Martha Washington, 1731-1802

  • Martha-Washington-WWP

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

  • HerStory

    The first First Lady of the United States of America.

    Born in 1731, as the eldest of eight children of the wealthy Dandridge family, the owners of “Chestnut Grove” plantation in the British colony, Province of Virginia. Martha was well educated and learned to read and write so she would be adequate for running the estates and family affairs if needed.
    At the age of 18, she was wedded by her parents to Daniel Parke Custis, another wealthy plantation owner who was 20 years her senior. They had four children, though only two survived past childhood. Custis died seven years later, which left Martha one of the wealthiest women and a widow at the age of 25.
    At 28, Martha married George Washington and moved with her two children to Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon. Soon George became politically involved in the upcoming revolution, and Martha entertained in their estate a company who came to be known as the Founding Father of the USA.
    When the American Independence War began, George was the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, and Martha spent the winters with him in the camps, living simply and hosting other officers’ wives encouraging them to take part in the war efforts.
    When the war ended, George Washington was being urged to take the office of the president of the newly formed USA, but Martha objected the idea and so she didn’t attend his inauguration. Despite her objection, she stood by his side, known as “Lady Washington”, as before, for her etiquette and hospitality, and so laid the standards for what would later become the role of “The First Lady”.
    Martha Washington died three years after her husband, at the age of 70, and was buried next to him in the Mount Vernon estate to this day.

    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She was known for her fashionable style and was a role model of fashion and good taste.
    • After widowed from her first husband, someone else was responsible for her many assets as at that time a woman was forbidden to have property.
    • She owned slaves and didn’t think there was a problem with the concept.
    • She was the first woman to be honored with her image on a US postage.
    • She was the only woman that was depicted on the face of a United States Banknote: A 1$ Bill.
    • The Washington couple never had children of their own, but together they raised Martha’s children from her first marriage.
    • USS Lady Washington is named after her. It was the first US military ship to be named in honor of a woman and the first named for a person while the person was still alive.
  • More About Her Legacy
    Creations By and About Her:

    * Books about her

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  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • 'Martha Washington' visits her Mount Vernon home

    America's first lady provides a tour of the historic landmark

  • Martha Washington portrait by Gilbert Stuart. Presented in the National Portrait Gallery. Photo credit - WWP team.

  • Citations and Additional References:
    US History website.
    Biography website.
    Wikipedia page.