The only thing I love more the Presidents, are First Ladies.  On this Election Day, I vote we take a moment to remember some of these interesting women.
Martha Washington (June 2, 1744 – May 22, 1802) was known as “Lady Washington” because the phrase First Lady of the United States hadn’t yet been coined.  Regardless, as the wife of George Washington, she is considered the first First lady.

At the age of 25, she was left widowed (and rich) with four children.  George and Martha married two years later in 1759.  They were both in their late 20s, but didn’t have children together.  They did, however, raise two of Martha’s grandchildren whose father died during the Revolutionary War.

FUN FACT:  Martha was opposed to her husband serving as President of the U.S. and refused to attend his inauguration.

Abigail Adams (November 22 1744 – October 28, 1818) was married to John Adams, second President of the United States.  She is, of course, best known for the letters she wrote to her husband during the Continental Congresses.  Born into a liberal family, and despite being a sickly child, Abigail was taught to read and write.  She read profusely.

John and Abigail were third cousins and knew each other from childhood.  The couple married in 1764 when John as 28 and Abigail 19.  They had six children in ten years.

During the Adams administration, the capital was moved to the wilderness of Washington.  Abigail and John were the first presidential couple to preside over the White House (then known as the President's Palace (monarchy alert!) or Executive Mansion), which was still under construction when they moved in.

FUN FACT:  Abigail was a strong advocate for women’s property rights and for more opportunities for women, particularly in the field of education.

Dolley Madison (May 20, 1768 – July 12, 1849) was the wife of fourth President of the United States, James Madison.  She helped shape the role of First Lady and was renowned for her social graces and hospitality.  It is thought that she heavily contributed to her husband’s popularity as president by being so lovely.  Dolley had occasionally filled in the ceremonial functions of First Lady for the previous administration of widower, Thomas Jefferson.  

Dolley lost her first husband and infant son to yellow fever in 1793.  The following year, Dolley met James Madison, a forty-three year old bachelor, in Philadelphia.  Madison asked his pal, Aaron Burr for an introduction.  They were married after a brief courtship.  Dolley brought a surviving son to the marriage.  Dolley and James had no children together.

FUN FACT:  A Quaker, Dolley Madison was expelled from the Society of Friends when she married non-Quaker, James Madison.

Images taken from my new favorite book:  Brown, Margaret W. Dresses of the First Ladies of the White House (1952). Smithosonian Institution Publication, Washington. 


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