Washington, Martha, 1731-1802

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Martha Dandridge Custis Washington was the first First Lady of the United States. Washington is not only remembered as the nation’s first lady who set an example for her future first ladies, but also as a wife, mother, and property owner. She is an example of strength during the Revolutionary War, and as the first lady of a new nation.

Born at Virginia’s Chestnut Grove Plantation located in New Kent County, Virginia on June 2, 1731, she was the eldest of eight children born to John and Frances Dandridge. On May 15, 1750, she married 38-year-old Daniel Parke Custis. Together they had four children. However, only two, John (called Jack) and Martha (called Patsy), survived past childhood. When her husband died in 1757, he left a large inheritance to Martha, making her wealthy—something that was less likely to be true a century later. This inheritance included 17,500 acres of land and 300 enslaved people.

Martha met George Washington in 1758. Washington owned Mount Vernon plantation and was the commander of the Virginia forces during the French and Indian War. Ten months after meeting, they married and she and her two surviving children moved into Mount Vernon. Because her husband was often travelling on military and business matters, Martha Washington was the effective manager of the household. She spent every winter in military encampments with General Washington during the Revolutionary War, making socks for the soldiers and raising money for other supplies.

The Revolutionary War ended in 1783 and General Washington returned to Mount Vernon. Both George and Martha were looking forward to a quiet retirement at their beloved home. The country, however, had other plans and George Washington became the new nation’s first president in 1789. “Lady Washington” moved with her husband to New York City, the nation’s first capital city. In an attempt to be accessible to the public, she held Friday evening receptions called “levees.” These levees were open to both men and women and followed European traditions of holding court while also serving as an example of social etiquette for every first lady to follow. The following year, the Washington’s moved to the new capital city: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Washingtons returned to Mount Vernon in 1797, after the inauguration of John Adams as president. George Washington died just two years later in 1799. In the President’s will, he stated that his 160 enslaved people be freed upon Martha’s death. However, Martha became fearful for her safety, so she freed her late husband’s enslaved people about a year after his death.

