- NAME: Martha Jefferson
- OCCUPATION: U.S. First Lady
- BIRTH DATE: October 30, 1748
- DEATH DATE: September 06, 1782
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Charles City County, Virginia
- PLACE OF DEATH: Monticello (near Charlottesville), Virginia
- Maiden Name: Martha Wayles Skelton
- Full Name: Martha Wayles Jefferson
- AKA: Martha Jefferson
- AKA: Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson
Best Known For
Martha Jefferson was married to Thomas Jefferson for 10 years and bore six of his children, but died in 1781, at age 33.
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Born Martha Wayles Skelton in Charles City County, Virginia in 1748, Martha Jefferson married Thomas Jefferson on New Year's Day in 1772. Martha tragically died at age 33, on September 6, 1781—20 years before Thomas Jefferson was elected president. While Martha never served as a U.S. first lady, she has posthumously been given the title by many historians and organizations. Though the couple had six children together,
only two daughters survived until adulthood. She died in 1782 at Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia.
Born Martha Wayles in 1748, Martha Jefferson was the first and only wife of President Thomas Jefferson. She, however, never got to fulfill any duties as first lady—she died years before he was elected president. A member of a wealthy family, she grew up at "The Forest," a plantation in Virginia's Charles City County. Jefferson was named "Martha" after her own mother who died shortly after giving birth to her.
Known for her beauty and grace, Jefferson married Bathurst Skelton in 1766. The couple welcomed a son they named John the following year. But Jefferson's first union proved to be short lived, however. Her husband died in 1768, leaving her a wealthy young widow. She and her son went to live with her family back at the Forest plantation.
In 1770, Martha attracted the attentions of a successful lawyer named Thomas Jefferson. The couple shared an interest in music and literature. Unfortunately, their romance was rocked by tragedy early on. Martha's son John died in June of 1771.
Martha Wayles Skelton married Thomas Jefferson on January 1, 1772. The couple went to live at his estate known as Monticello, located near Charlottesville, Virginia. To please his new bride, Thomas Jefferson bought a pianoforte for their home. The pair liked to perform duets, with Thomas Jefferson joining in on the violin. They soon started a family; Martha gave birth to their first daughter, Martha, also known as "Patsy," in September 1772. During the early years of their marriage, Jefferson's husband served as a member of the House of Burgesses in Richmond. It is likely that she accompanied him there, handling the social responsibilities of a politician's wife.
During their decade-long marriage, Jefferson had five more children. She delivered another daughter, Mary, also known as "Maria" or "Polly," in 1778; and then gave birth to a son—both of whom died in infancy. Around this time, her husband became the governor of Virginia during the American Revolution. Jefferson did what she could to support her husband, but she became increasingly ill over the years. In 1780, she gave birth to daughter Lucy Elizabeth, who also died as an infant.
Some consider Jefferson's last pregnancy in 1782 to be a contributing factor in her death: She delivered a second daughter, also named Lucy Elizabeth, in May 1782, and fell ill soon after. Her husband stayed close by, watching over her as she continued to deteriorate.
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