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Encyclopedia Entry: The Courtship of George and Martha


The Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington is a new digital history project that allows users to interact and explore primary source materials and objects from the Mount Vernon collection. Entries focus on the totality of Washington’s life and experiences, while also covering the Mount Vernon Estate, its history, and preservation. The encyclopedia includes entries written by Mount Vernon staff and experts, as well as a team of more than thirty outside scholars of history and related fields. Periodically, encyclopedia entries will be highlighted on this blog.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it seems only appropriate to use today’s featured encyclopedia entry as an excuse to look at the roots of the relationship between George and Martha Washington. The Digital Encyclopedia’s entry on the couple’s courtship notes that the Washingtons’ “wedding came at the end of a rather tumultuous eighteen months” for the former Martha Dandridge Custis. Having lost her first husband in July of 1757, Martha inherited a 17,500 acre estate as well as sole parenting responsibility for her two children. In the spring of 1758, Martha met a young army officer named George Washington at the home of a shared acquaintance.

Find out more about the courtship of George and Martha Washington by reading the full encyclopedia entry.

Adam D. Shprintzen, Ph.D.
Editor, Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington

Classroom Connections

A Letter for Martha

Following George Washington’s death in 1799, Martha Washington destroyed the letters they wrote to each other; only three letters are believed to still exist between two.

Read the two letters written from George to Martha in 1775. Ask your students to craft a response to the following prompt:

Re-write one of George Washington’s letters (or an excerpt from one) using today’s language.

The Poetry of Love

Use this lesson plan to have students compose a sonnet to Martha Washington from George. The lesson plan targets high school students, but can be easily adapted to younger grades.

From George to Martha: Writing a Sonnet Using Primary Sources

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Portraits in Schools

Kids holding George Washington Portrait

Mount Vernon recently invited K-12 schools nationwide to request framed portraits of George Washington to display in a respectful, prominent place.

The response was overwhelming: thousands of schools submitted letters! Along with the portrait, schools received curriculum materials to help explore our first president’s contributions.

Where has George Washington gone back to school? Click here to see!

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