Martha Dandridge Custis Washington died May 22, 1802.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Pintard, John Marsden, d. 1811. Diary of John Pintard of New York, giving an account of his visit to Washington City in the summer of 1801 : typescript copy, 1801 July 8-Aug. 6. University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Washington family. Washington family paper, 1841-1877. South Carolina Historical Society, SCHS
referencedIn Washington Irving's Life of George Washington, Volume XII, Miscellany, 1769-1838. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866,. Jared Sparks portrait collection, [ca. 1600-1850]. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Washington Family Collection, 1582-1965, (bulk 1700-1900) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Washington, Martha, 1731-1802. Autograph letter signed : Cambridge, to Miss Ramsay, 1775 Dec. 30. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn George Washington papers, 1694-1932 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Ledger kept by Philip Slaughter [manuscript], 1805-1828. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Custis family. Papers, 1683-1858 [microform]. Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington
creatorOf Washington, Martha, 1731-1802. Autograph signature to letter of condolence written by Gen. Washington : Philadelphia, to Mr. Tobias Lear, 1796 Mar. 30. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Carter, Betty Lewis, 1765-1830. Washington family papers [manucript], 1773-1915. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Washington, Bushrod, 1762-1829. ALsS : Mount Vernon, to William Augustine Washington, 1802-1804. Rosenbach Museum & Library
referencedIn Custis family. Papers, 1683-1858. Virginia Historical Society Library
creatorOf Custis family,. [Martha Custis albums] Harvard University, Harvard Theater Collection, Harvard College Library
referencedIn Washington, George, 1732-1799. Letters from or about George Washington [manuscript], 1775-1828. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Washington, George, 1732-1799. Papers, 1755-1932. William & Mary Libraries
referencedIn Strubb, John,. George and Martha Washington [photograph], [ca. 1845]. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Washington, Martha, 1731-1802. Letter (draft) : Mount Vernon, to Elizabeth Powel, Philadelphia, 1797 Dec. 17. Rosenbach Museum & Library
creatorOf Washington, Martha, 1731-1802. Autograph letter signed : Mount Vernon, to a lady, 1800 Jan. 1. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Peter, Robert, 1726-1806. Papers of Robert Peter [manuscript], 1696-1897. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Engravings of George Washington, 1834-1874. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Warren, Mercy Otis, 1728-1814. Mercy Otis Warren papers, 1709-1841. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf SIGNATURES OF PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA from George Washington to Dwight David Eisenhower, often with those of their wives, mostly cut from letters and documents; 1776-aft. 1952. Lacks the signature of Calvin Coolidge but includes (f... British Library
referencedIn North, William, 1755-1836. Letter, 1783 Oct. 12, Garrison on the Schuylkill, to Benjamin Walker. Dartmouth College Library
referencedIn Andrews, Marietta Minnigerode, 1869-1931. Papers of Marietta Minnigerode Andrews, 1923-1927. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Upshur, George Lyttleton, b. 1856. Autograph letter signed : [New York, N.Y.], to "The Misses Morgan", 1911 Sept. 6. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Washington, George, 1732-1799. Letter : Philadelphia, to Mrs. [Martha] Washington, Mt. Vernon, 1775 June 23. Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington
creatorOf Washington, George, 1732-1799. Papers, 1754-1958. Gadsden Public Library
referencedIn Kimball, Marie Goebel, 1889-1955. The Martha Washington cook book, [1940] / by Marie Kimball. Dartmouth College Library
referencedIn Washington family papers, 1751-1870 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Hamilton, Alexander, 1757-1804. Autograph letter (unsigned retained draft) : New York, to Martha Washington, 1800 Jan. 12. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Lone Pine Farm photograph album [graphic], circa 1900. Oregon Historical Society Research Library
referencedIn Marquis de Lafayette Papers, 1457-1990, (bulk 1736-1880) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn PH 1716, Young, Brigham 1801-1877. Brigham Young photographs circa 1860-1870 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Church History Library
creatorOf Johnston, Clement Dixon, 1875-1979,. Papers collected by Clement Dixon Johnston, 1760-1893. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Washington, Martha, 1731-1802. ALS : Philadelphia, to Frances Bassett Washington, 1797 June 15. Rosenbach Museum & Library
