navigation bar Houghton Mifflin Social Studies United States History: Early Years
Biographies Unit Biographies

Martha Washington 1731–1802
First Lady of the United States

When Martha Washington was growing up, she had no reason to think that she would someday be famous. She was born Martha Dandridge, the daughter of a Virginia farmer. At eighteen, she married a wealthy man. He died eight years later, leaving her with two children and a large fortune. She married George Washington in 1759. They settled at Mount Vernon, his plantation in Virginia.

Each winter during the Revolution, Martha Washington joined her husband at his military camps. The American Revolution brought enormous fame to George Washington, and Martha Washington shared that fame. As his wife, she was surrounded by powerful people. Yet her greatest joys were home and family. During Washington's presidency, they lived first in New York and then in Philadelphia. Martha Washington was known as a dignified and kind First Lady. Privately, though, she admitted feeling a bit like a prisoner. In 1797, when her husband's second term ended, she was thrilled to be able to go home to Mount Vernon.

Comprehension Check

Where was Martha Washington's home?

Critical Thinking

For Martha Washington, what was an advantage of being First Lady? What was a disadvantage?