For Smithsonian.com, I wrote a profile of Alexander Hamilton’s widow, Elizabeth Hamilton. Now a memorable character (played by Phillipa Soo) in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash Broadway musical “Hamilton,” Elizabeth was far more than a bit player at the founding of American democracy. After Alexander died in his famous duel, she founded and led New York City’s first orphanage, which is still in business. She collected her husband’s papers and ensured that Hamilton’s political legacy would be preserved. She helped Dolley Madison raise money to build the Washington Monument on the National Mall. And, she was the toast of the Capital, dining with presidents and hosting VIPs in her H Street parlor.
Most excitingly for me, I got to interview Ron Chernow, Pulitzer-winning author of the definitive biography of Alexander Hamilton, which inspired the musical. In an entertaining phone call, we both lamented the fact that Elizabeth “edited herself out of the story” in favor of her her husband’s legacy–and as a result, little remains of her own letters, diaries or inner thoughts. I hope my story will introduce more readers to this powerful, inspirational lady.