Martha Dandridge Custis Washington (June 13 [O.S. June 2] 1731– May 22, 1802) was the wife of George Washington, the first presidentof the United States. Although the title was not coined until after her death, Martha Washington is considered to be the first First Lady of the United States. During her lifetime she was often referred to as “Lady Washington.”
Widowed at 25, she had four children with her first husband Daniel Parke Custis; two of her children by Custis survived to young adulthood. She brought great wealth to her marriage to Washington, which enabled him to buy land and many slaves to add to his personal estate. She also brought nearly 100 dower slaves for her use during her lifetime; they and their descendants reverted to her late husband’s estate at her death and were inherited by his heirs.
She and Washington did not have children together but they did rear her two children by Daniel Parke Custis, including son John “Jackey” Custis, as well as helping both of their extended families.
Who freed the slaves that George Washington owned?
Although it is known that George Washington called for the emancipation of the slaves in his Last Will and Testament, it was his wife Martha who freed the slaves that Washington owned. However, she was unable to free the slaves that she owned. Under the terms of her first husband’s will, these slaves—about half of those living at Mount Vernon—belonged to her children and grandchildren.