Martha Washington - The First First Lady

Martha Washington - The First First Lady

Martha Washington was the first First Lady of the United States.

She was an avid supporter of Washington and an important figure during winter encampments, but was also a capable landowner in her own right.

 

Widowed

Martha had just become a widow.

She had two children, John and Patsy, both under three years old.

She was pretty, and very, very wealthy.

Many suitors came calling.  Martha chose George.

 

Martha Washington

Upon their marriage, the Washington’s became one of the wealthiest families in Virginia.  

Their massive landholdings and hundreds of slaves gave them substantial property and profits from tobacco cultivation. Additionally, George had established himself as a respectable leader in the community.

Eventually, George was called on by his country to serve as Commander-in-Chief of a Revolutionary Army.

 

At War

Although she had never previously traveled far from Virginia, Martha began journeying hundreds of miles to spend winters with her husband.

Despite being surrounded by the Continental Army (and legendary tales of her meeting with common folks), there is no documented evidence that Mrs. Washington spent any time with rank and file soldiers. What we do know of is that Martha spent significant time entertaining officers and their wives as if the camp’s Headquarters was her own home.

By December of 1783 the Revolutionary War ended.  After eight long years, the Washington’s were finally able to have Christmas at home.

 

First Lady

Six years later, when George was elected President of the United States, Martha had reservations. Hadn’t he dedicated enough of his life to his country? Couldn’t they just stay home and enjoy retirement?

Unfortunately, George felt it was his duty to accept the highest of offices and the family traveled to New York, then to Philadelphia. Martha began serving as the first First Lady, though that title would not be used until quite some time after Washington’s Presidency.

 

Manumission

Sadly, George would pass away not long after he refused to run for a third term as President.

Martha was left a plantation full of slaves. Many of these people were ‘dower’ slaves who were given to Martha by her first husband, but would be transferred to her grandchildren after her death.

George’s slaves were also given to Martha to use until her death. However, George had tired of the horrid industry and stated in his will that after his wife passed, all his slaves would be freed.

Martha, uncomfortable living in a place with hundreds of people waiting for her to die (as well as being warned that some of those people might not be patient in waiting for her last breath) decided the time was right and freed all of George’s former slaves less than a year after his death.

It was only another year before Martha Washington would also leave the Earth.

To learn about other Founding Mothers of the United States, check out my articles on Elizabeth Lewis and Mercy Otis Warren.

If you’d like to read more about Martha Washington, ‘An American Life’ is, in my opinion, the best biography of the first First Lady. Pick up a copy through the Amazon affiliate link below.

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