As a historical fiction author, the lives of those who came before us are especially meaningful. The lives of the first ladies of the 18th and early 19th centuries are intriguing, their strength to hold their families and marriages tightly bonded through adverse times is a legacy each woman should ponder.
In my novel, Beside Two Rivers, to be released in the fall of 2012, there are five female cousins to my heroine, Darcy Morgan. Darcy's name alone is irrevocably early American. Her cousins are all named after first ladies. Martha, Abigail, Dolly, Lizzy, and Louisa. Martha is the oldest, the most controlled of the five. Abigail is more outspoken. Dolly is young and demure. Lizzy shy but interested in gaining suitors. Louisa is reserved and not yet old enough to find affairs of the heart her pursuit. Darcy, on the other hand, possesses all of these qualities.
When planning a novel, I have a file of photos and paintings that reflect how I imagine my characters. This gives me a wonderful inner visual. Alongside the pictures I have the names of the characters and a few sentences about their personalities.
Here are the finest portraits of the first ladies. They were all born during the Colonial Era and lived through the Revolution. Art has and will always be a source of research for writing historical fiction. These paintings inspire as well as educate a writer on clothing, hair style, and if you look closely demeanor.