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By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
It’s rare that women from history get the attention they rightfully deserve. First Ladies, in particular, are rarely seen for their accomplishments in light of their husbands’ success. Seniors visiting Pilgrim Church on March 28 were given the chance to see those accomplishments a bit more clearly as they met the premiere First Lady, Martha Washington.
Anne Barrett reprised her role as Martha Washington in this one-woman show. Her audience was given the chance to hear Martha Washington’s own opinions on marriage, her role as First Lady, and her experiences as a woman living during the American Revolutionary War.
Washington began the play by telling the audience about her traditional upbringing, when she learned dance, writing, basic arithmetic, and how to manage a house. She married Daniel Custis when she was just 19 years old, despite his family’s disapproval of their relationship. “But Daniel was not to be swayed,” Washington recalled. During their marriage, Martha took on the responsibility of managing her husband’s estate, ironically named the White House Plantation. The couple had four children.
The marriage did not last long, though. Daniel suddenly became ill and died on July 8, 1757. “After only seven years of marriage, I was a widow,” Martha said.
Martha knew that she needed to work hard in order to succeed in keeping her husband’s estate without immediately remarrying. She became an expert at trading and negotiating, and assured that everything involving the estate ran properly. When she decided that she wanted to remarry, she made it clear to the audience that she did not want just anyone. If she was going to remarry, she was going to find a man who could help her manage her late husband’s estate - someone whose influence would not run all that she had worked so hard for into the ground. “I was going to choose carefully,” she said.
Martha married George Washington on January 6, 1759.
Despite their happy marriage, the arrival of the American Revolutionary War meant that George Washington and Martha spent much of their lives apart. During the play, George is away from Mount Vernon working with a newly established congress. Martha took time to read a letter her husband wrote her during their time apart, in which he requested that she meet him at his location. Martha made it clear that George wasn’t telling her that she had to go, telling her audience: “My husband does not command me to do anything.”
She continued to inform her audience that she played a role for troops who fought in the Revolutionary War. She would visit troops and ask them what they needed, then would attempt to gather the necessary supplies, with the help of other famous ladies, including Abigail Adams.
During the play, Martha made it clear that she had sacrificed quite a lot for the success not only of her estate, but for the success of her country. Barrett’s depiction of her ends just after her husband has become president, when she was itching to get back to Mount Vernon.
Today, we know that Martha’s sacrifices were not in vain and that she helped make this country what it is today.