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An Unforgettable Birthday

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

President George Washington’s birthday – Feb. 22 – is one I don’t dare forget. Not for patriotic reasons, but for the sake of marital bliss, since Feb. 22 is also the birthday of my wife of 45 years, Marty. Her given name is “Martha.”

However, this is not all – it is also the birthday of my sweetheart while I was at the University of Wyoming and of my ex-wife.

Yep, all three share Feb. 22 with the father of our country, but “Martha’s” is the ONLY one I still cherish and celebrate!

So much has been written about our first president, but what about his wife, my spouse’s namesake? Here’s a few stories about Martha – Washington, that is – which I found on the internet. 

Martha Dandridge Custis Washington was the wife of George Washington, the first president of the United States. Although the title was not coined until after her death, Martha Washington served as the inaugural first lady of the United States. 

During her lifetime, she was often referred to as “Lady Washington.”

Martha Dandridge was born on June 2, 1731 on her parents’ plantation, Chestnut Grove, in the Colony of Virginia. 

She first married Daniel Parke Custis. They had four children, two of whom survived to young adulthood. Daniel’s death made Martha a widow at age 26. She brought her vast wealth to her marriage to Washington, which enabled him to buy land to add to his personal estate.

The wedding was grand. George’s suit was of blue and silver cloth with red trimming and gold knee buckles. The bride wore purple silk shoes with spangled buckles, which are displayed at Mount Vernon. 

The couple honeymooned at the Custis family’s White House plantation for several weeks before setting up house at George’s Mount Vernon estate. They appeared to have had a solid marriage. 

The Washingtons had no children together, but they raised Martha’s two surviving children and helped both of their extended families. 

Upon their marriage, she also brought with her 84 dower slaves from the Custis’ estate for use during her lifetime.

She joined her husband during the Revolution for all the Continental Army’s winter encampments. Before the revolution began, she had kept close to home; during it, she traveled thousands of miles to be with her husband. A general observed she loved “her husband madly.”

After the war, Martha was not fully supportive of her husband’s agreeing to be president of the newly formed United States. Once he assumed office, as the First Lady – a term which was only used later – she hosted many affairs of state with the socializing known as the Republican Court. She presented an image of herself as an amiable wife, but privately complained about the restrictions placed on her life.

Martha’s health, always somewhat precarious, declined after her husband’s death. Two-and-a-half years after the death of her husband, Martha died on May 22, 1802 at the age of 70.

Happy birthday Martha – Perue, that is – and of course George.

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