AuthorsDen.com   Join Free! | Login    
   Popular! Books, Stories, Articles, Poetry
Where Authors and Readers come together!

SIGNED BOOKS    AUTHORS    eBOOKS new!     BOOKS    STORIES    ARTICLES    POETRY    BLOGS    NEWS    EVENTS    VIDEOS    GOLD    SUCCESS    TESTIMONIALS

Featured Authors:  Cheri Dohnal, iDiane Hundertmark, iGary Caplan, iSafi Abdi, iTony Bertot, iWilliam Cottringer, iPinckney Rivers, i

  Home > History > Articles Popular: Books, Stories, Articles, Poetry     

Feather Schwartz Foster

· + Follow Me
· Contact Me
· Books
· Articles
· News
· Messages
· 16 Titles
· 16 Reviews
· Save to My Library
· Share with Friends!
·
Member Since: Nov, 2002

Feather Schwartz Foster, click here to update your pages on AuthorsDen.




Featured Book
The Wholly Book of Exodus
by Jay Dubya

The Wholly Book of Exodus is humorous adult literature that features adult language, situations and content. It is the companion book of Jay Dubya's The Wholly Book of Ge..  
BookAds by Silver
Gold and Platinum Members



Chatting Up Martha
by Feather Schwartz Foster   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Thursday, August 04, 2011
Posted: Thursday, August 04, 2011

  Print   Save    Follow    Share 

Recent articles by
Feather Schwartz Foster

MARY LINCOLN IN NEUTRAL
Dolley Madison and the Inaugural Ball
See All Feather Schwartz Foster Articles
In The Restaurant
Feather Schwartz Foster To Be Guest On www.artistfirst.com
The Lecture Experience: Part III
The Lecture Experience: Part I
           >> View all

Historian H.W. Brands once compared writing biography to having a houseguest. They take over your lives for a while. Generations of fiction writers have likewise insisted that their characters “talk” to them. Both analogies are insightful. So what does Lady Washington have to say? Was it a love match? Or was it merely a partnership of mutual convenience?

The Widow Custis

Martha Dandridge married an old man. She was seventeen; Daniel Parke Custis was already around thirty-five. But it had been a marriage of inclination – they knew and liked each other and wanted to be married. It turned out to be happy and fruitful. She had four children; two dying as infants. Then, after eight years, Custis died. He had been an extremely wealthy Virginia planter, and he died intestate. By Colonial Virginia law, Martha and her children, Jackie and Patsy, four and two respectively, were his only heirs, so the estate was split equally three ways. This estate included nearly 20,000 acres of rich farmland, more than 200 slaves, household goods of great value, and that rarest of all commodities in colonial America, a good supply of hard cash.

By her own admission, Martha was not scholarly. She disliked study, and preferred the domestic arts. As Mistress Custis, she excelled in managing the plantation house and entertaining the gentry throughout the county. Now at loose ends, she had to chart a new life. The traditions of colonial times were much different than those of Victoriana, a century later. Life was hard. Spouses needed spouses. If one was widowed, male or female, one was expected to remarry fairly promptly, especially if there were young children involved. Martha’s needs and priorities were not limited to 18th century living. They were needs and priorities for all times, including our own. First, she needed a wise and honest manager for her inheritance, and that of her children. She was no fool. She was understandably wary of fortune hunters. Secondly, at twenty-six or –seven, with four children already born to her, she had every expectation of having more children – perhaps several more children. She needed a kind step-father to her children.

The Ambitious Colonel Washington

At age twenty-six, George Washington had spent eight years in the Virginia Militia, rising to the rank of Colonel, the highest the state had to offer. For years, he had applied and lobbied to become a British officer, a situation continually thwarted. To make matters ever worse for the sometimes touchy young man, a colonel in the Virginia Militia officer was considered several steps below a comparable rank in the regular British army. Having come to the conclusion that he was getting nowhere, he made a conscious decision to change his career path. He had inherited Mount Vernon, a substantial and very promising estate along the Potomac River. He also had acquired considerable acreage in what is now the western part of Virginia, in payment for his military services. He would become a planter. But in order to take what he wanted to be his rightful place in plantation society, he needed a suitable consort. Someone who could help him turn his vision of Mount Vernon into a showplace as well as a profitable entity.

The Courtship

George Washington and Martha Custis were introduced by mutual acquaintances. Both were unquestionably in the market, so to speak, for marriage. Their courtship was brief. They would spend less than 24 waking hours in each other’s company, during which time they were engrossed in deep conversation, sharing their needs, philosophies and dreams for the future. Then they were affianced. For the next several months, Colonel Washington would leave to clear up the loose ends of his military responsibilities; the Widow Custis would make preparations to move to Mount Vernon. Letters no doubt were exchanged, but none exit. (Martha Washington destroyed a great deal of Washington’s correspondence when he died.) The one widely quoted comment on their newly married state is a statement by Washington in a letter to an acquaintance where he states that he has found “an agreeable Consort for Life.”

It was hardly a wild passionate romance, but it is fairly certain that by the time their engagement was determined, George and Martha liked each other a great deal, and found much compatibility. In the eighteenth century, marriages were primarily made for ease of living, each partner contributing their share of the man’s work-woman’s work dynamic.

Suffice it to say that in the forty years the Washingtons were married, they had grown to love each other with true devotion. They had chosen wisely, perhaps more wisely than they could have realized at the time. Washington was indeed a wise and honest manager of the Custis fortune. He would add to that fortune by his own astute business-sense, and by the time of his death, would be one of the wealthiest men in Virginia. He was also a caring and fond step-parent to Martha’s children, both of whom died young. He would also be a caring and fond step-grandparent to Martha’s grandchildren.

And Martha would take her place as the quintessential mistress of Mount Vernon – and the executive mansion, when George Washington became the first president of the United States. She would bring a distinctly new and democratic flavor to her hosting duties: all the dignity, warmth, style, manners and sincerity that is associated with American hospitality.



Sources: Randall, Willard Sterne; Washington: A Life, 1997, Edison, NJ, Galahad Books
Bourne, Miriam Anne: First Family: George Washington and his Intimate Relations, 1982, New York, NY, W.W. Norton
National Archives and Record Administration


Originally written for: www.suite101.com

Web Site: www.featherfoster.com



Want to review or comment on this article?
Click here to login!


Need a FREE Reader Membership?
Click here for your Membership!


Popular History Articles
  1. 47 Ronin's True Story
  2. Audie Murphy
  3. Steve McQueen On Pan Am
  4. The Original Godzilla's True Story
  5. Uroboros
  6. A Life Cut Short: The Day Brad Henderson
  7. USAF Slide on Ice and Snow ski tests
  8. Mankind. 2 Minute History
  9. VJ Day Kiss - 70 years ago
  10. Ohh Dear America

Fly With The Mourning Dove by Velda Brotherton

The story of a young girl growing up on a homestead in New Mexico after WW I..  
BookAds by Silver, Gold and Platinum Members

Miss Martha Douglas by Miller Caldwell

The story of Martha Douglas...  
BookAds by Silver, Gold and Platinum Members

Authors alphabetically: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Featured Authors | New to AuthorsDen? | Add AuthorsDen to your Site
Share AD with your friends | Need Help? | About us


Problem with this page?   Report it to AuthorsDen
© AuthorsDen, Inc. All rights reserved.