photo courtesy of Billy Hathorne

photo courtesy of Billy Hathorne

“My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.”                ~George Washington 

Who influences some of the world’s greatest leaders?

As the nation remembers George Washington’s birthday this month, I was prompted to take a different twist on the first President of the United States of America. 

My thoughts returned to a visit I made to Fredericksburg, VA to see Mary Washington’s former home. The ambling domicile still stands on a corner lot in a pristine, historic neighborhood that developed around her former plantation. Built for Mary by her son George, the house provided me with an opportunity to contemplate the influence of a mother upon her son.  

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The Beginnings of Greatness

We often regard great thinkers, leaders and pioneers after-the-fact. Instead of viewing them in-process, we envision them as adults with fully crystallized purposes and minds.  We can frequently overlook their time as small children, when their values, views and concepts about mankind are being shaped and formed.  

We also forget how each of us has the potential to serve as a person of influence and significance to others. Our words and actions can play a major role in affecting the course of another person’s life.

In the case of Mary Bell Washington, we learn of a mother whose words and deeds helped shape the convictions and trajectory of the first major leader who eschewed the monarchy and chose to embark upon a new form of national leadership.  

Chapter Break AngelInteresting Facts About Mary Washington  

Mary Bell (later Washington) was fatherless at 3 and orphaned by age 12. In accordance with the terms of her mother’s will, she was placed under the guardianship of a lawyer named George Eskeridge.

Mary Bell married widower Augustine Washington when she was 22 and he was 37. She acquired up to four children from his first marriage (only two of them survived to adulthood). Mary gave birth to five of her own children, beginning with eldest child George.

At age 37, Mary Bell Washington became a widow.  Unlike other women of her era, she never remarried. With the assistance of others, she managed the estate and plantation until son George came of age.

Mary’s political leanings were originally at odds with her George. When he joined the Continental Army, she remained a vocal British loyalist.

Mary’s favorite place for reading and prayer was Meditation Rock, located on the property of her daughter’s adjoining plantation. She remains interred there till today.

When Mary died in 1792, she willed the majority of her lands to son George and made him her executor. 

Her legacy is preserved through the Mary Washington Hospital and the University of Mary Washington, a public university located in Fredericksburg, VA.

Mary Washington was also honored by two former Presidents – Andrew Jackson and Grover Cleveland – who helped erect and establish a memorial to her at her grave site. Pretty big stuff for a woman born in the early 1700s. 

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George Washington Quotes 

As we reflect upon some of George Washington’s famous quotes, consider how many of these famous may have been formed and crystallized through the influence of his mother. 

“Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.”

“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”

“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God.”

“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”

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Reflections on Mary Washington from her Fredericksburg, VA home

The visit that got me thinking about the extraordinary influence a mother can have on her children . . . .   

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Maura Sweeney is a Podcaster, Author and Speaker

Her mantra is “Living Happy – Inside Out!”

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