Martha Washington’s Shawl
Amanda Isaac, associate curator at Mount Vernon, introduces Martha's shawl.
Martha Dandridge Custis married George Washington in 1759. Learn more about the many important roles that Martha Washington played throughout her life.
Martha Dandridge was born on June 2, 1731 to John and Frances Dandridge, a well-to-do planter family situated in New Kent County, Virginia. She would marry George Washington on January 6, 1759. Martha was a vivacious and engaging companion for George and he valued her company during his many winter encampments during the American Revolution and throughout the remainder of his life.
From mother to First Lady, learn about the many roles and accomplishments of Martha Washington.
Throughout her inaugural tour, Martha Washington maintained her natural, unassuming presence. Cheerful, attentive, and appreciative: the very model of a President's Lady.
Despite maintaining her usual calm, cheerful, and dignified demeanor, Martha often felt “more like a state prisoner than anything else.”
Martha's views on slavery reflected the attitude of other women in her social class in Virginia at the time. Learn more about Martha's complex interactions with the institution of slavery.
What began as a traditional marriage in a semi-aristocratic society, blossomed into a strong romance that became one to admire…
It is common knowledge that George Washington did not have any children with his wife, Martha. So who inherited the Washington family heirlooms?
Martha Washington is the first and only woman to grace the primary portrait of U.S. paper currency.
Martha's presence at the Continental Army’s winter encampments not only helped to encourage George Washington, but also boosted the morale of the entire camp.
Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, and Jimmy Choo... Would it surprise you that if Martha Washington was alive today, she would probably own several pairs made by these designers? Let’s go shoe shopping with Martha Washington and discover what kind of shoes a young, chic Virginian would have purchased in the 18th century.watch video series
Martha Dandridge is born on June 2nd, at Chestnut Grove Plantation in New Kent County, Virginia, the oldest of eight children born to John Dandridge and his wife, Frances Jones.
Martha Dandridge marries socially prominent Daniel Parke Custis, a vestryman from her family church, who is twenty years older than herself and someone she has known since childhood, on May 15th.
Martha Dandridge Custis gives birth to her first child, Daniel Parke Custis.
Martha Dandridge Custis gives birth to her second child, Frances Parke Custis.
Daniel, the oldest child of Daniel and Martha Custis dies at the age of three.
On November 27th of that year, Martha gives birth to her third child, John Parke Custis; he will be known in the family as “Jacky” or “Jack.”
Martha Dandridge Custis gives birth to her fourth and last child, Martha Parke Custis, who will be known in the family as “Patsy.”
Frances, second child of Daniel and Martha Custis dies at the age of four.
In July, Daniel Parke Custis dies suddenly, leaving Martha one of the wealthiest widows in Virginia, with two small children to raise alone. Her reaction to Daniel’s death brings praise; Daniel’s lawyer, Robert Carter Nicholas, writes to her that, “It gave me no small pleasure to hear with how great Christian patience and resignation you submitted to your late misfortune; the example is rare, though a duty incumbent upon us all; and therefore I can not help esteeming it a peculiar happiness when I meet with it.”
Martha Dandridge Custis marries George Washington on January 6th, in a ceremony at her home. The couple and the bride’s two surviving children will move to the groom’s home, Mount Vernon, in the spring of that year.
Martha Washington’s seventeen year old daughter, Patsy, who has been suffering for years, probably from epilepsy, has a seizure after dinner and dies within just a few minutes, about 5 o’clock on the evening of June 19th. A funeral is held the following day and her body is laid to rest in the old family vault on the Mount Vernon estate. George Washington writes to his brother-in-law that Patsy’s death has “reduced my poor wife to the lowest ebb of misery.” During the rest of the summer, Washington makes a concerted effort to get her out of the house and see that she keeps busy.