referencedIn Washington, George, 1732-1799. An account of Mrs. Washington's expences [sic] from Virginia to my winter quarters and back again to Virginia according to the memms. and accts. which I have received from her and those who accompd. her, 1783 July 1. Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington
creatorOf Washington, Martha, 1731-1802. Martha Washington receipt, undated. New London County Historical Society
creatorOf Washington, Martha. Last will and testament of, 4 Mar. 1802. [microfilm]. Utah Division of State History, Utah Historical Society
referencedIn Steele, John, 1807-1885. John Steele and family papers, 1780, 1805, 1855-1883. Minnesota Historical Society Library
referencedIn Warren, Mercy Otis, 1728-1814. Mercy Otis Warren papers, 1709-1814 (inclusive), [microform]. Yale University Library
referencedIn Wallace, Emma, fl. 1870. Photograph album of Emma Wallace [manuscript], ca. 1870. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Lee, Eliza Hamilton Schuyler, 1811-1890. Eliza Hamilton Schuyler Lee scrapbook, 1691-1869. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Washington, George, 1732-1799. Autograph letter signed : Philadelphia, to Tobias Lear, 1796 Mar. 30. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Bolívar, Simón, 1783-1830,. University of Virgina Library miscellaneous photographs collection [graphic], circa 1929-1946. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Lone Pine Farm photograph album, circa 1900 Oregon Historical Society Research Library
referencedIn Lewis, Nelly Custis, 1779-1852. [Pin cushion]. Boston Athenaeum
referencedIn Carrington, Eliza Jaquelin Ambler, fl. 1796-1823. Papers of Eliza Jaquelin Ambler Carrington [manuscript], 1780-1832. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Pintard, John Marsden, d. 1811. Diary of John Pintard of New York, giving an account of his visit to Washington City in the summer of 1801 : typescript, 1801 July 8-Aug. 6. Texas Christian University
referencedIn Washington, George, 1732-1799. Letter : Mount Vernon, Va., to Robert Cary and Co., [London?], 1759 Sept. 20. Texas Christian University
referencedIn Washington Irving's Life of George Washington, Volume IV, Miscellany, 1756-1807. Cornell University Library
creatorOf Smith, Clarissa G.,. Lady Washington's lamentation : manuscript, 1823 Apr. Harvard University, Houghton Library
creatorOf Washington, Martha, 1731-1802. Martha Washington papers, 1770-1831 (bulk 1799-1804). Library of Congress
referencedIn Washington Irving's Life of George Washington, Volume 14, Miscellany, 1784-1860. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Washington family. Washington family papers, 1751-1870 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf Washington, George, 1732-1799. Letters, 1776-1797. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
creatorOf Washington, George, 1732-1799. George Washington facsimiles [manuscript], 1770-1789. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Windsor, Kay. [Culinary ephemera : beverages - alcoholic]. Box 198. University of Michigan, William Clements Library
referencedIn Spotswood, Mary. Mary Spotswood correspondence, 18th century. Library of Congress
contributorOf Peter family papers, 1772-1932 Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington
referencedIn Washington, George, 1732-1799. Papers, 1775-1939. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
creatorOf Washington, George, 1732-1799. George Washington collection, 1749-1806, (bulk 1757-1799). Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
creatorOf Washington, George, 1732-1799. George and Martha Washington papers, 1750-1802. New-York Historical Society
referencedIn Washington Irving's Life of George Washington, Volume XII, Miscellany, 1769-1838. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Blair family. Blair, Banister, Braxton, Horner, Whiting papers, 1760-1890, 1765-1817. William & Mary Libraries
referencedIn Carter, Betty Lewis, 1765-1830. Betty Lewis Carter papers, circa 1778. Library of Congress
creatorOf Washington, Martha, 1732-1802. Needlebook with provenance. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
referencedIn Page family. Papers, 1777-1822. William & Mary Libraries
referencedIn Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, marquis de, 1757-1834. Papers of the marquis de Lafayette, 1457-1990. Library of Congress
referencedIn Records of the National Park Service, 1785 - 2006. National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013 - 2017 National Archives Library, National Archives Records Administration
referencedIn Engravings of George Washington [manuscript], 1834-1874, n.d. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Collection of papers related to the will of Martha Washington, 1905-1931 (bulk 1914-1915). Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Postcards of Mount Vernon, Virginia, 1906-1940, and n.d. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Viterbo University. Character dolls : Tom Sawyer ; Becky Thatcher ; George Washington ; Martha Washington ; Huckleberry Finn. Viterbo University, Todd Wehr Memorial Library
