Women of Washington

Communicating America’s Founding Principles

Women of Washington is an educational organization with a focus on understanding local, national, and global issues that are critical to our world today.

Constitution Corner

Weekly Articles About America's Founding 
Judy Leithe, Contributing Editor

The principles set forth in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights are foundational to Women of Washington. In these articles we explore the lives of our Founding Fathers, as well as everyday people, all of whom took on extraordinary personal risks and challenges when they left their native countries and made new lives for themselves, and their posterity, in a new land. Then, due to the crushing demands of King George III, they defended their newfound freedoms against the most powerful military force in the world -- that of the British Monarchy. We are the beneficiaries of these founders' foresight and courage.

Major George Washington - Part IV (Article 25)

January 19, 2018

This unknown artist's portrait of George Washington appears to be the most accurate depiction of him in early adulthood.  According to one person's description, "...Washington had an impressive bearing and was an excellent horseman.  He stood 6' 2 1/2" tall and weighed 175 pounds.

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George Washington at Fort Necessity - Part III (Article 24)

January 12, 2018

As a teenager, George Washington spent as much time as possible with Lawrence, his elder step-brother and mentor...He was everything George aspired to be.

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George Washington - Surveyor - Part II (Article 23)

January 5, 2018

After the death of George's father, Augustus, finances in the Washington household became very limited.  

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George Washington's Boyhood - Part I (Article 22)

December 22, 2017

George Washington's parents, Augustine and Mary Ball Washington, were a study in contrasts.

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Georgia Frontierswoman and Patriot Spy (Article 21)

December 15, 2017

Nancy Morgan Hart (1735-1830) was a legendary hero of the American Revolution who made it her mission to rid the Georgia territory of British Loyalists.  Even the local Cherokees referred to her as “Wahatche” or “war woman.”

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A Republic, If We Can Keep It - Part II (Article 20)

December 8, 2017

Anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall, at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention, and a woman asked Ben Franklin whether the nation had been given a monarchy of a republic; he famously replied, "A republic madam, if you can keep it."

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A Government of Laws, Not of Men - Part I (Article 19)

December 1, 2017

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary.  If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.  In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."       James Madison, Federalist #51

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An Education in Civility (Article 18)

November 24, 2017

As Justice Kennedy likes to point out, the word civics springs from the Latin word that was also the same root for civility.  And both civics and civility are essential elements of civilization.  Just consider the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech, free press, free assembly.

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Thanksgiving Day (Article 17)

November 17, 2017

By Kindergarten, most American children have been introduced to the story of the Pilgrims by wearing tall hats and buckle shoes or, as "Indians," dressed up in feathers and beads. The children color pictures of Pilgrims and "Indians" sitting around a banquet-style table laden with roasted turkeys, corn-on-the-cob, and maybe even pumpkin pie.

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Revolutionary War Veteran - Deborah Sampson (Article 16)

November 10, 2017

The bronze statue of Deborah (Sampson) Gannett, located in Sharon MA, depicts a woman wearing a simple Colonial-style dress although, on one side, she is draped with a coat of a Continental Army soldier and, she is also holding a musket and a powder horn.

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In Search of Freedom - Part V (Article 15)

November 3, 2017

The first attempt at Socialism in the New World was an utter failure.  The Pilgrims' English benefactors stipulated that the future colony would operate as a collective for 7 years.  So, the dutiful Pilgrims began New Plymouth Colony as a Socialist commune.

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In Search of Freedom - Part IV (Article 14)

October 27, 2017

In 1620, the Mayflower set its anchor off a spit of land known as Cape Cod -- first named in 1602 for extensive cod fishing.  The French and Dutch mariners also called it, "Malabar, by reason of those perilous shoals and losses suffered there..."

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In Search of Freedom - Part III (Article 13)

October 20, 2017

The most famous ship in U.S. history, the Mayflower, was not a passenger ship.  It is most widely-known for transporting 102 Pilgrims, plus perhaps 60 additional passengers and crew, to the New World.  However, it was built strictly as a cargo ship...

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In Search of Freedom Part II (Article 12)

October 13, 2017

William Bradford later became a prominent figure in Colonial American history.  But, at age 18, he and his fellow Separatists realized they would have to flee England in order to freely practice their religious beliefs.

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In Search of Freedom - Part I (Article 11)

October 7, 2017

The British Separatists and Puritans, later known to us as Pilgrims, felt utterly deprived of the Freedoms we have in the First Amendment of our Constitution -- freedom of religion, speech, press, peaceable assemblage, and the right to petition our government for a redress of grievances.  These British subjects couldn't choose their religion,  speak or write about their faith, worship together in the privacy of their homes, and certainly, had no access to redress their grievances of their government.

