The Petticoat Affair: Manners, Mutiny, And Sex In Andrew Jackson's White House

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History 217: U.S. History to 1865

The Petticoat Affair: Manners, Mutiny, and Sex in Andrew Jackson's White House. By John F. Marszalek. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997. viii, 296 pp.)

John F. Marszalek, author of The Petticoat Affair argues in his book that the Margaret Eaton affair, which plagued the first Jackson administration, was a social situation that had political ramifications. The thesis is that the Jacksonian Presidency brought a change to the office. Bringing much more democracy than most would have thought and at the same time a woman who did not fit the mold of the normal submissive political wife in Washington or in Tennessee came to the forefront of public opinion. Mrs. Eaton was unwilling
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C. Most male Senators and Congressmen stayed in boarding houses like the O'Neal's as Congress was in session only part of the year. She had married Mr. Timberlake who was a purser in the Navy, tried to run a store, then later went back to the Navy. Her overt personality coupled with two almost elopements, fueled her reputation which came into question when her husband died on ship and she married John Henry Eaton. This was done even before the required mourning period had ended. Another inattention to polite society. He had been a boarder at her father's house and became Jackson's Secretary of War. She was the daughter of a Scot Irish boarding house owner she having never been admitted to society, as John Calhoun stated but when marriage to Mr. Eaton occurred she wanted entrance to Washington Society. Both her husband and herself wanted admittance to Washington society but were denied it as social rules had been bent or broken and the society's matrons had to protect their system from the change threatened by Mrs. Eaton. President Jackson's beloved Rachael was scandalized and when rumors were circulated about Margaret to keep her out of society and to publicly justify that exclusion Jackson supported Margaret with much passion. President Jackson saw conspiracy everywhere as he tried to help the innkeeper's daughter. Mrs. Eaton was backed in her attempts to become socially accepted by the President, his friend s, the Globe Newspaper
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