When someone remembers us, we live forever. ~ Andra Watkins
If you’ve seen me speak, you know I talk a lot about whether anyone remembers us and how history treats its losers. Take Theodosia Burr Alston, main character in my upcoming novel Hard to Die. How much do you know about her?
Her father, Aaron Burr, didn’t care that his
only legitimate child was a daughter.
Burr was a progressive. Despite his florid sexual conquests, he believed his daughter to be equal to any man. He hired top tutors and ensured that she was as well educated as any son. He spoke to her as an equal and challenged her to keep improving herself throughout her life.
She lived more of her life in New York.
Though she’s often associated with South Carolina, she was born in Albany, New York and reared in New York City. Aaron Burr was always short on cash. When Theodosia was marriageable, she endorsed her father’s notion that she consider candidates who were rich. South Carolina’s Joseph Alston was a worthy candidate: a wealthy, powerful family; a South Carolinian, to bring Burr the Southern vote; and handsome. Theodosia moved to his South Carolina plantation (now Brookgreen Gardens) and divided her time between the farm and their Charleston residence.
She was the first caucasian to honeymoon at Niagara Falls.
Theodosia set a trend, right? She and her new husband bushwhacked through the wilds of New York State to reach the falls. Sacred to the Iroquois people, the chief allowed his charming guest and her man to take a gander.
She only bore one child.
Her son wrecked her lady bits. She spent the rest of her life going from male doctor to male doctor, begging them to treat her prolapsed uterus. When everyone refused her, she bent her mind toward her own treatment, making visits to a hot spring near Poughkeepsie, New York.
Most of her papers disappeared with her.
Reconstructing Theodosia’s voice wasn’t easy. When she boarded a ship in Georgetown, South Carolina on one of the last days of 1812, she carried much of her correspondence. Her father, four years in exile, had returned to New York. She sailed to convalesce with him, because she was clinically depressed over the death of her ten-year-old son six months before. While many rumors persist, no one knows what happened to her. Her ship never reached New York or any other port.
Want to read more about Theodosia?
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