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Martha Dandridge Custis Washington (June 2, 1731 O.S. — May 22, 1802) was the wife of George Washington, the first president of the United States. Although the title was not coined until after her death, she served as the inaugural first lady of the United States, defining the role of the president's wife and setting many precedents that future first ladies would observe. During her tenure, she was referred to as "Lady Washington". Washington is consistently ranked in the upper half of first ladies by historians.
|First Lady of the United States|
April 30, 1789 – March 4, 1797
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Abigail Adams|
(1731-06-02)June 2, 1731
Chestnut Grove, Virginia, British America
|Died||May 22, 1802(1802-05-22) (aged 70)|
Mount Vernon, Virginia, U.S.
|Resting place||Mount Vernon, Virginia, U.S.|
(m. 1750; died 1757)
(m. 1759; died 1799)
Martha Dandridge first married Daniel Parke Custis in 1750, and the couple had four children, two of whom survived to adulthood. She was widowed in 1757 at the age of 26, inheriting a large estate. She was remarried to George Washington in 1759, moving to his plantation, Mount Vernon. Her youngest daughter died of epilepsy in 1773, and the Washingtons were unable to conceive any children of their own. Washington became a symbol of the American Revolution after her husband was appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, and she took on a matronly role while visiting encampments when fighting stalled each winter. Her only surviving child, John, died from a camp illness during the war. After the war ended in 1783, Washington sought retirement at Mount Vernon, but she was returned to public life when her husband became president of the United States in 1789.
Washington took on the social role of the president's wife reluctantly, becoming a national celebrity in the process. She found this life unpleasant, feeling that she was restricted and wishing for retirement. In addition to hosting weekly social events, Washington understood that how she composed herself would reflect on the nation, both domestically and abroad. As such, she struck a careful balance between the dignity associated with a head of state's wife and the humility associated with republican government. The Washingtons returned to Mount Vernon in 1797, and she spent her retirement years greeting admirers and advising her successors. She was widowed for a second time in 1799, and she died two and a half years later in 1802.