referencedIn Thomas Addis Emmet collection, 1483-1876, 1700-1800 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Biographical essays of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, 1975-ca. 1978 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Custis, George Washington Parke, 1781-1857. ALS : Arlington, Va., to Major Lewis, 1830 Feb. 27. Rosenbach Museum & Library
referencedIn Tompkins, Arthur S. Papers, 1890-1935. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Warren, Mercy Otis, 1728-1814. Mercy Otis Warren papers, 1709-1814 (inclusive) [microform]. Stanford University Libraries
referencedIn Joshua Coit Correspondence, 1792-1798 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Beard, James. [Culinary ephemera : beverages - alcoholic]. Box 206. University of Michigan, William Clements Library
referencedIn Washington, George, 1732-1799. Letters, 1775-1828. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Jefferson, Martha, 1748-1782,. Receipt signed by Jefferson and letter written by Martha Jefferson [manuscript], 1780. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Washington, Martha, 1731-1802. Receipt, 1801 Oct. 20. Rosenbach Museum & Library
creatorOf Washington, Martha, 1731-1802. ALS : Mount Vernon, to Burwell Bassett, 1777 Dec. 22. Rosenbach Museum & Library
creatorOf Washington, George, 1732-1799. Deed [manuscript], 1795 August 3. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Lewis family. Papers of the Lewis family, 1744-1860. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Adams, Thomas Boylston, 1772-1832. Thomas Boylston Adams diary, 1798-1799. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Washington, George, 1732-1799. George Washington papers, 1694-1932. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Kimball, Marie Goebel, 1889-1955. The Martha Washington cook book, 1937-1940. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn General Historical Manuscripts and Ephemera collection, 1790-1928, undated. University of Southern California, USC Libraries
referencedIn Turney, Catherine. Papers of Catherine Turney, 1761-1998 (bulk 1934-1985). Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn Hopkins, Cornelia Lee, 1780-1815. Letters : to Elizabeth Collins Lee, 1797-1866. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Coit, Joshua, 1758-1798. Joshua Coit correspondence, 1792-1798. Library of Congress
referencedIn Washington, William Augustine, 1757-1810. Ledger, 1782-1809. Rosenbach Museum & Library
creatorOf Martha Washington Collection [Mount Vernon], 26 June 1761 - 11 July 1802 Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington
referencedIn Custis, Daniel Parke, 1711-1757. Invoice book, 1749-1757. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library
referencedIn General Historical Manuscripts and Ephemera collection, 1790-1928, undated USC Libraries Special Collections
referencedIn Beard, James. [Culinary ephemera : beverages - alcoholic]. Box 206. University of Michigan, William Clements Library
referencedIn Washington, George, 1732-1799. Pendant containing the interwoven hair of George Washington and Martha Dandridge Custis Washington [manuscript] 1805. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Huntington, Daniel, 1816-1906. Letter: 48 East 20th St., to C. B. Conant, Oct. 26, [18]65. Brooklyn Museum Libraries & Archives
referencedIn Washington Irving's Life of George Washington, Volume 14, Miscellany, 1784-1860. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Records of the First Lady's Office (Clinton Administration), 1993 - 2001. News Files, 1993 - 2001 William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum
referencedIn Custis, Frances Parke, 1685-ca.1715. Cookbook, 18th century. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library
referencedIn Washington family collection, 1582-1965 (bulk 1700-1900). Library of Congress
referencedIn Wadsworth, Elizabeth, 1779-1802. Elizabeth Wadsworth, Peleg Wadsworth, and Tobias Lear correspondence concerning a lock of President Washington's hair, 1800. Maine Historical Society Library
referencedIn Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866. Jared Sparks collection of American manuscripts, 1582-1843 Houghton Library
referencedIn Washington Irving's Life of George Washington, Volume II, miscellany, 1755-1831. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Lee, Mary Custis, 1835-1918. Papers, 1694-1917. Virginia Historical Society Library
creatorOf Washington, George, 1732-1799. Washington family papers, 1766-1801 [microform]. Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington
referencedIn Sartain, John, 1808-1897,. [The Washington family] [graphic] / painted by Edward Savage ; engraved by J. Sartain. Boston Athenaeum
creatorOf Washington, Martha, 1731-1802. Autograph letter signed : Philadelphia, to her sister Nancy, 1776 Aug. 28. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Lewis, Nelly Custis, 1779-1852. ALS, 12 Jan. 1800, Mount Vernon, to Mary Stead Pinckney. Rosenbach Museum & Library
