Click here to read Dolley
Madison's letter concerning the burning of Washington DC
born Dolley Payne in Guilford County, N. C., on May 20, 1768. Her family moved
to Virginia when she was an infant, and she spent the first 15 years of her life
there. In 1783 her Quaker parents moved to Philadelphia, where, in 1790, she
married Quaker lawyer John Todd, Jr. They had two children: one died in 1793
during the same yellow-fever epidemic that took her husband's life; the other
was John Payne Todd.She married
Congressman James Madison, 17 years her senior, on Sept. 15, 1794. The marriage,
though childless, was apparently a very happy one.
Madison first served as "unofficial first lady" during the presidency
of Thomas Jefferson, a widower, while her husband served as secretary of state.
During her husband's presidency (1809-1817), she became the unquestioned center
of Washington society.Noted
for her graciousness and charm as well as her ability to entertain guests and
preside at dinners, she was best known for her Wednesday evening receptions
where politicians, diplomats and the general public gathered. At a time of
intense party rivalries, these gatherings helped to soothe some of the tensions
between Federalists and Republicans.Correspondence
indicates that not only was she an effective counter balance to her husband's
rather colorless public personality, but that her influence on Madison's
political decisions was not in the least insignificant.Notably,
during the British invasion of Washington in 1814, she escaped to Virginia
carrying important state papers, a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington,
and other personal valuables.
to Virginia in 1817, the Madison's continued to entertain lavishly.After
her husband's death in 1836, Mrs. Madison returned to Washington where her home
once again became a center of social life.Her
last public appearance was at a ball given for President Polk in 1848.She
died in Washington on July 12, 1849.
Payne Madison was the wife of President James Madison and one of the most famous
First Ladies in U. S. History.
full address leaf, Free Frank "Free D.P. Madison" by her at the
upper right, and addressed in her hand to Miss Mary E.E. Cutts in Washington.With
a very dark circular red "Orange C.H. VA June 8" postmarkBlack
seal with "DM" initials is intact.