Martha Washington, born on June 2, 1731, in Virginia, played a pivotal role in the early history of the United States as the wife of George Washington, the nation’s first President.
Martha’s life began as a member of Virginia’s planter elite. In 1759, she married George Washington, marking the beginning of their enduring partnership.
As the inaugural First Lady, she set early standards for the role. After George’s retirement in 1797, they lived peacefully at Mount Vernon.
Martha passed away in 1802, leaving a legacy of support and strength in the early years of the United States.
|June 2, 1731
|Martha Dandridge Custis is born in New Kent County, Virginia.
|Martha marries Daniel Parke Custis, a wealthy planter.
|Martha becomes a widow when Daniel Parke Custis dies.
|Martha marries George Washington on January 6.
|Martha provides support to George Washington and the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.
|George Washington is inaugurated as the first President of the United States.
|The Washingtons retire to their estate, Mount Vernon, in Virginia.
|Martha Washington passes away on May 22 at the age of 70.
Timeline of Martha Washington
June 2, 1731: Martha Dandridge Custis is born in New Kent County, Virginia
Martha Dandridge Custis was born to John Dandridge and Frances Jones. She came from a well-to-do Virginia family, and her upbringing was relatively comfortable.
She received a basic education at home, as was customary for many girls of her social class during that time.
1749: Martha marries Daniel Parke Custis, a wealthy planter
At the age of 18, Martha married Daniel Parke Custis, a wealthy and much older planter. Their marriage was arranged, as was common in the colonial period.
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Together, they had four children: two girls and two boys. Unfortunately, only two of their children, John (Jacky) and Martha (Patsy), survived to adulthood.
This marriage thrust Martha into the world of Virginia’s plantation elite, and she became the mistress of the Custis estate when her husband inherited it.
1757: Martha becomes a widow when Daniel Parke Custis dies
In 1757, Daniel Parke Custis passed away unexpectedly, leaving Martha a widow at the age of 26. She was left to manage their extensive estate, including more than 17,000 acres of land and numerous enslaved individuals.
This period as a widow allowed her to develop her skills as a plantation manager and provided her with financial independence, which would later make her a highly sought-after match when she met George Washington.
1759: Martha marries George Washington on January 6
Martha’s life took a significant turn when she married George Washington, a prominent Virginia planter and military officer.
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The wedding took place at her home, White House Plantation, and the union solidified the Washingtons’ position in Virginia society.
George and Martha would go on to have a strong and enduring marriage, though they did not have children together.
1775-1783: Martha provides support to George Washington and the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War
During the American Revolutionary War, Martha joined her husband at various Continental Army encampments, providing vital support to the troops.
She spent winters with George at places like Valley Forge and Morristown, where she played a crucial role in boosting the morale of the soldiers.
Her presence was a source of comfort and encouragement to the Continental Army, and she personally assisted with the organization of medical supplies and care for the wounded.
1789: George Washington is inaugurated as the first President of the United States
After the American Revolutionary War, George Washington was unanimously elected as the first President of the United States. Martha became the country’s first First Lady.
Though the role of First Lady was not as defined as it is today, Martha set many precedents for future First Ladies, including her dignified and gracious hosting of social events at the presidential residence in New York City and later Philadelphia.
1797: The Washingtons retire to their estate, Mount Vernon, in Virginia
After serving two terms as President, George Washington retired from public life and returned to Mount Vernon, their beloved plantation in Virginia.
The Washington’s enjoyed a peaceful retirement on the estate, where they focused on agricultural pursuits and the management of their property. Martha continued to be involved in local affairs and remained a respected figure in Virginia society.
1802: Martha Washington passes away on May 22 at the age of 70
Tragically, Martha Washington’s life came to an end on May 22, 1802, when she passed away at the age of 70. Her death was a significant loss, not only for her family but also for the nation. She was laid to rest at Mount Vernon alongside her husband, George Washington, who had passed away in 1799.