What made Dolley Madison so significant?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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All things considered, I think that First Lady Madison has to be seen as an important figure in American History.  Much of what she did as First Lady is seen as establishing the template for what the modern First Lady needs to do and be.  She proved that the role of the First Lady can be one that helps to bring the nation together in times of challenging adversity.  During the War of 1812, she was instrumental in honoring the sacrifices and successes of American forces in the war.  This patriotism spawned into nationalism when the British sacked Washington, D.C.  At a time when the President was not in the nation's capital, the first lady was. She used a spyglass to see the British advancing towards the nation's capital.  When prompted to leave, she only left after having taken portraits of Washington with her.  This helped to reaffirm American hope and national pride at a time when others felt that the nation was doomed.  When speaking to a crowd about Washington, D.C., her words of “We shall rebuild Washington!” speaks to the power of her role.  Dolley Madison was significant because she understood that that the role of the First Lady was one in which there can be considerable pride and nationalism regarding how the nation can come to see her symbolic role.

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