“Lady Washington”, the popular nickname was given to the first of the First Ladies of the United States, Martha Washington. Known for her strong devotion to her husband, George Washington, Martha became a key figure in American History.
Between midnight and one o’clock, Martha Dandridge Custis Washington, was born on June 2, 1731 on a plantation near Williamsburg. Martha was not formerly educated however, she was educated in domestic skills. Not much is known about Martha’s childhood other than she was the eldest daughter of John and Frances Dandridge. At 18, Martha married the wealthy Daniel Parke Custus. Custus and Martha bore four children together, losing two of them before they grew to childhood. In 1757, Custis past away; leaving Martha with a rich inheritance.
George Washington and family life
In 1759, Martha married Colonel George Washington. Martha’s greatest concern was the comfort and happiness of her husband and her children. George Washington had been the commander of the First Virginia Regiment in the French and Indian War. The couple bore no children together, however, raised Martha’s two surviving children. Sadly, her daughter, Martha, passed away from an epileptic seizure. Her last surviving child, John, died from typhus during the seize of Yorktown. George and Martha Washington raised two of John’s youngest children. The Washington’s lived on his Mount Vernon Estate until their deaths. Mount Vernon was acquired by George in 1754 on a lease from his sister-in-law, upon her death, he inherited his beloved home. Mount Vernon is now an educational tourist attraction.
George Washington served as Commander and Chief of the newly formed American Army. Martha spent a winter at Valley Forge with Washington and his soldiers. Her influence on the soldiers was known as one of the greatest morale boosters they had. She was determined to be cheerful and happy no matter what the situation. Martha also formed a sewing circle during the war and would mend clothing for the troops. Washington was nominated for President of the newly formed United States. Martha opposed the election and did not attend Washington’s inauguration on April 30, 1789. However, once she understood her responsibilities as “First Lady”, she gracefully accepted her duties.
Martha’s warm hospitality put strangers at ease. The Washington’s moved with the President’s temporary capitols in New York and Philadelphia. The couple’s demeanor was that of elegance and they often entertained formal style to show other countries of America’s wish to be treated equal as other established governments. Though Martha was an excellent hostess, she longed for her private life in Virginia. She once wrote a letter to her niece and stated: “I think I am more like a state prisoner than anything else, there is certain bounds set for me which I must not depart from.”
The Washington’s served as President and First Lady until 1797, when they returned home to Mount Vernon.
Three years after his retirement from office, George passed away in 1799. Martha burned all their letters they had once written each other to ensure their privacy. She died on May 22, 1802 and is buried at Mount Vernon next to George Washington.
Martha Washington set the stage for many First Ladies to the President of the United States. Her compassion, kindness and warm example as a wife and mother have cemented their place in history. Despite the United States being a newly formed country, Martha showed the world that they are equal to all other nations. Dignity and grace are some of the words used to describe Washington and America can only hope to keep this wonderful example alive to all other nations in the world.