by Elissa Blattman, Project Assistant
We posted on Facebook last week about Rachel Jackson on the anniversary of her birthday. Some of you commented that the First Lady’s story was interesting and Facebook user, Susan, said she wished history like Jackson’s was more well-known. Inspired in part by Susan and other Facebookers, here is the first of a four part Throwback Thursday miniseries all about our first First Ladies. We all know about their Founding Father husbands from school, but not nearly as much information about the women themselves is common knowledge.
1. Martha Dandridge Custis Washington (1731-1802), wife of George Washington
Before George Washington, Martha Dandridge was married to her wealthy godfather, Daniel Custis. Daniel’s father was a volatile man who did not approve of his son’s love for the lower-status Martha. He had to be heavily persuaded before finally giving his permission for Martha and Daniel to wed. Though she and George never lived in the White House when he was president, Martha did move to Daniel’s large estate, “White House,” upon their marriage. Martha’s first father-in-law regularly made life difficult for the couple and Martha blamed Daniel’s untimely death in 1757 on the stress put onto him by his father. Daniel died without having made a will, which meant Martha became the executor of his estate and also meant she had more legal rights than women were normally permitted in the eighteenth century. Though she owned 300 slaves and over 17,000 acres of land, and was worth over 40,000 pounds, she lived in a time when women did not manage property or financial matters. Martha began looking for a new man to take over for her and the new widow was an attractive catch. Read the rest of this entry »