Martha Washington

Martha Washington: The Only Woman On U.S. Currency!

In a remarkable chapter of U.S. financial history, Martha Washington stands alone as the only woman to have graced an official U.S. currency note. Her iconic presence was featured in 1886, 1891, and once again in 1896. In a remarkable chapter of U.S. financial history, Martha Washington stands alone as the only woman to have […]

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Martha Dandridge Custis Washington, born on June 2, 1731, in New Kent County, and passing away in Mount Vernon on May 22, 1802, holds the distinction of being the inaugural First Lady of the United States, serving from 1789 to 1797.

Born to Colonel John Dandridge, a prominent tobacco planter, young Martha grew up amidst eight siblings, receiving an education reflective of the times. Her life took a pivotal turn in 1749 when she wed Daniel Custis, a union that resulted in four children, tragically half of whom died in their infancy. Destiny played its hand in 1757, leaving Martha a widow just eight years into her marriage.

Amid her grief, Martha's life was soon to intersect with a future American icon, George Washington. By January 6, 1759, they were married and settled in the picturesque Mount Vernon estate by the Potomac. However, the looming American War of Independence meant safety was transient. Martha, displaying commendable fortitude, was soon at her husband's side during his winter campaigns, assisting with camp duties and tending to the injured soldiers.

When George Washington's presidential win materialized in 1789, Martha, initially hesitant, moved to the contemporary U.S. capital, New York, a month post his swearing-in. With an intuitive understanding of her pioneering role, Martha approached her duties as First Lady with grace and diligence. Notable were her grand Tuesday and Thursday evening soirees. When the seat of the government transitioned to Philadelphia in 1790, the Washingtons followed suit, with Martha notably more at ease in the City of Brotherly Love than the bustling New York.

Martha's ingenuity shone through her establishment of the New Year's White House open-door tradition - a gesture of openness that would last until 1930. Ever the gracious hostess, Martha frequently took the time to engage in return visits, a gesture significant in those times.

As Washington's first term neared its end, Martha harbored hopes of a quiet life in Mount Vernon. Yet, despite her reservations about a second term, she supported her husband's decisions. Their tenure in Philadelphia was marred by the outbreak of a yellow fever epidemic, prompting a return to their beloved Mount Vernon. Here, she meticulously oversaw the estate's affairs.

However, tragedy struck in December 1799. George Washington fell severely ill, succumbing on December 14. Martha, showcasing resilience characteristic of her, continued to manage Mount Vernon and its myriad guests. Sadly, her health deteriorated in May 1802, leading to her passing later that month. She rests beside her husband in Mount Vernon, leaving behind an indelible legacy.

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