Martha Dandridge Custis Washington was born on June 2nd, 1731, and is best known as America’s First Lady after she married George Washington. During her life, she was referred to as “Lady Washington.”
When she was 18 year old, Martha married Daniel Parke Custis, a wealthy planter who was two years older than her. Together the pair would have four children, only two of which survived (Jacky and Patsy). Daniel died in 1757, leaving his fortune to Martha.
On January 6, 1759, at the age of 27, Martha married George Washington. She brought both enormous wealth and social status to her marriage with Washington. The pair settled into George’s estate at Mt. Vernon, which was a grand property with working farms, gardens, and even a distillery. The Washington’s also owned many slaves that worked as servants and farmhands throughout Mount Vernon. Although the Washington’s had no children of their own, George helped raise Martha’s surviving children.
Martha Washington followed her husband to his winter encampments for each of eight years during the Revolutionary War. Women who followed their husbands from camp to camp during the Revolutionary War were known as “Camp Followers”. These women were believed to keep up the spirits of the Continental soldiers, as well as to assist in battle and tend to the wounded soldiers. Following the war, however, Martha was unhappy that her husband had agreed to become America’s first president. She refused to attend his inauguration in 1789 because she wanted to live a private life at Mt. Vernon.
Martha Washington died at the age of 70 on May 22, 1802. She left behind four grandchildren from her first marriage. By the time of her death, most of the Washington’s slaves at Mount Vernon were set free and many more were set free after her death in 1802. Martha Washington was the only women to ever grace the front of U.S. paper currency. Her face appeared on the 1886 and 1891 Silver Certificates.