Martha Washington Biography

Martha Dandridge Custis Washington, the wife of George Washington, was a gracious hostess and generous supporter of Revolutionary war veterans. Despite being the first “First Lady” of the United States, this title was not coined until after her death. Martha, also known as Lady Washington, was a wealthy young widow with children when she married George Washington, who was then a Colonel. She became her husband’s caretaker when he was made General of the American Army, skillfully enlisting the assistance of women to support the Continental Army. Their marriage was built on mutual respect and affection, and Martha fulfilled her duties as First Lady wholeheartedly, even though she found it stifling. She continued to receive guests and socialize long after Washington’s Administration ended.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Martha Dandridge
  • Died At Age: 70
  • Spouse/Ex-: Daniel Parke Custis (m. 1750–1757), George Washington (m. 1759–1799)
  • Father: John Dandridge
  • Mother: Francis Jones
  • Siblings: Anna Marie, Bartholomew (1737–1785), John (1733–1749), William (1734–1776)
  • Children: John Parke Custis
  • Died on: May 22, 1802
  • Place of death: Mount Vernon, Virginia, United States
  • U.S. State: Virginia
  • Ancestry: British American

Childhood & Early Life

Martha Washington was born as the eldest daughter of John Dandridge and his wife Frances Jones. She had seven siblings and was also rumored to have two illegitimate half-siblings. She received informal training at home in music, sewing, and household management. She also knew how to read and write, and had basic knowledge about animal husbandry and plantation management.

Later Years

Martha married Daniel Parke Custis, a much older rich planter, in 1750 when she was 18 years old. She had four children with him, of whom two died in childhood. After her husband’s death in 1757, she had full control over her dower inheritance, which included properties and slaves. Martha successfully ran the five plantations her husband had left her.

Martha met Colonel George Washington, who expressed an interest in marrying her. The couple was married in a grand ceremony in 1759. Together, they raised Martha’s two surviving children. Martha had a vast inheritance to take care of and was very skilled at managing the large staff of servants. Her husband managed the financial affairs of the plantations. Martha oversaw the processes of harvesting and processing fruits and vegetables, dairy and meat products, and herbs for making medicines.

George Washington was appointed the General of the American Army during the American Revolution. Martha enlisted the support of other women in the colonies and encouraged them to contribute financially and gather supplies for the Continental Army. After the colonies achieved their independence and the U.S. Constitution was ratified, George Washington was unanimously elected as the country’s first president. Martha served as the First Lady for eight years until 1797. She hosted several affairs and receptions and developed a friendship with Abigail Adams, wife of the vice president John Adams.

Personal Life & Legacy

Martha married Daniel Parke Custis in 1750 when she was 18 years old. They had four children, but only two survived childhood. Custis died in 1757. Her second marriage was to George Washington in 1759. The couple did not have any children of their own, but they raised Martha’s children from her previous marriage. Martha was a strong and independent woman who was also a dutiful wife. She died at the age of 70 in her home in 1802.

Major Works

Martha Washington was the first First Lady of the United States and was noted for her patience, hard work, and loyalty towards her husband and country. As the wife of the very first president of the United States, she set a precedent for other First Ladies to follow in the future.

Trivia

The Martha Washington coin was released under the First Spouse Program in the U.S. in 2007.

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