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Martha Custis Washington - Image and Brief Bio

Martha Custis Washington-Image and Brief Bio

Born in 1731, Martha Dandrige came from a family of considerable wealth who lived in New Kent County, Virginia.  Throughout her youth, and until she married George Washington, she was known as "Patsy." 

She had a first husband - Daniel Parke Custis - who was a gentleman farmer and heir to considerable wealth.  Daniel, who was a bachelor of thirty-seven when he married his wife, was about twenty years older than Patsy. 

His family had a higher social standing than the Dandridges, and Daniel's father had forbidden his son to marry a Dandrige.  Defying Mr. Custis, Daniel married the girl he loved in 1750, when she was eighteen.

Moving into a two-story home called "White House," the newlyweds were happy.  Their first two children (Daniel, Jr. and Frances) died in childhood. 

Three months after Frances' death, Patsy's husband and their two-year-old son, Jack, became seriously ill (likely with scarlet fever). The child barely survived; Daniel did not. 

Martha Custis became a widow, in 1757, when she was twenty-six.  She had two children:  Jack and a daughter, also named Patsy.  Of her many suitors, she picked George Washington.

The couple married on the 5th of January, 1759.

Although George and Martha (1731-1802) never had children together, Washington was a devoted father to both Jack and Patsy since he became their step-father in 1759.

Patsy (the daughter) died of epilepsy in 1773, just two years before the revolutionary war began.  And the joy of Britain’s surrender at Yorktown was marred, for the Washington family, by Jack’s death there (likely of camp fever), in 1781.

Mrs. Washington lived until she was 70 years old. She died, at Mount Vernon, on May 22, 1802.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5124stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Oct 19, 2017


Media Credits

Main Image, Mount Vernon.

Linked above: Washington’s First Interview with Mrs. Custis, engraving by G.R. Hall, based on a painting by J.W. Ehninger. Vintage postcards, which also used this image, included descriptions. One such postcard, included in an online exhibit by the Alexandria Library, has this detail: 

 

Colonel Washington was presented to Mrs. Custis at the home of Major Chamberlain near Fredericksburg, Va., in May, 1758. After a conference with Governor Fauquier at Williamsburg, Va., about conditions on the frontier, he left to return there. However, he stopped at the home of Mrs. Custis on the York River for an interview, which was satisfactory, for some days later their betrothal was announced and they were married January, 1759.

Also linked above: Illustration of George and Martha, with Jack and Patsy, from George Washington by Calista McCabe Courtenay, illustrated by A.M. Turner and Harriet Kaucher. Published by Samuel Gabriel Sons & Company, New York, 1917.  Online, courtesy Project Gutenberg.

 

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