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05-22   Print  E-mail
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I am fond of only what comes from the heart.

 Martha Washington, quoted in "Martha Dandridge Custis Washington 1731-1802," in The Presidents of the United States of America, The White House Web site. On May 22,1802, the first of first ladies, Martha Dandridge Custis Washington died of a severe fever. When she married George Washington in January 1759, she was twenty-seven years old and a widowed mother of two.She was also one of the wealthiest women in Virginia, having inherited some 15,000 acres of farmland from her deceased husband, Daniel Parke Custis.

A prosperous farmer himself, George Washington ably took over the Custis estate, but moved Martha and his newly-adopted stepchildren Martha ("Patsy") and John Parke ("Jacky") to his own home, Mount Vernon, outside Alexandria, Virginia. There, the couple delighted in raising their children and entertaining Virginia society. It is estimated that between 1768 and 1775 over 2,000 guests visited the Washingtons, some staying for extended periods.

After George was elected president in 1789, entertaining became even more prominent in Martha Washington's life. In the temporary U.S. capitals of New York and Philadelphia, she hosted lavish parties and receptions to match those given by the established governments of Europe. While the first lady was noted for the generosity and warmth she displayed as the nation's premier hostess, she longed for her private life in Virginia. In a letter to a niece she confided: "I think I am more like a state prisoner than anything else, there is certain bounds set for me which I must not depart from."


 

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