Martha Washington’s twenty-year-old son, John Parke Custis, marries sixteen-year-old Eleanor (“Nelly”) Calvert at the bride’s family home, Mount Airy Plantation in Maryland, on February 3rd. His stepfather goes to the ceremony, but his mother is still too grief-stricken to attend. Jack, his new bride, Nelly, and the latter’s parents and sister will visit Mount Vernon between March 1st and 7th.
In early October, George Washington writes, asking his wife to come to stay with him at his winter quarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts; she leaves Mount Vernon to be with him in mid-November, traveling with her son Jack, daughter-in-law Nelly, and her husband’s nephew, George Lewis. She would arrive at his headquarters on December 11th.
Martha Washington becomes a grandmother for the first time on August 21st, with the birth of her eldest surviving granddaughter, Eliza Parke Custis, at Mount Airy Plantation in Maryland.
Martha Washington leaves Mount Vernon in March, heading for her husband’s winter quarters in Morristown, New Jersey.
Martha Washington’s becomes a grandmother for the third time on March 21st, with the birth of Eleanor Parke Custis, who will be called “Nelly.”
Martha Washington’s daughter-in-law, Nelly, gives birth to twin girls, who live only three weeks; the exact date of their birth is unknown.
Martha Washington’s fourth and last grandchild, George Washington Parke Custis (known to the family as “Washy” and later “Wash”) is born on April 30th at Mount Airy Plantation in Maryland.
Martha Washington’s niece, Fanny, marries George Washington’s nephew, George Augustine Washington, at Mount Vernon on the evening of October 15th. Over much of the next decade, the young couple will make their home at Mount Vernon and assist the Washingtons in running the estate and entertaining guests.
Martha Washington and her youngest grandchildren, Nelly and Washy, set off from Mount Vernon on May 16th, accompanied by George Washington’s nephew, Robert Lewis, and arrive in New York on the 28th. They leave Mount Vernon in the care of George Augustine and Fanny Bassett Washington. In New York, the First Family initially makes their home at #3 Cherry Street, which has been rented for them by Congress.
Martha Washington becomes a great-grandmother for the first time, with the birth of Martha Eliza Eleanor Peter on January 20th. The baby is described by granddaughter Nelly Custis (the child’s aunt) as, “a very fat, handsome good tempered, clever toad.”
Martha Washington is widowed for the second time, with the death of her husband of forty years, George Washington, between 10 and 11 o’clock o on the evening of December 14th. Sitting at the foot of the bed, she makes the statement, “’Tis well….All is now over[.] I shall soon follow him! I have no more trials to pass through!” She will be too distraught to attend the funeral on December 18th and it would be two weeks before the shock of her husband’s death had worn off enough that she could cry.
Martha Washington’s first great-granddaughter, Martha Eliza Eleanor Peter, dies on August 31st; she was four years old.
On March 4th, Mrs. Washington adds a codicil to her will, bequeathing the only slave she owns outright to her grandson, George Washington Parke Custis. In accordance with Virginia law, the remaining slaves at Mount Vernon, all of whom belonged to the estate of her first husband, Daniel Parke Custis, will be divided among her four grandchildren upon her death.
Martha Washington becomes seriously ill in early May with a bilious fever. Both the doctor and minister come to care for her, as she makes preparations for her death and burial. She will die at Mount Vernon, surrounded by friends, relatives, and slaves, about noon on May 22nd.
Martha Dandridge was the daughter of John Dandridge and Frances Jones, she grew up in a two-story house called Chestnut Grove, about thirty-five miles from the colonial capital at Williamsburg.
Soon after they married on May 15, 1750, Martha moved into Daniel Parke Custis’s home, called White House, on the Pamunkey River in New Kent County, Virginia.
Within months of meeting, both George Washington and Martha Custis began to plan a future together.
Through all endeavors, Martha Washington proved herself to be a consummate plantation mistress. She was a superb domestic manager who made running a large plantation household seem almost effortless.
In the months after George’s death, Martha received thousands of condolence letters and hundreds of requests for mementos. Fatigued and grieving, she often delegated routine household tasks and secretarial duties to trusted aides, servants, and family members.