Laura J. Galke


The year 1743 brought hardship to the Washingtons as their family patriarch, Augustine, passed away unexpectedly. At that time, a young George Washington inherited the family’s home plantation in Fredericksburg, known today as Ferry Farm. Augustine’s will stipulated that George’s mother, Mary Ball Washington, manage the plantations of their four young boys until they came of age. Between 1743 and 1772, Mary enjoyed the personal agency that widowhood allowed her; she was responsible for the management decisions of the Washington household and the surrounding farm. Mary’s choices reflect an ambitious woman determined to participate in the genteel society her family had enjoyed before Augustine’s death. Focusing upon small finds - unique, personal artifacts- recovered from Ferry Farm, this article considers Mary’s investments in fashionable gentry-class domestic activities such as the display of household ornaments, the tea ceremony, and creation of fancy needlework.