Lady Washington

Ken Frank
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Before there was Martha Stewart, there was Martha Washington. January 6, 2009 marked the 250th anniversary of her marriage to our first President, George Washington. An article by Sheri and Bob Stritof describes their courtship, "George and Martha were introduced by friends of Martha when George was on leave from the French and Indian War. George only visited her home twice before proposing marriage to her 3 weeks after they met."

A Free Lance-Star editorial on February 22, 2009 captured my attention about the woman partnered to our founding father. Here is part of what the author wrote, "George Washington, born 277 years ago today, displayed the same honor and affection, tenacity and leadership in his home as on the battlefield and on the political front. In public, Martha referred to him as 'the general;' in private, as 'my old man.' Their enduring marriage was a personal as well as a national treasure, one that we celebrate 250 years later." (emphases mine throughout)

Martha was a remarkable woman who sustained and encouraged her husband through the bleak days of the American Revolution. This author described her contribution, "When war broke out, she moved to his side whenever possible--most famously at Valley Forge. She marshaled the resources of Mount Vernon to supply food and clothing and, even more importantly perhaps, she made it fashionable for ladies of her class to join the war effort. Silk stockings were unraveled and the silk used for uniforms; finery was eschewed in favor of homespun. When George grew ill in the winter of 1777, she braved ill-kept roads to join him in New Jersey, prompting Nathanael Greene to write to his wife, 'Mrs. Washington is excessive fond of the General and he of her. They are very happy in each other.'"

In December 1799, George Washington died unexpectedly. Martha, too grief-stricken even to attend the funeral, never got over the loss of her husband. An article by Donald Greyfield explains, "After the death of her husband, Martha sealed their Mt Vernon bedroom, his death chamber, as well as his study, never to enter again. She moved to a small attic room where she could look on her husband's grave."

The article by Sheri and Bob Stritof described their love,"Although Martha burned most of the letters that she and George wrote to one another, two letters did survive because they were hidden behind Martha's desk drawers. In one of them, George wrote on June 23, 1775: 'I retain an unalterable affection for you, which neither time or distance can change.'"

When she died, she was buried next to her husband at Mount Vernon. On Thursday, June 3, 1802, the American Mercury wrote this for her obituary, "To those amiable and Christian virtues, which adorn the female character, the added dignity of manner, superiority of understanding, a mind intelligent and elevated - the silence of a respectful grief is our best eulogy."

Americans are at least somewhat familiar with the life stories of their great Presidents. What they may not know so well is the story of the extraordinary women behind these men who made the new nation possible, including America's first First Lady. The term "First Lady" was coined after Martha's death yet aptly describes her contribution to our nation. During her lifetime she was known as "Lady Washington."

As with our second First Couple, John and Abigail Adams, George and Martha Washington had an enduring love affair which deepened until their deaths. In this day of easy divorce and remarriage, their example is a lesson in what marriage can and ought to be. Would you like to discover the secrets to a happy and lasting marriage? Why not read our booklet, God's Plan For Happy Marriage. America needs loving and stable marriages as never before.

  Originally Published: 28th February 2009