Martha Washington: The First First Lady

Updated on January 31, 2019
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Life sketch writing covering well-known poets, politicians, and others keeps me in touch with history and current events.

Martha Washington

Source

A Useful Philosophy of Life

The first First Lady had a personal philosophy of life that, no doubt, served her well in performing her duties in the political world into which she was thrust after she married the first President, George Washington. That philosophy she summed up as follows:

I am . . . determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.

Such a disposition was surely helpful because she remarked that as First Lady, she felt “like a state prisoner.” She opined to her niece, “many younger and gayer women would be extremely pleased” to perform her presidential duties, but she insisted that she would “much rather be at home.” Despite her preference for a more private life, she performed her duties with great equanimity garnered from the life she had lived in Tidewater Virginia during the preceding fifty-eight years.

Martha Dandridge

On June 2, 1731, Martha Dandridge was born to John and Frances Dandridge on the Chestnut Grove plantation in New Kent County, Virginia. Her education emphasized keeping a home and caring for a family.

At age nineteen, she married Daniel Parke Custis, who was twenty years her senior. He served as a manager of his father’s New Kent County plantation. Interestingly, their mansion was called "White House," and it was located on the Pamunkey River. The Custises had four children; two died in infancy. Then Martha’s husband died in 1757. Martha inherited the huge Custis estate, and she proved to be an able businesswoman in managing the plantation.

Marries George Washington

Martha married George Washington in 1759. They had no children of their own, but they raised Martha’s two surviving children from her first marriage, and they also raised two of their grandchildren. Martha Washington played an enormous role in supervising the operation of the large Custis estate that she inherited, as well as the vast farming enterprise of her husband’s Mount Vernon.

George managed the financial affairs of the plantation, but she directed the large staff of slaves and servants and was responsible for directing the farming operation including the planting, harvesting, and preparation of foods that were produced. During the American Revolution, she became known as “Lady Washington” as she worked to organize women who volunteered to help the army. She bravely supported her husband wherever his career took him.

Duties as First Lady

As First Lady, Martha entertained guests in both presidential residences first in New York and then in Philadelphia. She was considered a warm and sincere hostess. She chose a rather formal style for her dinners, which were held on Thursdays, with public receptions on Fridays. Anti-Federalist newspapers criticized her formal dinners as too British, but she remained beloved by the Revolutionary War veterans.

While Martha did not try to influence presidential policy, she would intercede with financial support for veterans when she heard of one in need. She was much beloved by Europeans as well as revolutionary Americans; she was sent many lavish gifts from Europe, and it is reported that a British engraver created a trinket with her supposed image that did not reflect her actual appearance, yet carried the name “Lady Washington.”

Return to Mount Vernon

After Washington’s second term in ended 1797 George and Martha returned to Mount Vernon, where they lived a relatively quiet life among family and friends, even though they received many guests who arrived to bask in the glow of the couple’s celebrity.

George Washington died December 14, 1799, and Martha died May 22, 1802. Both are entombed at their beloved Mount Vernon.

First Ladies Preview: Martha Washington

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Linda Sue Grimes

    Comments

    Submit a Comment
    • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Sue Grimes 

      2 months ago from U.S.A.

      Thank you, Louise! Nice to hear from you. The First Ladies subject offers an opportunity to review American history. This one along with the my series on the presidents and poetry afford me a fascinating glimpse into historical events, and allows me a rich place to learn, research, write, and think.

      Always nice to hear from you, Louise. Hope all is well with you! Wishing you a happy holiday season . . .

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      2 months ago from Norfolk, England

      That was very interesting to read. I know very little of this lady, so it was good to learn about her.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)