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Graham Russell Hodges

and celebrant of George Washington. Born into slavery on George Washington's plantation, Mary Simpson Washington worked as a domestic for the general and first president. She accompanied him to New York City when it served as the nation's capital; Washington freed her when the government moved to Philadelphia. By that time she had taken the president's name and had opened a small shop on Golden Hill, at the corner of Cliff and John streets in New York. There she sold milk, butter, and eggs; became famous for her pastries and sweetmeats; and specialized in cookies named after President George Washington. Mary Simpson Washington gained further notice in the yellow fever epidemic of 1793, when she begged dozens of sheep's heads from local butchers. She boiled the brains into a salubrious soup for sick humans and fed the leftovers to hundreds of starving cats.

Mary Washington was a devoted ...