Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Weekly World News XV

From May, 2005, here's another piece I wrote for Weekly World News. We found that wacky stories about the Founding Fathers and other historic figures (such as the Abraham Lincoln story I ran a week or so back) played well with readers, and this seemed wacky enough:

© Weekly World News

MOUNT VERNON, VIRGINIA -- George Washington is famous for having said, "I can not tell a lie." But a startling new discovery of the secret diaries of America’s first president reveals that his entire life was, in fact, a lie.

"George Washington was actually born Georgia Washington!" revealed Mount Vernon Museum caretaker Perry Wygge. "Which makes him even more remarkable, since he refused to be bound by the conventions of the time. Bound by a full-body corset, yes. But not by outmoded regulations."

Discovered, appropriately enough, in a large forgotten chest, the diaries bear out the restless indignation that possessed even the young Georgia.

"Truly am I weary of the treatment afforded women in this world," 14-year old Georgia wrote in 1746. "Am I condemned to a life of being a handmaiden because of my birth gender?"

Georgia’s best friend growing up on the banks of Virginia’s Potomac River was her older half brother Lawrence.

"Oh, that I could be as Lawrence, riding and hunting and acting as lord of the manor," the young girl wrote.

Her parents could not understand their tomboy daughter longing for the rough and tumble adventures of a young lad.

"Mother would have me spend my days in girlish frills, spinning yarn," the sobbing girl confessed to her diary on her 11th birthday on February 22, 1743. The tear stains are actually visible on the ink. "I cannot. I will not."

Another influence on her life was the wealthy Fairfax family. Georgia was especially drawn to Lord Fairfax, an outdoorsman with a passion for fox hunting who seemed to understand Georgia’s manly tendencies.

"He cares not that I dress in britches and refuse to ride side saddle," the future president wrote. "He knows only that I handle my mount and chase down the fox as well as any man. He calls me ‘George,’ a title I wear with pride."

Georgia's transformation to George was helped by the fact that, like her mother, she was uncommonly tall and, in her own words, "most unfortunately homely for a woman, though passable for a man."

In 1754, the sympathetic Fairfax family helped "George" get a commission in the Virginia militia, and for the next five years Major Washington commanded men during the French and Indian Wars. The skills learned here would make George the hero of the American Revolution.

"Not even the most battle-hardened old soldier, questions my masculinity," Georgia wrote with relief. "That is gratifying, since it is difficult to control the desire I oft feel for many of my troops.

"Indeed, my one regret is that I shall live my life alone," he went on. "Though I could woo a lass, what woman would want me once the truth were known?"

Yet, in 1758 Georgia found herself drawn to Martha Dandridge Custis, a wealthy Virginia widow. The attraction seemed mutual and, one night, Georgia confessed her secret to Martha...who had a secret of her own.

"I was born Martin," she told him. "Once I donned one of those happy white wigs, I knew I couldn't stop there."

They married in 1759. Georgia resigned from the military and settled into life with Martin at the Mount Vernon estate. When the American Revolution erupted in 1776, the highly respected officer was chosen to command the Continental army.

"Betsy Ross sews flags," he wrote. "Abigail Adams, though as wise as her husband, minds the farm while John serves in the Congress. Our new nation, when we build one, must be changed."

On October 19, 1781, England’s army, the most powerful on Earth, surrendered to General Georgia Washington and her ragtag troops.

"I have proved, if only to my satisfaction, that a woman is the equal of any man."

Though Georgia was content to return to Mount Vernon, the public was not yet done with her. She was unanimously elected as the new nation’s first president and would serve two terms before retiring -- this time for good. Georgia Washington went to her grave without anyone ever learning that the greatest leader of his time was, in reality, a woman or that the first lady was actually the first man.

"This sort of makes the Clintons seem positively mainstream, doesn't it?" asked Perry Wygge. "It just goes to show that the private life of a president has nothing to do with how well he -- or she -- does the job."

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