Did you know that Martha Washington was older than George Washington? Can you guess how she felt about her husband assuming the presidency of the United States? Do you know what was the second most painful occurrence in her life? Here are eight interesting facts about Martha Washington.
Martha Washington Facts
1. Martha Washington was eight months older than George Washington
Martha Washington was born to John Dandridge and Frances Jones at their Chestnut Grove plantation house in New Kent County, Virginia on June 13, 1731 (or June 2 in the Old Style dating). Her birth name was Martha Dandridge.
George Washington was born at a site roughly 50 miles away from the birthplace of his wife in Westmoreland County. However, the date of his birth was February 22, 1732, making him eight months younger than her.
2. George was Martha’s second husband
Martha and George tied the knot on January 6, 1759, and went on to live as a couple until George passed away on December 12, 1799. Although it was the only marriage for George, Martha had been married once before. Her first husband was a wealthy planter named Daniel Parke Custis, whom she married on May 15, 1750. At the time of their wedding, she was just 18 years old, but her husband was in his late 30s, an interesting fact about Martha Washington.
With Custis dying on July 8, 1757, presumably of a heart attack, the marriage could only last for seven years. After his death, she received custody of around 17,500 acres of land and 300 slaves, in addition to other investments and cash.
3. She outlived her two husbands as well as her four children
Tragically, Martha outlived not only the two men she got married to, but also the four kids she had given birth to. All four of her children were fathered by Custis – she had none with George. Two of the kids died before reaching the age of four, while one passed away at the age of 16.
John Parke Custis was her only child to make it to adulthood and get married. However, he too died prematurely, at the age of 26, after having contracted “camp fever” while serving as a civilian aide-de-camp to his stepfather during the siege of Yorktown. After already having witnessed the death of her two husbands and four children, Martha breathed her last on May 22, 1802, at the age of 70.
4. She stayed with her husband at winter encampments throughout much of the Revolutionary War
There were women who, disguised as men, joined the Continental Army and fought the Brits during the Revolutionary War. While Martha Washington may not have been one of them, she also didn’t simply stay put in Mount Vernon, their plantation in Fairfax County, Virginia, and wait for her husband to return from war.
In each year of the Revolutionary War, she would make a months-long trip to George Washington’s winter encampment, whether it was at Cambridge, Valley Forge, Morristown, Newburgh, or somewhere else. Also, she wasn’t just taking excellent care of her husband at the camps. An interesting fact about Martha Washington is that she paid frequent visits to the huts of common soldiers, spent hours knitting socks and other outer garments for them, and nursed the ones who were ill or dying.
5. Martha Washington wasn’t a big fan of her husband assuming the US presidency
Most wives would love the idea of their husbands becoming the President of the United States, but Martha was an exception in this regard. After the war had ended, all she craved for was a quiet, private life with her husband at Mount Vernon. Hence, she wasn’t thrilled when George agreed to become the new nation’s first president.
This is probably why she wasn’t there next to him in New York during his inauguration. The next eight years were some of the most unpleasant years of her life. This was especially due to the fact that she had to abide by a series of rigid protocols and rules as the president’s wife.
6. She had never been referred to as “First Lady” in her lifetime
Since Martha was married to the first US president, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that she was the country’s first First Lady. But the title was rarely used to refer to the spouse of a president until the 1930s. In fact, in all her life, Martha never got to be called “First Lady.” Instead, she was commonly addressed as Lady Washington.
An article published in the newspaper St. Johnsbury Caledonian in 1838, more than three and a half decades after her death, was the first time she was referred to as “the first lady of the nation.”
7. Hosting Thomas Jefferson was the second most painful occurrence of Martha’s life
If there’s one person whom Martha Washington loathed, it’s Thomas Jefferson, who, just like her husband, was a Founding Father of the United States. Apparently, the pain of hosting Jefferson at Mount Vernon in January 1801 was greater to her than that of burying any of her four children, or her first husband.
In her words, his visit was the “second most painful occurrence of her life,” only behind the death of George, an interesting fact about Martha Washington. She regarded him as “one of the most detestable of mankind.” The fact that Jefferson and his newspaper, the National Gazette, had launched political attacks on her husband was probably what gave birth to so much hatred against him in her heart.
8. She freed all of her husband’s enslaved people, but not because she had a problem with slavery
Based on what his will stipulated, George wanted the 123 slaves that he owned to be freed not right away after his death, but that of his wife. However, Martha signed a deed of manumission in December 1800, as a result of which, all the slaves belonging to her deceased husband received freedom on January 1, 1801. This wasn’t something she did to take a stance against slavery. Like most other people of that day and age, she too was quite comfortable with the system.
What actually prompted Martha to set George’s enslaved people free was the fear of her own life. An interesting fact about Martha Washington is that she was afraid that she might end up dying at their hands as her death was the only thing standing between them and their freedom. There were even rumors that the slaves were behind a suspicious fire at Mount Vernon.
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