A Fine First Lady

After reading about George Washington, our first president of the United States of America, I was quite interested in the personal connections he has; and who better than his wife of nearly 40 years. Martha Washington, born Martha Dandridge and became Martha Custis after her early marriage to Daniel Parke Custis (died 7 years afterwards) was the epitome of a gentle-woman and the first of all First Ladies.

Martha Washington: An American Life by Patricia Brady
In this biography, titled Martha Washington: An American Life, by Patricia Brady gave us readers a young, vibrant, strong-willed and independent woman in Martha Washington that we hardly hear about. We, at least I, since young always associated the First Lady as an old, grandma figure. I think

paintings from Art History doesn't help either. Similar to what we see in Edward Savage's "The Washington Family", a prompt and refined elderly woman was the first image that comes to mind when speaking of Mrs. Washington.

Edward Savage's "The Washington Family"
Well, as the cover of the biography suggests, the young, determined, and lady qualities are what stands out after reading this book. Ms. Brady does a great job in exploring the reasons why Mrs. Washington becomes who she is, not only as the President's wife, but a figure in history that we will admire for years to come. As all biographies, the chronology of her lineage was explained, and being the eldest of eight children, her motherly qualities of patience and taking care of others are well developed at an early age. And at a lack of a better term, as the first "Mother" of this new, unstable country, she demonstrated a need to care for all, from her extended family to the troops under General Washington during the various battles and camp grounds that Mrs. Washington were requested and she herself were more than happy to obliged to visit.  She was more than well-qualified.

As the first First lady, she represented the first of many and set the tone as to how the First Ladies should be. She was not only caring towards others, she was easy-going, compassionate and a genuine hostess. The Washington's hospitality were well documented, and Ms. Brady further delved into the role Mrs. Washington played throughout George Washington's political career.

There are many articles, books, media out there regarding first ladies and their achievements, but after reading Ms. Brady's book, I truly believed one of the greatest achievement first ladies can achieve is to be their husband's partner in life, as Mrs. Washington is to George Washington. Not only partner in the marriage sense, but a true partner in life which includes love, respect, trust, companionship and to lend a listening ear when necessary. The relationship between the First Couple touched something in me. Their love, care and respect for each other allows  readers to understand why and how they are our country's First Couple, as well as for us to know there is such love out there. George Washington's dying wish and thoughts were of Mrs. Washington. She and her comfort was foremost the first thoughts in his mind, as shown in his will.  Their relationship was not one of domineering husband and submissive wife. It was one of equal respect and love that was no doubt true happiness for them both. Mr. Joseph Ellis, author of His Excellency also wrote that George Washington loves and respects Martha Washington, but that was not the focus of that biography.  Ms. Brady's Martha Washington: An American Life doesn't focus on the love between them, but the actions written through historical reference illustrates that, and to that I recommend this book. Not because it's a love story, but because it gives us reference to a marriage that succeeded in achieving it without striving for it.

Martha Washington, is a remarkable woman, simply from who she is and how she views life, as she wrote, "I am still determined to be cheerful and to be happy in whatever situation I may be, for I have also learnt from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances; we carry the seeds of the one, or the other about with us, in our minds, wherever we go."  (Ref: Joseph E. Fields, "Worthy Partner": The Papers of Martha Washington, 224).

Together, George and Martha Washington is the American Couple. "First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life." (Ref: Henry Lee, George Washington: A Funeral Oration on His Death (December 26, 1799)

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