THIS WEEK IN ALEXANDRIA HISTORY: MARTHA WASHINGTON

Head and shoulder portrait of First Lady Martha Washington. After Stuart and Peal. Undated. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

On May 22, 1802, Martha Dandridge Custis Washington, wife of the nation’s first president, died of a severe fever at age 70 in the small, third-floor  bed-chamber at Mount Vernon that she had moved to after her husband’s death in 1799.  In the extended period of her bereavement, her health declined steadily.  A visitor to Mount Vernon in 1801 remarked, “She speaks of death as a pleasant journey.” Although technically America’s first “First Lady,” that term was not in presidential jargon at the time George Washington served as Commander in Chief, so she was instead referred to simply as “Lady Washington.” (Source: Office of Historic Alexandria)