First Lady: Dolley Payne Todd Madison

On September 15, 1794, James Madison married Dolley Payne Todd, a woman seventeen years his junior. She was the daughter of a devout Quaker and a widow when she married Madison.

Her first husband had died of yellow fever and she was left with a son, John Payne Todd. However, she and James Madison had no children together.

Well-Loved Hostess

Dolley Madison is remembered as one of the most well-loved first ladies. She helped Thomas Jefferson when he was in office since his wife had died before he became president.

As first lady, she created weekly social events and entertained Washington society and dignitaries. For many years after her time in the White House, other first ladies were measured against her.

Saving National Treasures

In 1814, the British were advancing on Washington. Dolley Madison had to leave the White House because it appeared that there was no stopping the enemy. However, she refused to leave without packing up as many national treasures as she could, including the full-length portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart. Without her determination, much would have been lost when the White House was ransacked and burned by the British.


Because Dolley Todd married James Madison, who was Episcopalian and not a Quaker, she was disowned from the Society of Friends. This was a common practice at the time. Typically, a Quaker was visited by a committee and asked to acknowledge their misdeeds. If they were unwilling to do so, they were disowned by the community.

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