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The First Amendment - The Foundation of our Republic - (Article 10)

September 29, 2017

by Judy Leithe 

Take a moment and name the 5 Freedoms guaranteed by our First Amendment to the Constitution.  

The 5 Freedoms are: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; of abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

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The Oath of Office - The First U.S. Law Passed by Congress - (Article 9)

September 22, 2017

June 1, 1789 - First Congress, First Session - Volume 1
by Judy Leithe

We all know our Constitution is unique in providing for a free and just society, and the oaths taken by our representatives are important. We love our English cousins but, let's contrast their oaths of office, taken since 1868, with our own: 

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The Miracle in Philadelphia - (Article 8)

September 15, 2017

By 1887, ten years after the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, and of the republican form of government, the country was deeply in debt.  It's economy was failing, and distrusted by many Americans, as well as foreign powers.  The Articles had not provided for an executive branch, or a federal court system.  The U.S. Congress had been established, but federal representatives were chosen by state legislatures -- not by individual voters.  As such, the U.S. Congress could not raise taxes to fund the national treasury, nor could it regulate interstate commerce.  States were jealous of their borders, and even created their own currencies.  These conditions prompted James Madison, and other patriotic thinkers of the time, to begin work on what turned out to be the greatest document written by man, The United States Constitution.

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A Tribute to our Founding Mothers - (Article 7)

September 8, 2017

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year...
                    -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

But wait...there is another story about Sybil Ludington, known as the female Paul Revere! 

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Declaration of Independence - (Article 6)

May 19, 2017

Franklin Anticipates the Declaration of Independence

In 1754, Franklin was a Pennsylvania delegate to a Convention of the Colonies which met in Albany NY on "the defense and security against the French" where Franklin proposed having the colonies unite as one country.  It's interesting to note he advanced the concept of the United States 22 years before the Declaration of Independence became a reality. 

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Declaration of Independence - (Article 5)

May 5, 2017

Thomas Jefferson - Patriot. 
It was in 1765 that 22-year-old Thomas Jefferson was stirred by Patrick Henry's  celebrated speech against Great Britain's Stamp Act which put a tax on every piece of paper used by the colonists.  Henry resolved that only the Colony of Virginia should be able to levy taxes on its citizens.  From that time forward, Jefferson became a champion for American Freedom.  Note: Patrick Henry's famous "Give me liberty or give me death" speech was to come ten years later.

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Declaration of Independence - (Article 4)

April 21, 2017

After Signing the Declaration of Independence

When the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence affixed their name to that document, they knew they were committing treason; that they were taking on the most powerful military force on earth with a ragtag army and militias made up of farmers and merchants.  Benjamin Franklin famously said as he was signing: "We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”  Indeed, many of the signers fought, some were captured, some lost their homes, their fortunes and sometimes their families.  

What the signers did following the war gives further testament to the greatness of the men that assembled in Philadelphia that sultry summer.

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Declaration of Independence - (Article 3)

March 24, 2017

The World’s Most Famous Mission Statement

As we learned last week, the Declaration of Independence can be read in less than 5 minutes.  Yes, that is right - the very document that ignited the American Revolution and launched the nation that would become a “shining city on a hill” - can be read in less time than the instructions for your new toaster. 

We recognize Thomas Jefferson as the true author of the Declaration of Independence but four other men were appointed to the writing committee:  John Adams, Ben Franklin, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman.  

Today we explore the four components of the Declaration itself.

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Declaration of Independence - (Article 2)

March 3, 2017

The Declaration of Independence can be read in under 5 minutes!  However, following up on the participants' names and the human stories during this epic time in U.S. history can be inspiring.  In this document, which would be presented to the British Monarch, the Continental Congress listed 27 grievances signifying the extent to which the Colonists suffered at the hands of the British.  In summary, they wrote of their inhumane treatment:  "...works of death, desolation and tyranny...with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages..." 

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Declaration of Independence - (Article 1)

February 17, 2017

Before the writing of The Declaration of Independence, in 1744 the Continental Congress petitioned England's King George III, asking for a repeal of "intolerable acts," such as: taxation without representation (in the British Parliament); property seized without consent (search and seizure); and abolishment of trial by jury (being at the absolute mercy of the British forces in North America).  At the time of the writing and submission of their petition, the members of the Continental Congress were intent upon presenting themselves as loyal subjects to King George however, the King ignored and vetoed their petition and, while warning them that the 13 colonies were subject to the laws of England and must abide by them.

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