Martha Jefferson, 1748-1782

  • Martha-Jefferson-WWP

Woman Category: Politics & LeadersWoman Tags: First Lady, The Pioneering Women of the National Mall Neighborhood, and WDC Metro Area Women

  • HerStory

    President Thomas Jefferson’s wife, served as the First Lady of Virginia during the American Revolution.

    Born as Martha Wayles in Charles City, Virginia, and was the only child of wealthy plantation owners; her father was an attorney and slave trader; her mother died three weeks after giving birth to her.
    At 18, she married her first husband, Bathurst Skelton, who passed away two years afterward. In the same year, she met her third cousin, Thomas Jefferson, and the couple got married six months after her son from her previous marriage had passed away at the age of 4. After Martha’s father died, the Jeffersons inherited more than 100 slaves, among them was Martha’s half-sister Sally Hemings, who later allegedly became Jefferson’s mistress.
    During the American Revolution, Jefferson was the governor of Virginia, and Martha became the state’s First Lady. As such, she encouraged the women of Virginia to raise money and donate supplies for the Continental Army, and they managed to gain about $300,000.
    Martha always suffered from poor health, and died at the age of 33, probably due to Gestational diabetes or labor complications. 19 years later, her husband became the 3rd president of the United States.

    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • Martha and Thomas Jefferson had six children; only two of them reached adulthood.
    • Before she passed away, Martha asked her husband not to marry again, and he never did.
    • Her grandson, the son of her daughter Patsy, was the first baby to be born in the White House.
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  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • First Lady Biography: Martha Jefferson

    This series provides biographies of all the First Ladies of the United States, as if spoken by each of them in their own words. This project was completed for the Girl Scout Gold Award. Thanks for watching!

  • Photo credit - Library of Congress