I often get ideas for this blog from my ‘It happened on this day in history’ calendar. When I turned to today’s entry I saw it noted that today was the birthday of Martha Washington and I thought it would be interesting to look up fun facts on her for this blog. Once I started my research, though, I discovered my calendar had it wrong. Other sources I checked all agreed that her birthday was, in fact, June 2nd. Be that as it may, however, I’m going to list the information I dug up, much of it news to me.
- Full name: Martha Dandridge Custis Washington
- Born: June 2, 1731
- Place of Birth: Williamsburg, Virginia
- Father: John Dandridge
- Mother: Frances Dandridge
- Husbands (2)
(1) Daniel Parke Curtis (died 8 years into the marriage) Children: 1 daughter and 1 son
(2) George Washington Children (none)
- Education: No formal education
- Religion: Episcopalian
- Died: May 22, 1802
- Place of Death: Mount Vernon, Virginia
- She married her first husband when she was 18 – he was twenty years her senior. Their home was called the White House Plantation.
- The death of her first husband left her wealthy in her own right.
- Martha did NOT enjoy role of First Lady – she felt trapped by it
- She had a ship, a row galley, named in her honor – The USS Lady Washington.
It was the first U.S. Military ship to be named in honor of a woman.
It was also the first U.S. military ship to be named for a person who was still alive.
- She is the only woman whose portrait has appeared on a U.S. currency note. Hers was the face on the front of the $1 Silver Certificates of 1886 and 1891 and on the back of the one issued in 1896.
- She was the first American woman to be commemorated by a postage stamp – the 1902 eight cent stamp. In subsequent years she had two other stamps issued in her honor – a 1923 four cent stamp and a 1938 one and a half cent stamp.
- She often followed her husband into the battlefield when he served as commander in chief of the Continental army. In fact, she spent the infamous winter at Valley Forge at his side, and was instrumental in maintaining some level of morale among officers and enlisted troops.
- She was opposed to her husband’s election as President of the U.S and refused to attend his inauguration.
- The title ‘First Lady’ was not coined until after Martha’s death. She was known as ‘Lady Washington’.
- She was jealous of her privacy and destroyed most of the letters she wrote to her husband as well as the letters he wrote to her.
- “I am fond of only what comes from the heart.”
- “I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances. We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us in our minds wherever we go.”
- “Think of the magic of that foot, comparatively small, upon which your whole weight rests. It’s a miracle, and the dance…is a celebration of that miracle.”
- “I live a very dull life here… indeed I think I am more like a state prisoner than anything else, there is certain bounds set for me which I must not depart from… “
All in all, it sounds like Martha Washington was an interesting, intelligent, strong-willed woman – one I would have enjoyed meeting.