Martha Dandridge Custis Washington was the first child of Virginia Planter John Dandridge and Frances Jones. Blessed with robust health, she lived longer than her seven siblings. She was educated at home in the feminine arts which included sewing, music and literature.
At 18, she accepted the proposal of Daniel Parke Custis, a man 20 years her senior. As his wife, she gave birth to four children and learned to manage his substantial estate. Her husband died suddenly, leaving Martha with four young children and substantial wealth. She was 25 years old.
Courted by General George Washington, who owned nearby plantation Mount Vernon, Martha agreed to marry again. They were both 27 years old.
Of her four children, one survived to adulthood. John Custis served as General Washington’s secretary. He died of fever during the Revolutionary war. She raised John’s children as her own.
During the war, Martha Washington served as hostess to the officers and their wives. She was a very attentive wife. However, she was not pleased with George Washington’s acceptance of the presidency and did not attend the inauguration.
Martha and George Washington had vast holdings of which she managed her dower estate. Combined, George and Martha had over 250 slaves. She emancipated many of them not long after George’s death.
Learn more about the first first-lady, Lady Washington at: http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=1