Caty and Nathanael: A Story Of Marriage And Leadership

· At the time of their wedding in 1774, Caty was 21 and Nathanael was 32.
· The two of them talked about growing old together, enjoying their children and reading to one another by firelight. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
· The fact that Nathanael and Caty still had their four children living by the time of this story was remarkable. Many couples suffered death rates among their children of 50% or more.
· Do you and your spouse take time to talk about how each of you affects the other’s leadership? In my situation, I can vouch that my wife’s impact on my leadership has been enormous.
· If marriage affects leadership—and obviously I believe it does—does divorce also have an effect? It would be hard to argue the negative, it seems to me.
· For Caty and Nathanael, I think you see the freedom that each gives the other to be a leader. Both contribute to the leadership abilities of the pair, whether as a unit or as individuals.
· Nathanael came from a Quaker background. I’m not sure about Caty’s. The point is relevant because Nathanael ignored his family’s Quaker teachings about pacifism and joined the war for American independence. That would have had a substantial impact on the relations between Nathanael’s family and Nathanael and Caty.
· Caty enjoyed nice things, the fine things. Though not wealthy by standards of the time, she hoped that she and Nathanael’s family would have a comfortable lifestyle, something that allowed for various extras.
· Their marriage was far from perfect. It was real, very much like ours today. They argued over money, the prospects for material improvement, the amount of time each was able to spend with the other, and the extent to which Caty liked parties and socializing (Nathanael was a quieter, more restrained type).
· Question for you. If you are married, how exactly do you see your spouse’s influence in your leadership? Next, how do you see your influence in your spouse’s leadership? If you’re single and expect to marry, what effect on your leadership do you expect or want from your spouse? Vice versa? Follow-up to those who are or have been married–what surprises you about the impact of marriage on leadership?
· Caty was expressive, intelligent, strong-willed, and determined. These qualities defined her both as a wife and as a leader. Nathanael was similarly determined and was also highly intelligent and thoughtful. Both of them were rather more open than most people to new ideas, new methods, new approaches. You see this with Nathanael’s conduct of the war in the south and with Caty’s interest in the cotton gin (see below).
· Nathanael was among the most trusted and admired of George Washington’s generals. Washington had no children of his own (biologically) and thus tended to view his closest aides and subordinates as almost substitutes for a father-son relationship. Nathanael was one of those proxy sons of Washington’s.
· Nathanael insisted that it would never be an option for Caty to come live with him during his military service in the south. He warned sternly about the different nature of the Revolutionary War in the south—more violent, brutal, and harshly chaotic than in the north.
· Nathanael died from illness in 1786. Caty went on to remarry ten years later, this time choosing the tutor of her and Nathanael’s children as her husband. His name was Phineas Miller. Like Greene, Miller was of a studious turn of mind, an inherent learner.
· Eli Whitney became a close friend of Caty’s. He lived for a while on her land. She was one of the main investors in Whitney and Miller, the organization Whitney used in inventing the cotton gin. While it’s unclear as to the exact role Caty played in the emergence of the new device, it’s certainly clear that she had thorough knowledge and considerable involvement in Whitney’s successful launch of the cotton gin.
· Caty endured several up’s and down’s in her family finances. The rollercoaster of economic prosperity and economic despair was no stranger to her.
· George and Martha Washington attended Caty’s second wedding. I should have told you earlier that Nathanael and Caty named one of their sons after George and one of their daughters after Martha. The ties of respect and affection ran deep between the Washingtons and Greenes.
· Caty battled hard with Congress to ensure that the federal government paid her husband’s estate back for various expenditures he had made while serving as general. With Washington’s help, she was successful. She eventually moved to South Carolina and became a slaveowner.

  • Go back to my comment on the video about a big, overarching event or trend that hangs over your marriage and leadership. Do you have one? It’s unmistakable for Caty and Nathanael–it was the idea of American independence and self-government and everything that flowed into that. Was it it for you? It can be a human event, like the Revolution, or maybe it’s some particular innovation that has forever changed your life and way of life
  • One other thing about Caty’s life post-Nathanael. Her experience with Nathanael’s death did not undercut her leadership growth and development. She experiences major economic setbacks and has to perform all kinds of twists and turns to navigate these waters. It doesn’t end with her second marriage. She continues to confront hard circumstances and to respond accordingly. Her interaction with Whitney and his cotton gin is only one part of this larger stretch of River and fits very well, very neatly and seamlessly with the rest of it.
  • A last piece of disclosure. In recent months I’ve tried to make an effort to help my wife’s leadership. Her calling and job regularly involve leadership elements. Moreover, she’s a natural leader in many ways. So, it’s finally dawned on me that part of my responsibilities as a spouse is to help her continue to excel as a leader. I’ve caught myself on a few occasions where I was headed down a path that would have the opposite result. Consequently, I’ve been able to do a better job of boosting or buttressing her leadership on difficult days. I doubt if Caty or Nathanael ever consciously decided to do the same thing, but I do think their mutual respect and love took them in this very direction. Theirs was a marriage of mutual aid, mutual support, mutual digging in the ditch. I hope ours is as well.