Wives of the First Three U.S. Presidents

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Abigail Adams was the Second U.S. First Lady

The wives of the first three U.S. presidents made many unique contributions to the country’s early history.

Martha Washington was the perfect match for her husband. She was a good host, a good listener and a woman who established the tradition of the contributions that should be expected from the First Lady of the country.

Abigail Adams, meanwhile, was very outspoken during the Revolutionary War. She constantly reminded her husband that the government should not forget about the women who supported the glorious cause.

Martha Jefferson, sadly, died many years before her husband became president and he was the first widower to occupy the President’s House.

Martha Dandridge Custis Washington

Martha Dandridge was the daughter of Colonel John Dandridge, a wealthy planter from New Kent County, Virginia, on the road between Williamsburg and Richmond. Born during 1731, she married Daniel Parke Custis, another rich Virginia landowner. They had four children.

Two of the children died in infancy, but the other two, Martha and John, were raised jointly with her second husband, George Washington. Martha Dandridge Custis had become a widow during her early 20s. A number of years later, she accepted the proposal of Colonel Washington.

Married on January 6, 1759, their reception was considered one of the most exciting social events of Tidewater Virginia. Her desire for quiet life with her husband was interrupted continuously due to business, farming, fighting a war and becoming the first leader of the new country. She also suffered through the loss of her two remaining children, but she found enjoyment in caring for her grandchildren.

Martha was at her husband’s side when he died in his bedroom at his beloved Mount Vernon. She joined him at rest less than two years later, passing away on May 22, 1802.

Abigail Smith Adams

Abigail Smith was the daughter of the Reverend William Smith, who was Congregational minister of Weymouth, Massachusetts, and a Quincy on her mother’s side. When Abby announced her engagement to commoner John Adams, her friends were shocked.

Adams was a school teacher son of the owner of a small farm who eventually became a lawyer before serving in colonial government and as Washington’s vice president. Abigail married Adams during 1764 and became his life partner.

Abigail, rightly, may be considered one of the most capable and intelligent of all the First Ladies who have presided over a U.S. president’s household. She departed this life about eight years before her husband, on October 28, 1818.

Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson

Similar to the first Martha, Martha Wayles Skelton was a young widow then Thomas Jefferson married her during 1772 and brought her to his home of Monticello. A tall, slim, vivacious, brown-eyed girl, she was a daughter of a wealthy lawyer from Charles City County. She first married Bathurst Skelton when still in her teens and then became a widow before she was 20 years old.

She married Jefferson when she was 26. Four of their six children died in childhood. She died during 1782, 19 years before Jefferson became president. Since he had promised her that he would never marry again, he occupied the Executive Mansion for two terms as a lonely widower.