June 2 is the birthday of Martha Washington, bron in 1731 near Williamsburg, Virginia.
By all accounts, America's first First Lady was a delightful, gentle woman. Abigail Adams called her "one of those unassuming characters which create Love and Esteem."
One visitor described meeting Martha: "We dressed ourselves in our most elegant ruffles and silks, and were introduced to her ladyship. And, don't you think, we found her knitting, and with a checked apron on! She received us very graciously and easily, but after the compliments were over, she resumed her knitting."
Like her husband, Mrs. Washington loved home life at Mount Vernon. But during the Revolution, whenever the Continental Army was in winter camp, she left home to join her husband and lift the troops' spirits. "I never in my life knew a woman so busy from early morning until late at night as was Lady Washington, providing comforts for the sick soldiers," recalled one woman who lived at Valley Forge. "Every fair day she might be seen, with basket in hand...going among the huts seeking the keenest and most needy sufferers, and giving all the comfort to them in her power."
Martha was a warm, hospitable First Lady, but she wasn't overly find of her role. "I think I am more like a state prisoner than anything else," she confided to a niece. Yet her willingness to serve equaled her husband's. "I cannot blame him for having acted according to his ideas of duty in obeying the voice of his country," she wrote to a friend. "I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances."
(The American Patriot's Almanac)
George and Martha Washington....a marriage of warm companionship more than fiery passion from all that I have read and a perfect situation for our country as she gave him stability and security for his beloved Mount Vernon and beloved determination for American liberty. She kept the "home fires" burning for him while he continued to literally give his full stamina to first, the Revolutionary War, and second, the task of being our country's first president.
In those "home fires" were her two children from her first widowed marriage. The daughter, Martha Parke "Patsy" Custis, had severe epilepsy, later killing her at an early age (with the possibility of unknown heart condition), and the son, John Parke "Jacky" Custis, unfortunately, had lived the majority of his life with the typical attitude and disposition of a "spoiled rich kid" who caused both George and Martha much angst and some "vexation"--Jacky's also dying (near his 27th birthday) prior to George or Martha, and leaving them with the upbringing of his own children.
Ironically that the Washingtons never had their own children, but their home was one always bustling with young children from initally Martha's two to grandchildren and taking in other family members' orphaned or needy children.
Even though George had adopted the very young children at their marriage, both children kept their Custis name. George's participation in their every-day upbringing was minimal---first, he was gone much of the time---but mainly because his hands were tied in the arrangement of the trust they had from their father's wealthy inheiritance.
Martha doted on the children, especially spoiling Jacky, as she'd lost two other children plus her mother, husband, father....at a young age. Ironically, it was Jacky's very late decision to help his stepfather in the war that caused his eventual death--developing camp fever at Yorktown, the final win of the war. Some historians say he went only to be able to say he was part of the anticipated win without having to have experienced the former ravages and hardships of the war.
So, Martha's "determination" to be cheerful and happy is well understood if one sits and contemplates the loneliness and sadness she also endured while her life had been one of well provision and high status.
WASHINGTON, A LIFE by Ron Chernow, 2010 (817 pages and worth every single page! A big favorite!)
MOUNT VERNON LOVE STORY by Mary Higgins Clark, 1968, renewed in 1996 and 2002 (simple, charming novel based)
Leslie....have you read either book yet? :) You probably have noticed that I am still recommending/suggesting/encouraging our Political Chips' members to read Washington, A Life.
Washington's story puts a lot into perspective on him and our history and who we are/should be....