• August 2014

Montpelier's Kat Imhoff Takes Us Inside the Lives of James and Dolley Madison

What were James and Dolley Madison really like?

For insights into the lives of these founders of the country, we visited with Kat Imhoff, who has been president of The Montpelier Foundation since January 2013.

You’ll be fascinated and delighted to learn more about this couple, including how quickly they married.

Did you know:

  • After a brief courtship spanning the spring and summer—26-year-old widow Dolley Payne Todd married 43-year-old Congressman James Madison on September 15, 1794. Her first husband, John Todd, died of yellow fever in 1793.
  • As Madison continued to rise in the political ranks, first as Thomas Jefferson’s secretary of state and then as two-term president of the United States, from 1809-1817, Dolley served as a dynamic political partner, national hostess, and first lady.
  • Since Thomas Jefferson was a widower when he was president of the United States, Dolley assisted him with the social functions of the administration.
  • After Madison’s stint as president, James and Dolley retired to Montpelier in 1817 where they managed a large plantation, entertained hundreds of visitors, and jointly edited Madison’s significant political papers—including his notes on the Constitutional Convention.
  • Madison predeceased Dolley by 13 years, after which she traveled back and forth between Montpelier and Washington, DC, before permanently settling in the nation’s capital in 1844.

That’s just the start of what you’ll learn in this podcast interview, including:

  • Details about Madison’s contributions to the Constitution.
  • The couple’s courting rituals and how they differ from today’s dating scene.
  • The impact that Dolley had as a powerful political partner to James, and the other important roles this savvy first lady played.
  • Three interesting facts parents can share with their kids at dinner tonight regarding the Madisons.
  • And much more!

Don’t miss a moment.

Here’s to restoring enthusiasm in American history for children—and adults, too!

Photos courtesy of the Montpelier Foundation.


8 FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT James and Dolley Madison

Did you know:

  1. James Madison is known as the Father of the Constitution. Before the Constitutional Convention, Madison spent many hours studying government structures from around the world before coming up with the basic idea of a blended republic. While he did not personally write every part of the Constitution, he was a key player in all discussions and forcefully argued for many items that would eventually make it into the Constitution, including population-based representation in Congress, the need for checks and balances, and support for a strong federal executive.
  2. Madison went to Congress to ask for a declaration of war against England that started the War of 1812. This was because the British would not stop harassing American ships and impressing soldiers. The Americans struggled at the beginning, losing Detroit without a fight. The Navy fared better, with Commodore Perry leading the defeat of the British on Lake Erie. However, the British were still able to march on Washington, not being stopped until they were on their way to Baltimore. The war ended in 1814 with a stalemate.
  3. Madison was the shortest president. He measured 5’4” tall and is estimated to have weighed about 100 pounds.
  4. Together with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, James Madison authored the Federalist Papers. These 85 essays were printed in two New York newspapers as a way to argue for the Constitution so that New York would agree to ratify it. One of the most famous of these papers is #51, in which Madison penned the famous quote, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. …”
  5. Madison was one of the main proponents for the passage of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, known collectively as the Bill of Rights. These were ratified in 1791.
  6. Dolley Payne Todd Madison was one of the most well-loved first ladies and known as a terrific hostess. Since Thomas Jefferson was a widower while he was serving as president, she helped him at official state functions.
  7. When Dolley married Madison, the Society of Friends disowned her because her husband was not a Quaker.
  8. She had two children during her first marriage, but her husband and one of her sons died on the same day from yellow fever. She married Madison a little less than a year later.


About The Grateful American™ Series:

The podcast with Kat Imhoff is a part of The Grateful American™ Series, which is dedicated to restoring enthusiasm in American history for children—and adults, too. David Bruce Smith’s Grateful American™ Series is an interactive, multimedia project created in 2014. The series includes:

  • The Grateful American™ Radio Show on the Inkandescent Radio Network, which features interviews about historical figures (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, etc.) with the chief executives of the nation’s presidential homes, historians, and other experts: InkandescentRadio.com.
  • A TV series on YouTube, DCTV, and other public access, and national TV stations.
  • The Grateful American™ Guidebook: Coming in 2016, this book will feature insights from the leaders of the presidential homes, and interactive exercises that explore, engage, and help readers develop an interest in American history.

Learn more about The Grateful American™ Series at www.GratefulAmericanSeries.com.

About David Bruce Smith

Author and publisher David Bruce Smith is a graduate of The George Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in American Literature, and a master’s in journalism from New York University, Smith has spent decades as a real estate executive and the editor-in-chief/ publisher of Crystal City magazine.

He is also the author of 11 books, including his most recent, American Hero: John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States.

For more information, visit davidbrucesmith.com.

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