Who was George Washington’s Wife?

George Washington's wife

George Washington’s wife – Martha Washington

We know George Washington as America’s first president and a key Founding Father who led the Continental Army to victory during the American Revolution. How about George Washington’s wife, who also went down in history as the United States’ first First Lady?  At least, generations have taught us that, behind every successful man, there is a woman.

In this vein, let’s learn a brief history of Martha Washington; the beautiful wife of George Washington who stood by her husband’s side during the Revolution.

Biography of Martha Washington

Martha Washington was the daughter of John Dandrige and Frances Jones. Martha’s ancestral family could be traced to Europe. Her dad John emigrated from England to settle in Virginia. There, he worked as a clerk in the county of New Kent. Born in Virginia, Frances Jones tied the knot with Dandrige in 1730. On June 2, 1731, Martha was born in New Kent County, Virginia. She had seven siblings – three brothers and four sisters.

Martha Washington’s birthplace – Chestnut Grove in the Colony of Virginia


Martha Dandridge, when she was 7-8 years old, 1739

Martha was not the highly educated type of woman, but she learned to read and write. In fact, some people say she had no formal education. Her family trained her to sew, practice music, and manage domestic affairs.

The world thought it had probably underrated Martha’s education when it was discovered that she had knowledge about managing plantations, crop sale, medicine, as well as animal husbandry. Prior to her marriage to Washington, the assumptions were that Martha’s youthful career varied from needlework, singing & dancing, and perhaps preps for plantation management.

Martha Washington’s spouses

Martha Washington’s first husband – Daniel Parke Custis

In 1749, 18-year-old Martha entered into marriage with 38 year-old Daniel Parke Custis — quite a successful plantation owner. During their good times together, Martha bore 4 children – Daniel, Frances, John and Patsy – with Parke before his death in 1757. After her first husband’s death, the widowed Martha inherited her husband’s wealth.

Read More: Why George Washington Didn’t/ Couldn’t Have Biological Children?

A year later, George Washington set eyes on the pretty widow. It was springtime when young Washington – a plantation master himself and a Virginian military commander – started dating Martha. The couple married in 1759 and Washington adopted Martha’s kids from her first marriage. Martha and her kids stayed with Washington at his Mount Vernon plantation.

Martha Washington’s Second Husband – President George Washington

There were speculations that Martha’s strong financial background may have made Washington’s life more comfortable. Anytime such statements were paraded, George Washington would hear none of it.

Martha Washington’s Support during the Revolution

While at Mount Vernon, Martha proved beyond all reasonable doubts that she was a caring and supportive woman.  When Washington was called to command the Continental Army in June 1775, Martha stayed with Washington in military camps, and she offered her support to the cause of freedom and independence. She also called on her fellow women to do likewise. Having lost both of her last surviving children, Martha and Washington adopted her grandchildren.

The Inaugural First Lady of the United States (The First First Lady)

In 1789, following America’s gain of Independence, and George Washington’s inauguration as president of the United States, Martha became the first First Lady of the United States.

During her husband’s two terms in office (1789 – 1797), Martha exhibited graciousness in her position as Lady Washington. She was very responsible for organizing social gatherings. Her efforts helped lay a strong foundation for future first ladies of the United States.

Read More: 15 Major Achievements of George Washington

Martha Washington’s Death

George Washington died first in December 1799; Martha followed her husband to the grave on May 22, 1802. She was 70 at the time of her death. Her body was laid to rest next to her husband at Mount Vernon, Virginia.

Did you know?

Martha Washington was the first American woman to be honored with a U.S. postage stamp. The stamp was issued in 1902, 1923, and 1938.

  • The title of First Lady of the United States did not emerge until after the death of Martha Washington. Martha spent the bulk of her lifetime being referred to as “Lady Washington”.
  • At the time that her first husband died in 1757, the dower slaves that Martha inherited were around 85. By 1799, the year George Washington died, that number had increased to over 150.
  • George Washington’s will ordered that about 124 slaves in his estate be freed upon the death of Martha Washington. Washington could not free those slaves at the time of his death because his slaves had intermarried with many of Martha’s dower slaves. Martha did not wait until her death to free her husband Washington’s slaves. She gave them their freedom on New Year’s day in 1801 as she feared that the slaves, who were aware of the content of Washington’s will, tried to quicken her death in order to secure their freedom.
  • Her first husband Daniel Parke Custis owned close to 300 slaves spread across a number of plantations in many counties. At that figure, Custis was undoubtedly one of the largest slaveowners in colonial Virginia. It must be noted that Martha and her second husband George Washington benefited tremendously from those possessions of Custis. Much of the wealth that they generated came on the backs of the enslaved people that they owned.
  • None of Martha Washington slaves were freed during her lifetime. Upon her death, the dower slaves that she owned went back to the Custis estate and later inherited by her grandsons, including George Washington Parke Custis.

    Martha Washington facts and quotes

    During the presidency of her husband, Martha Washington described her time in New York as comparable to living in a state prison. Quote: Martha Washington confiding to a niece that she did not entirely enjoy her role as first of First Ladies.

  • The USS Lady Washington, a row galley in the Continental Navy, was named in 1776 in honor of Martha Washington. The ship, which went out of service in 1778, was the first U.S. military ship to be named after a woman.
  • Martha Washington was the first American woman to be honored with a U.S. postage stamp. The stamp was issued in 1902, 1923, and 1938.
  • She is the only American woman to have her face shown on a U.S. Banknote. Her face appeared on the $1 Silver Certificate of 1886 and 1891.
  • There is a town in Jefferson County, Tennessee, which is named Dandridge. The name is in honor of Martha Washington. Dandridge, which as at the 2010 population census had close to 3,000 inhabitants, is the seat of Jefferson County, Tennessee. The town was founded in 1783.

FACT CHECK: At worldhistoryedu.com, we strive for utmost accuracy and objectivity. But if you come across something that doesn’t look right, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

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