Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

My belated birthday wish list, by Martha Washington

June 29, 2011 by Karen Gross


Editor’s Note: Selections from Martha Washington’s jewelry collection will be on display in the exhibition Discover the Real George Washington: New Views from Mount Vernon at the National Constitution Center from July 1 to September 5.
Martha Washington's pearl dove brooch is one of her jewelry pieces on display at the National Constitution Center. Courtesy Mount Vernon Ladies' Association.

George, my dear husband,

Now that you have assumed the duties of America’s first president and commander in chief, I feel it is important to present myself as a first lady of elegance without ostentation. In fact, I have a premonition that future first ladies may follow my example—and may consider, for instance, wearing J.Crew as well as couture.

I understand that your present responsibilities may have contributed to your forgetting my birthday earlier this month, on June 2. Do not fret, as I know you carry the weight of this country on your shoulders. I have here provided a birthday gift wish list as a gentle reminder and useful guide. Although I have not yet fully familiarized myself with this fledgling capital city of Philadelphia, I have been told that there are several jewelers who specialize in the kind of styles I prefer.

1. I have a penchant for pearls, particularly pins and earrings. As you know, one of my beloved pieces is the dove-shaped seed pearl pin purchased last December from New York jeweler Mr. M. Roberts. Surely there is a Philadelphia jeweler who would offer similar adornments, perfectly suited to the white muslin habits I wear in summertime. I can envision future first ladies likewise adorning themselves in these precious, graceful orbs. I can also imagine this striking piece, in particular, one day being displayed at a fine Philadelphia institution devoted to the Constitution.

2. Favored by the Greeks and Romans, amber evokes the spirit of America’s burgeoning republic and the promise of the nation’s golden age. Furthermore, it flatters my skin tone. An amber necklace would make a classic and classical statement piece for many occasions.

3. To my great pleasure, the ladies of Mount Vernon often complimented my garnet earrings and necklace. As my garnet jewels remain at Mount Vernon, I invite you to browse the shops in Philadelphia for an attractive piece I could wear while in this city.  I always welcome this scarlet bauble, as it is sophisticated without being gaudy.

I appreciate your love and generosity always.



Karen Gross is the Communications Writer/Editor at the National Constitution Center. She moonlights as Martha Washington and welcomes garnets.

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