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Author photo. Martha Dandridge Washington (1732-1802), Buffalo Electrotype and Engraving Co., Buffalo, N.Y.

Martha Dandridge Washington (1732-1802), Buffalo Electrotype and Engraving Co., Buffalo, N.Y.

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Martha Dandridge was born to a large family of Virginia planters. In 1750, at age 18, she married Daniel Parke Custis, a tobacco planter 20 years her senior, with whom she had four children. Custis died in 1757, leaving Martha a rich young widow. She was considered intelligent, gracious, and a capable manager of the plantations and slaves she inherited in trust for her small children. She brought this great wealth and social status to her second marriage with George Washington in 1759; he leveraged her wealth to enlarge his estate at Mount Vernon, near Alexandria, Virginia. Martha Washington lived a private life at Mount Vernon during the American War of Independence but accompanied her husband to his winter encampments with the Continental Army for each of eight years. She became First Lady when he was elected President in 1789.
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