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Martha Dandridge Custis Washington

Born June 2, 1731 in New Kent County, Virginia. She was the eldest of eight children.

Her father Colonel John Dandridge was a wealthy plantation owner.

She liked to ride horses and was reported to once ride her horse right into her uncle's home.

Martha was only five feet tall.

She was a year older than George.

She married Colonel Daniel Parke Custis when she was only seventeen. They had four children. Two of the children died when they were babies.

Her husband died when Martha was 25. Martha's estate was called the White House.

Presidents' wives were not called "First Lady's" at that time. She was referred to as "Lady Washington."

She married George Washington three years later in 1759. George wore at lovely suit of silver and blue. Martha had more money than George.

Library of Congress

When Washington married Martha Danridge-Custis, he got control of thousands of acres of land and over 300 slaves from her deceased husband. He was custodian of some of the property until Martha’s children grew up. They were married on January 6, 1759. Her gown was “of deep yellow brocade with rich lace in the neck and sleeves and purple satin shoes. Martha called George Washington her “Old man.” Martha, like her husband, had to get a full set of dentures during Washington’s second term.

George and Martha lived on a plantation called Mount Vernon which is located in Virginia. They didn't have any children together.

A custom started in Washington while George was President. A "gracious, no matter what her husband's title would come to the door and leave their calling card. The lady that received the card would then return each visit.

President Adam’s wife Abigail Adams said, Mrs. Washington is the most friendly, good lady, always pleasant and easy dotingly fond of her grandchildren. George and Martha enjoyed entertaining. In the seven years before the American Revolution they had an estimated 2,000 dates. Martha did a lot of work at Mount Vernon. For example she made distilled rose water and soap. Their daughter Patsy had epilepsy. She often had seizures.

During the Revolutionary War she would join her husband in camp during the winter months. She was in Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-78. She helped take care of the sick soldiers during those times. She mended clothes and created bandages as well as visiting with the troops.

When George became President, Martha moved to New York which was the first capital of the U.S. and then on to Philadelphia the second capital. She didn't like either of those cities.

She took to wearing extravagant clothes and rode in a gilded coach.

At receptions and social events in her home, she did not allow politics to be discussed.

It is reported that she ended the social events at 9 p.m. so President Washington could get his rest.

When George Washington's term of office ended in 1797, they returned to Mount Vernon.

After George died she burned all of their letters to each other.

She died of a fever May 22, 1802


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Sources of Information:

Barden, Cindy,Meet the First Ladies, Lorenz Corp.
Gormley, Beatrice,First Ladies: Women Who Called The White House Home (First Ladies) , Scholastic Paperbacks, 1997
Smith, Carter, Editor,Smithsonian Presidents and First Ladies DK Publishing, New York, 2002

Web Sites:
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Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies:


This page was updated: March 7, 2017