Martin's Must Reads: 'The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr'

Jul 7, 2020

“In the history of her times, Mary Edmonds is only the faintest of whispers. You won’t find her included in any of the standard biographies of Aaron Burr. No known eighteenth century documents, diaries, or letters mention her. No record of their marriage remains, nor of Aaron Burr acknowledging either her or their children, or offering them his financial support. Yet she survived through her children, and the memories of her descendants.”

I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and those are some lines from the afterword of Susan Holloway Scott’s novel The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr. From only a handful of known facts, Scott has written a very readable novel that gives insight into the lives of slaves and some of the political machinations of the United States in the last few decades of the eighteenth century.

When her Indian mother died giving birth to Mary, her uncle took her in and was only too happy to sell her at the age of seven to be the pet to a French woman. After several attempts to escape, Mary’s owner fastens a metal collar around her neck and chains her to her bed each night.

Years pass before another British officer witnesses the indignities visited on Mary and buys her to be a slave in his home in America. It is there that Mary meets Aaron Burr.  Burr has an affair with Mary’s mistress and eventually marries her on the death of her husband. Mary becomes a trusted servant to both Mrs. Burr and Aaron whose lust for Mary results in the birth of two children.

If you’re looking for a novel that depicts the life of a black woman in the early eighteenth century in America, then you must read The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr.