Girls Gotta Read Ep. 5: Presidents, Civility, & a Little Indecency

Today on the Girls Gotta Read Podcast, we’re talking about George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in celebration of President’s Day. As a student, George Washington copied down these rules, which trace back to French Jesuits in the late 1500s, as part of a penmanship exercise.

Of course, we all know that George Washington was a gentleman–both the legends and historical accounts of him tell us just as much. But would civility, which had so long been attached to a King’s court, be able to survive in the new nation of the United States? And what does it mean to be civil in today’s society? Are Washington’s rules now outdated, or could we benefit from their revival? And would the presidents who came after George Washington be as decent and well-mannered as him? (Hint: Mostly, no–LBJ, we are looking at you.)

To read along with the girls, check out this easily printable online source.

George Washington Fast Facts:

  • Born: February 22, 1732 in Pope’s Creek, Virginia to Augustine and Mary Ball Washington.
  • George Washington began inheriting enslaved people when he was eleven from his father’s will.
  • He started his first job as a surveyor at age 16, surveying the newly created county, Culpeper.
  • The only time he ever left the states was in 1751 to go to Barbados, where he contracted smallpox.
  • He led a surprise attack upon a small French force at Jumonville Glen at age 22, which spiraled into the Seven Years War.
  • The first time George Washington ran for public office, he lost. However, he won his second race and served in the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1758 until 1776.
  • He married Martha in 1759 and inherited Mount Vernon in 1761
  • George Washington was appointed as commander of the Continental Army in 1775.
  • He actually lost more battles than he won, but employed a winning strategy that included victories at the Battle of Trenton in 1776 and Yorktown in 1781.
  • George Washington presided over the convention that drafted the Constitution in 1787.
  • George Washington was unanimously elected President of the United States. Twice.
  • He died in 1799 from a throat infection.
  • George Washington made provisions to free all of the enslaved people he directly owned in his will.

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