Dolley Madison

by Charlotte from New York

Dolley Madison, First Lady (
Dolley Madison, First Lady (

Dolley Madison is an astonishing person. Some people do not know about her but after you read this, you’ll be able to tell them. In this report you will learn her hardships and contributions. Keep reading to find out more!

Dolley’s story begins on May 20, 1768 in Guilford County, North Carolina. She had long, curly black hair. Since her family was in the Quaker community, she wore gray dresses that reached down to the floor. As Dolley grew up, she got tired of being a Quaker. She longed to wear colorful dresses and expensive jewelry. It was said that Dolley kept a golden chain hidden under her handkerchief.

When Dolley was about twelve years old, her father and mother decided to move to a different farm. Also at this time Dolley’s father wanted to fight for his country's independence. It was a troublesome time for the children. Their mother was also very worried. Without Dolley’s father, the tobacco would not grow strong, and they might not make enough money for food and other important needs. As the days passed and the war came to an end, Dolley’s father came back and at last all was normal. When he returned, Dolley’s family freed all of their slaves. Yet they did not know at the time that this would affect their crops, but they did find out! Since they had freed their slaves, Dolley’s family needed a new business. Once again they moved, this time to Philadelphia. This did not help their business one bit. After awhile, Dolley’s family could not pay their bills. The Quaker community asked for Dolley’s father to leave their group. Time passed; Dolley’s mother opened a boarding house to help get more money. This was a busy time for Dolley.

Dolley grew into a beautiful young lady. She married a Quaker lawyer named John Todd. She had two children: her oldest was Payne and her youngest was William. Sadly, yellow fever struck the town. Dolley’s husband died on October 24, 1793. So did baby William. Only Dolley and Payne survived. Dolley mourned for days and days. When Dolley’s son Payne grew up he had many debts to pay. He was a gambler and spent his money only on drinks. He also was about forty years old and he still didn’t have a wife. Dolley’s heart ached as Payne did not visit her over the years, but Dolley and James Madison [her new fiancé] would still send money no matter what. When Dolley was eighty-five her beloved James died. Losing so many lives that were dear to her, Dolley mourned all over again.

A little while after Dolley married James Madison, he became President of the U.S.A. This is when Dolley got recognized as the First Lady. She was now the fourth president’s wife. She was very proud of her husband and also excited to live in the White House! Mid year in 1814 the British attacked the city of Washington. James went to war to help fight with his fellow troops and Dolley was left alone. The British started to get closer and closer to the White House, but Dolley did not flee. She waited until the last moment to go. She brought fine silverware, china, and velvet curtains. She also ordered some servants to take off Washington’s portrait. She surely did not want the British to take important things from the United States.


As Dolley Madison says in her letters to Abby, “And now, dear sister, I must leave this house or the retreating army will make me a prisoner in it by filling up the road I am directed to take. At this late hour a wagon has been procured, and I have had it filled with plate and the most valuable portable articles, belonging to the house.” She also said, “I am accordingly ready; I have pressed as many Cabinet papers into trunks as to fill one carriage; our private property must be sacrificed, as it is impossible to procure wagons for its transportation.” She goes on, “It is done... the precious portrait placed in the hands of the gentlemen for safe keeping.”

When Dolley was in the White House, she made many contributions for the United States. One Easter at the President’s house, Dolley came up with an idea. She took Easter eggs and made a game out of it. She welcomed all people to come out on the big front yard of the White House. There, with their eggs, all the children got to play. This became known as the Egg Roll. Also Dolley had many parties! She made people feel happy and cheerful.

After James died, Dolley gave all of his writings to the government. The government didn’t decide to keep the writings till a couple days before Dolley passed away.

Dolley Madison had many high-quality characteristics. Here are some of them! She was a very sociable person. Dolley had a very close relationship with her sister, Anna. Anna was eleven years younger than Dolley. Dolley also liked to call her sister-child. Dolley was a very courageous woman. She saved Washington’s portrait when the British were attacking. Dolley was a patriotic wife! She was loyal to her country and knew exactly what it stood for.

Page created on 8/28/2011 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 11/9/2018 8:07:17 PM

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Related Links

Dolley Madison - White House biography
The burning of Washington - Letter by Dolley Madison