Everything that you need to know about Martha Jefferson – Thomas Jefferson’s Wife

Martha Jefferson was the wife of the 3rd president of the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson. Born on 30th October 1748, Martha Jefferson was the only child of her parents, John Wayles and Martha Eppes. Her dad was a lawyer, a businessman, and a slave merchant. Even though little information is known about Martha Epps’ education, a lot of documents proved that she was a writer.

Martha Jefferson

Martha Jefferson was the wife of Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the U.S.

Martha Jefferson had higher education; she loved music and reading. Martha was a successful seamstress who had a lively character. She first got married to Bathurst Skelton, at the age of 18. Bathurst, a Virginian lawyer, died in 1768 after suffering a short illness. It is generally believed that Martha likely met Jefferson at Williamsburg, Virginia. Martha and Jefferson had a third-cousin relationship. The two fell in love and got wedded on 1st January 1772. The Jefferson’s had 6 children. Most of their children died before reaching adulthood, except two of their daughters; the eldest daughter was their only child who lived up to 26 years. 

When Martha’s slave-rich father died, Martha and Jefferson inherited over a hundred slaves. They also inherited huge estate debts which took them many years to settle.

Martha served as First Lady of Virginia (1779-1781) when her husband was governor. This was during the American Revolution. In collaboration with Martha Washington (wife of the first president of the United States, George Washington), Mrs. Jefferson helped to raise money to support soldiers in the army. She played a big role in securing church donations from women, which amounted to three hundred thousand dollars. The funds were used to buy military attires for George Washington’s army.

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Martha Jefferson’s Death

Unfortunately, Martha did not live long enough to see her husband become the 3rd president of the United States. She had poor health owing to diabetes. Her diabetic condition got worsened by pregnancies. The medical disorder affected both herself and her children. Then in 1776, after suffering a miscarriage, she got very ill. She became overweight after her last child. Martha died on 6th September 1782 at age thirty-three. Her death occurred 4 months after giving birth to their last child. Her absence troubled Thomas Jefferson for the rest of his life. He often fainted due to the gravity of the pain of losing her. Before her death, Martha had cautioned Jefferson not to remarry and he obeyed.

Frequently asked questions about Martha Jefferson

Martha Jefferson

Below is a Q&A providing a glimpse into the life of Martha Jefferson.

How did Martha and Thomas Jefferson meet?

Martha and Thomas likely met in Virginia society circles, given their respective families’ status. They married on January 1, 1772.

Did Martha serve as First Lady?

No, Martha passed away in 1782, long before Jefferson’s presidency (1801-1809). During Jefferson’s presidency, the role often associated with the First Lady was filled by their daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph.

What do we know about her early life?

Born on October 19, 1748, in Charles City County, Virginia, Martha Wayles was the daughter of John Wayles and Martha Eppes Wayles. She was first married to Bathurst Skelton, but he died in 1768, making her a widow at a young age.

Was Martha involved in Thomas Jefferson’s political life?

While she was supportive of her husband, Martha’s health often precluded her from being actively involved in the political scene. However, her death had a profound emotional impact on Jefferson, influencing his personal life and perhaps his political outlook.

What was her health like?

Martha suffered from poor health for much of her adult life. She had several pregnancies, which took a toll on her body. She passed away several months after giving birth to her last child.

What was her relationship with her children?

Martha was close to her surviving children, especially her eldest daughter, also named Martha but commonly referred to as “Patsy”. Patsy played a significant role in caring for her siblings after their mother’s death.

Did she have any hobbies or interests?

Martha was musically talented and played the harpsichord and piano. She and Jefferson shared a love for music, reading, and the intellectual pursuits common in Virginia’s planter class.

How did she die?

Martha Jefferson died on September 6, 1782, at the age of 33. Her death was a significant blow to Thomas Jefferson, who was deeply affected by her loss.

Where is she buried?

She is buried at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s estate near Charlottesville, Virginia.

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