Mary Washington, George Washington’s mother, and her family had a hard go of it at Ferry Farm after her husband, Augustine, died, but she kept at it, raised her children and maintained appearances through it all.
This year’s Lectures on the Lawn series at Kenmore will show how the Washingtons made it through the lean years at Ferry Farm, where our first president spent part of his boyhood.
In “Exploring Domestic Workspaces in and around the Washington House,” the first of three lectures, David Muraca will talk about how the Washington family used enslaved labor in unique ways to overcome their financial predicament, said Kenmore and Ferry Farm spokeswoman Jessica Burger.
During the Sept. 22 lecture, Muraca, the director of archaeology at Kenmore, will also discuss how the enslaved worked at Ferry Farm and some of the enterprises the Washington family used to make money.
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In “Lives Behind Names: Kenmore’s Enslaved Community,” on Sept. 29, Meghan Budinger–Aldrich will reveal new information about Kenmore’s enslaved community when George Washington’s sister, Betty, lived at Kenmore.
“We’ve done some recent research into their lives and who they were at the time Betty Washington Lewis and her husband, Fielding Lewis, lived here during the 1770s and 1780s. That will be an interesting one,” Burger said. “Kenmore and Ferry Farm employees have learned a lot with some recent documents we received that have shed some new light on the enslaved community, who they were and what kind of jobs they did.”
During “Appearance is Everything: Mary Washington and Her Specialized Ceramics of Gentility,” Mara Kaktins will talk about Mary Washington’s efforts to obscure the circumstances in which she found herself.
The Oct. 6 talk will center around a repaired punch bowl.
“She had to keep up her appearances of being part of the gentry class. Her ceramics that we have found through archaeology tell us a lot about how she kept up appearances. She still had all of the finest ceramics from England,” Burger said.
An archaeologist found traces of a cheese glue on the punch bowl, which gave them some clues.
“It told us that she pieced her broken punch bowl together, maybe turned it around on the shelf, so you didn’t see the break. That way, when someone came to visit, they would see this beautiful punch bowl and think, ‘They’re very wealthy,’” Burger said.
Fall programming at Kenmore and Ferry Farm also includes a Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Day and “Night in Washington’s Day.”
On Oct. 4, Ferry Farm will host Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Day, a long-standing event where people can learn something of Ferry Farm with an American Sign Language interpreter.
“It will take them through the landscape of Ferry Farm and into the Washington house and give them a behind-the-scenes look with an ASL interpreter,” Burger said.
During “Night in Washington’s Day” on Oct. 10, visitors will be able to get a feeling of what Kenmore would have been like in the 18th century when people went to bed early, but rarely slept through the night. Instead, they would get up and maybe do some chores or read.
“The event will talk about those things, about what kind of things happened in the night,” she said.
Burger said people should bring their lawn chairs.
“We’ll have social distancing in place. Masks will be required until everyone gets seated,” Burger said. “Hopefully, people will be eager to come out and learn.”
A bonus is that people get to see Kenmore by candlelight.
“People will get to experience Kenmore at night, which is absolutely gorgeous,” Burger said. “It’s very beautiful to be here in the nighttime.”