Hamilton Part 3 – Conclusion: “Satisfied” By Anjeanette LeBoeuf


AnjeanetteThe conclusion of my 3-part post on how the Hamilton musical has changed the narratives and bringing diversity to Broadway. This last piece of the puzzle is how Hamilton has impacted me. I have always had a love of history, yet growing up I struggled with the narratives I was given. I couldn’t find myself within the pages; the people building, defending, and sustaining our nation were far from me.

It wasn’t until I went to a Civil War Reenactment where I was introduced to ‘women’s’ roles in shaping our nation. Since that moment, I have constantly been in search of discovering, highlighting, and researching women’s roles in history. It is in this vein that makes Hamilton such a remarkable thing for me. It is another reason I find art, in all of its expressions, as essential as any academic endeavor. Leslie Odom Jr, the actor portraying Aaron Burr states, “The Power of Art, the power of what we do, can change people’s minds. If it can change your mind, it can change your actions, because you think hopefully before you act.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda could have merely written a play about the founding fathers like every other history book, but he didn’t. One of the main story lines throughout the play is the relationship of the Schuyler Sisters; their relationship as sisters and the relationships they each had with Hamilton. Their dynamic storyline made me go out and research their lives, and what I found was remarkable. Angelica Schuyler Church was the first born daughter of General and politician Philip Schuyler. She was known for her incredible mind and her connections to the ‘big’ players in the American Revolution. The musical sets her up by stating her position, “I’m a girl in a world in which my only job is to marry rich. My father has no sons, so I’m the one who has to social climb for one. I’m the oldest, the wittiest…” (Satisfied)  Angelica, finding her intelligent equal and soul mate in Alexander, sacrifices her love to introduce him to her sister Eliza. A beautiful line from the play sings, “I know my sister, like I know my own mind. You will never find anyone as trusting or as kind. I love my sister more than anything in this life. I will choose her happiness over mine every time.”(The Reynolds Pamphlet) Eliza would marry Hamilton and become his champion but like Angelica, Eliza was not solely defined by her connections with men. Renee Elise Goldsberry, the actress who plays Angelica states,

I am proud of the impact of the women on the history of our country. The beauty of the biography by Ron Chernow and the beauty of the work that Lin has done in Alexander Hamilton in really celebrating the women and their impact on the men, and also on history, and the love they had for each other.”

Eliza Hamilton would have 8 children with Hamilton, endure the scandal of Hamilton’s torrid affair, and live to 97. After Hamilton’s death she became active in ensuring Hamilton’s memory by organizing his writings, one of which shows his authorship of George Washington’s Farewell Address. Her most important contribution was establishing the first private orphanage in New York City. Her endeavors can still be seen as a Social Services Organization helping families in NYC today. She helped to raise funds for the building of the Washington Monument. Her role in shaping the nation is one of the lasting things you hear about in the Hamilton Musical. Even this year’s Tony Awards ended with a performance of the Schuyler Sisters.

Middle ground

Reshaping the narrative is one of the hidden keys of the Hamilton Musical. Adding women back into the narrative interweaves with the anti-slavery narrative. John Laurens, Hamilton’s closest friend, was an ardent supporter of ending slavery, as shown in the play, “And but we will never be truly free until those in bondage have the same rights as you and me. You and I do or die, wait until I saddle in on a stallion with the first black battalion.” (My Shot)

Laurens was crucial in recruiting 3,000 black slaves for the Continental army. His untimely death in 1782 and his intense friendship with Hamilton (scholars have alluded to a possible homosexual nature) might have contributed to his absence in history books. The play, in contrast, celebrates a man who understood that true freedom, means freedom for ALL.

Laurens and Hamilton

Professor George D. Massey from the University of South Carolina writes,

Laurens speaks more clearly to us today than other men of the American Revolution whose names are far more familiar. Laurens believed liberty that rested on the sweat of slaves was not deserving of the name. To that extent, at least, his beliefs make him our contemporary, a man worthy of more attention than the footnote he has been in most accounts of the American Revolution.

Hamilton the Musical understands this and tells the story of his role in shaping America. In reminding the audience that at America’s earliest days, humanity was being fought for – in all its forms. More importantly it is a discussion and fight that is still needed today.

