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. As an 18-year old, Martha married the wealthy Daniel Parke Custis on May 15, 1750. The marriage to Daniel Parke Custis lasted seven years and produced four children, of which two lived past the age of 5. Daniel’s death on July 8, 1757 left Martha as a young and wealthy widow who now owned 300 slaves and 17,500 acres of land.
George Washington first met Martha Dandridge Custis on March 16, 1758 and their mutual attraction led to their marriage 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. While George and Martha had no children of their own, Martha was highly attentive to her two remaining children and cared for her grandchildren after the untimely deaths of Patsy and Jacky Custis. After George was elected as the United States’ first president, Martha became the nation’s first First Lady. Martha and George’s retirement at Mount Vernon was short lived. George died in December 1799 and Martha followed him to the grave on May 22, 1802.
Within months of meeting, both parties began to plan a future together. Washington began renovating and improving his home at Mount Vernon. Martha placed an order for wedding finery from London.
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.
Despite maintaining her usual calm, cheerful, and dignified demeanor, Martha often felt “more like a state prisoner than anything else.”