her sister Mary in 1808 and still managed to be the perfect hostess.

To top it off she suffered inflammatory rheumatism in the summer of 1808. Once it became clear that James Madison. Jr. was the Republican choice for the next president, "Madison's Federalists opponents circulated lewd rumors of a graphically scandalous nature" about Dolley. They said, "she was Jefferson's lover, her husband was impotent, Dolley was
oversexed," and that her husband required her and sister to provide "Jefferson with sexual favors, fellow Republicans, and foreign diplomats in return for votes and support." John Randolph from Virginia who opposed Madison helped to fuel the spread of these rumors. The South Carolina Governor Charles Pickney said, "I was beaten by Mr. and Mrs. Madison" in the election.

On March 4, 1809 Dolley's husband James Madison, Jr. was inaugurated as the fourth president of the united States. During the next four years Dolley became even more of a fashion
icon with her "elaborate turbans," pearl jewelry, and expensive French clothes. Dolley Madison is credited with starting the inaugural ball after the presidential inauguration. Dolley was
considered the consummate hostess, she had more common sense then many women of her time, and was thought to be the "perfect person to lead Washington society." Dolley was called the
"Presidentress" because there was not a set title defined for the wife of a president. Dolley had a keen sense of fashion and took great pride in decorating the President's House, which she thought would be how she would be remembered in history. Her success at hosting great presidential receptions earned her the title of "queen of Washington society."

Dolley is often remembered today as being the perfect hostess and lady of style during her time as the "Presidentress." Côté feels that Dolley should be remembered as a heroine for the country for saving important papers from the President's House and for saving the portrait of George Washington. Dolley was described in stories at the time as having "strength and honor
under fire." Côté found reports that described her as "the heroine of the War of 1812." Côté postures that if women had been allowed to vote that Dolley might have been elected the next president. In Côté's opinion "with strength and honor, they faithfully discharged their duties to the highest offices they held."

Dolley thought that once they left the President's House in March 1817 she would live out the reminder of her days happy at the Montpellier Plantation. James Madison, Jr. was fine until the early 1830s when his health started to fail. Madison's goal was to edit his papers and have them published, he died June 28, 1836 before he could accomplish this and left this task Dolley to finish. Dolley had to move to Washington in 1845 and stayed there till she died.

By February 7, 1849 Dolley Madison's life had come full-circle when she was invited to be the guest of honor at an event in the presidential mansion by President James K. Polk when she was eighty-years old. Dolley was still seen as an "important leader in the capital's social circles." Dolley viewed publishing her husband's papers as her main goal from the time he died till the end of her life in 1849 when she was eighty-one. Dolley had to rely on the kindness of others for the final thirteen years of her life because she was left poor when her husband died. Dolley had been unaware that her husband had been covering her son John Payne Todd's debts for years.

This book appears to be extremely well researched and Côté uses letters all throughout the book to put into perspective Dolley's own words. There is a great set of illustrations and a detailed chronology explaining the events of Dolley Madison's life. Côté included a two page family tree on the Payne family and the Madison family which was invaluable. It was very distracting and hard to follow when Côté jumped back and fourth in time mid chapter.

The reader is required to constantly refer to the chronology and family trees to figure out whom Côté is talking about. That being said, it still held my interest to the end of the book.
Côté shows a bias in interpreting the material on Dolley, which may be due to Côté's own admission of a fascination with Dolley. This book is a real contribution to the subject of
Dolley Madison and helped me to understand Dolley Madison more as a person and a female.

This book would be helpful for students learning about women in American history in upper level college course or for those taking women's studies courses. This is not a just book about Dolley Madison but includes the historiography of other
important events in American history.

Rachel D. Dvorkin
Roosevelt University
Schaumburg, IL
Confused, poorly organized rehash of Dolley Madison's life  Apr 26, 2005
This was one of the worst biographies I have ever read. I found no new information about Mrs. Madison, and the information that was rehashed was terribly organized for a disruptive reading experience. Over and over again the author jumps from topic to topic, interupting what seems like it could be an interesting arguement or point with some unrelated piece of information that destroys the rhythm of the thought. The information on the complex relationships within the Payne and Madison families is written out rather than expressed in a family tree and is nearly useless. Photographs are sprinkled throughout the book [...] but the captions are all at the end of the book. I found it very disruptive to have to turn to the back to find out what I was looking at and what the significance of the photo might be. Very, very disappointing.

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