Martha and Abigail: Habits of Friendship…

Presidential History Blog

Martha Washington and Abigail Adams are arguably the most prominent women of the last quarter of the 18th century.

An Unlikely Friendship

The likelihood that Martha Washington (1731-1802) would even meet Abigail Adams (1744-1818) would have been considered remote in 1770. The distances alone were prohibitive. It could take at least two weeks of hard travel.

The young Martha Washington

Martha Washington, née Dandridge-Custis of Virginia, was nearly fourteen years older than Abigail Adams, née Smith, from Massachusetts. The daughter of a gentleman planter of average pedigree, Martha was brought up to embody the domestic virtues of her generation of women. Her formal education was basic. Reading, writing and ciphering (basic arithmetic). As the oldest in a spread-out family of five surviving siblings, she focused on the necessities of managing a household, herbal gardening and “medicine,” child rearing, supervising servants, and of course, the arts of cooking and handiwork.

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