7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tools of the Trade: Portraits ~ First Ladies

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.

Martha Washington

Abigail Adams

Dolly Madison

Elizabeth Monroe

Louisa Adams


  1. Thank you, Rita! I love using fine art for character inspiration. What a creative idea you have to have your gals named after these first ladies with personalities so unique.

  2. Beautiful post, Rita! Thanks so much for sharing this with us in the midst of your busy schedule. Love the portraits. I enjoyed learning more about Dolly Madison this summer at their estate.

  3. That is so interesting. That makes sense to have a file of photos & paintings that reflect how you perceive your characters. Downright genius! =)

  4. Rita has all kinds of neat information, Maggie Ann. BTW, I love your blog - I could not find a place to follow though, Maggie Ann!


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