referencedIn Washington family. Papers, 1675-1883 (inclusive), 1675, 1770-1799, 1833 (bulk). Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Upshur, George Lyttleton, b. 1856. Autograph letter signed : [New York, N.Y.], to Mr. Morgan, 1911 Sept. 15. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Custis family. Papers, 1750, 1753, 1758, 1774, and 1784. Library of Virginia
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Adams, John, 1735-1826 person
associatedWith Adams, Thomas Boylston, 1772-1832. person
associatedWith Andrews, Marietta Minnigerode, 1869-1931. person
associatedWith Ast, William Frederick, d. 1807. person
associatedWith Bassett, Anna Maria Dandridge, 1739-1777 person
associatedWith Bassett, Burwell, d. 1793, person
associatedWith Blair, Montgomery, 1813-1883 person
associatedWith Cameron, Simon, 1799-1889 person
associatedWith Carrington, Eliza Jaquelin Ambler, fl. 1796-1823. person
correspondedWith Carter, Betty Lewis, 1765-1830. person
associatedWith Chase, Salmon P., (Salmon Portland), 1808-1873 person
associatedWith Coit, Joshua, 1758-1798. person
spouseOf Custis, Daniel Parke, 1711-1757. person
associatedWith Custis family. person
associatedWith Custis family. family
associatedWith Custis family. family
associatedWith Custis family. family
associatedWith Custis, Frances Parke, 1685-ca.1715. person
associatedWith Custis, George Washington Parke, 1781-1857. person
associatedWith Custis, John Parke, 1754-1781. person
associatedWith Debs, Eugene V., ((Eugene Victor)), 1855-1926 person
associatedWith Dennison, William, 1815-1882 person
associatedWith Emmet, Thomas Addis person
associatedWith Fessenden, William Pitt, 1806-1869 person
associatedWith Hamilton, Alexander, 1757-1804. person
associatedWith Hopkins, Cornelia Lee, 1780-1815. person
associatedWith Huntington, Daniel, 1816-1906. person
associatedWith Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826 person
associatedWith Johnston, Clement Dixon, 1875-1979, person
associatedWith Kimball, Marie Goebel, 1889-1955. person
associatedWith Kountze, De Lancey, d. 1946, person
associatedWith Lafayette, Marie Adrienne de Noailles, marquise de, 1759-1807 person
associatedWith Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, marquis de, 1757-1834. person
associatedWith Lear, Frances Bassett Washington. person
associatedWith Lear, Tobias, 1762-1816. person
associatedWith Lee, Eliza Hamilton Schuyler, 1811-1890. person
associatedWith Lee, Mary Custis, 1835-1918. person
associatedWith Lewis family. family
associatedWith Lewis, Nelly Custis, 1779-1852, person
associatedWith Lewis, Robert, 1769-1829. person
associatedWith Morris, Mary White, 1749-1827. person
associatedWith Morris, Robert, 1734-1806. person
associatedWith National Society of the Colonial Dames of America corporateBody
associatedWith North, William, 1755-1836. person
associatedWith Page family. family
associatedWith Peter, Robert, 1726-1806. person
associatedWith Pintard, John Marsden, d. 1811. person
associatedWith Powel, Elizabeth, 1743-1830, person
ownerOf Quander, Nancy Carter person
associatedWith Ramsay, Miss, person
associatedWith Raymond, Henry J., (Henry Jarvis), 1820-1869 person
associatedWith Rivalain, L. person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Franklin D., (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945 person
associatedWith Sartain, John, 1808-1897, person
associatedWith Seward, William Henry, 1801-1872 person
associatedWith Smith, Clarissa G., person
associatedWith Smith, William Stephens, 1755-1816 person
associatedWith Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866, person
associatedWith Spotswood, Mary. person
associatedWith Steele, John, 1807-1885. person
associatedWith Strubb, John, person
associatedWith Tompkins, Arthur S. person
associatedWith Turney, Catherine. person
associatedWith Upshur, George Lyttleton, b. 1856. person
associatedWith Viterbo University. corporateBody
associatedWith Wadsworth, Elizabeth, 1779-1802. person
associatedWith Wallace, Emma, fl. 1870. person
associatedWith Warren, Mercy Otis, 1728-1814. person
associatedWith Washington, Bushrod, 1762-1829. person
associatedWith Washington family family
associatedWith Washington family. family
associatedWith Washington family. family
associatedWith Washington family. family
associatedWith Washington family. family
associatedWith Washington family. family
associatedWith Washington, George, 1732-1799. person
spouseOf Washington, George, 1732-1799. person
associatedWith Washington, William Augustine, 1757-1810. person
associatedWith Young, Brigham 1801-1877 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Valley Forge PA US
Philadelphia PA US
Richmond VA US
Chestnut Grove VA US
New York City NY US
Mount Vernon VA US
Mount Vernon VA US
Subject
Women--Social life and customs
Home economics--18th century
Slaves--18th century
Children--Nutrition
President's spouses
Occupation
Presidents' spouses--United States
Function

Person

Birth 1731-06-13

Death 1802-05-22

Female

Americans

English

Information

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