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First Lady: The Woman Who Turned the White House Into a Brothel

November 1, 2013, 11:32 AM

I always conjure up an image of Dolley Madison of saving Washington’s portrait when the British were burning the White House, but she was extremely controversial during those years of the Founding Fathers.

It’s said that she slept with three presidents and a bevy of congressmen and senators and whether that’s true, I don’t know. But I know that one of my favorite stories about Dolly Madison is that she had two sisters who were pretty outrageous and they used to throw parties at the White House and invite members of the Continental Army there for parties and so her husband, James Madison, one of his cabinet members went to him one day and said, “Mr. President, I know you don’t want to hear this, but your wife has singlehandedly turned the White House into a brothel.” 

I just thought that was a very, very funny story and she lived into her 80s, which was very unusual for someone 200 years ago. And when she died it was the biggest funeral they had ever had in Washington DC.  I mean she, although notorious she still managed to maintain the love of the people at that particular time.  

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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First Lady: The Woman Who T...

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