This musical has become a beacon of the progress we have made and the progress still needed. It is a beacon of what art can continually help bring us closer and closer to progress, equality, and freedom. It has satisfied a hole in which history lessons have been lacking. I end this post with a great video of the actresses who play the Schuyler Sisters singing/rapping Feminist quotes

Anjeanette LeBoeuf is on the verge of taking her qualifying exams in Women Studies in Religion at Claremont Graduate University. Her focuses are divided between South Asian religions and religion and popular culture. She has become focused on exploring the representations of women in all forms of popular culture and how religion plays into them. Recently she drove across country to learn Sanskrit at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is an avid supporter of both soccer and hockey. She is also a television and movie buff which probably takes way too much of her time, but she enjoys every minute of it. She has become quite infatuated with the musical Hamilton and has written two posts: “History has its owns on you” and “You want a revolution, I want a revaltion: Changing the Narrative.”

 

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8 replies

  1. Most interesting. I am not familiar with this part of history, nor have I seen the play. You mention that Laurens understood that freedom must be for all. Missing from your discussion is whether or not he or any of the other characters in the play understood that “all” includes women, both slave and free. I know Abigail Adams understood this and berated her husband for not considering women in the new constitution. What about the Hamilton crew?

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    • Thanks so much for your thoughts and words Carol. Unfortunately we do not have all of John Laurens’ correspondence to fully be able to reconstruct all of his philosophical and ethical thoughts. Many historians have wondered if his family destroyed many of his writings due to their implications of homosexuality and possible relationship with Hamilton, or after Hamilton lost public favor the family could have tried to separate John’s connections, or merely deeming his writings as unimportant.

      We do have correspondence from Angelica to Jefferson, Washington, Lafeyette and Hamilton discussing women’s empowerment, women’s rights to property and even the right to vote. Eliza Hamilton was one of the selected few leading ladies in the early years of our capital’s growth and there are a few correspondence which survived of early suffragette groups seeking Eliza’s support which she gladly gave.

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  2. Wikepedia: Abigail Adams:
    Women’s rights

    Abigail Adams wrote about the troubles and concerns she had as an eighteenth-century woman[13] and she was an advocate of married women’s property rights, more opportunities for women, particularly in the field of education. Women, she believed, should not submit to laws not made in their interest, nor should they be content with the simple role of being companions to their husbands. They should educate themselves and thus be recognized for their intellectual capabilities, so they could guide and influence the lives of their children and husbands. She is known for her March, 1776 letter to John and the Continental Congress, requesting that they, “…remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”[2]
    One of last letters sent by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello to Abigail Adams, May 1817

    John declined Abigail’s “extraordinary code of laws,” but acknowledged to Abigail, “We have only the name of masters, and rather than give up this, which would completely subject us to the despotism of the petticoat, I hope General Washington and all our brave heroes would fight.”[14]
    Slavery

    Adams believed that slavery was evil and a threat to the American democratic experiment. A letter written by her on March 31, 1776, explained that she doubted most of the Virginians had such “passion for Liberty” as they claimed they did, since they “deprive[d] their fellow Creatures” of freedom.[2]

    A notable incident regarding this happened in Philadelphia in 1791, where a free black youth came to her house asking to be taught how to write. Subsequently, she placed the boy in a local evening school, though not without objections from a neighbor. Adams responded that he was “a Freeman as much as any of the young Men and merely because his Face is Black, is he to be denied instruction? How is he to be qualified to procure a livelihood? … I have not thought it any disgrace to my self to take him into my parlor and teach him both to read and write.”[15]

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  3. Very interesting, the history, and well written, thanks Anjeanette. I enjoyed the video too, in honor of women’s history month, fabulous and fun. I love where it says — “feminism is a way to foster and affirm life” — absolutely right on.

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  4. I understand how exciting deep journeys in research can be and how you keep collecting information so that it enhances what you’ve already learned and then that sends you out on lots of new pathways to explore various connections and it’s endless really the journey. It can be very exciting and rewarding. And I can truly understand, Anjeanette, how your own journey was enlivened by learning about how women’s roles contributed to that history you were exploring.

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