Tags: Presidential History | Dolley Madison | first lady | James Madison

Dolley Madison: The Causes That Defined President James Madison's First Lady

By    |   Monday, 29 Jun 2015 02:52 PM

The National First Ladies’ Library calls Dolley Madison the perfect hostess. This popular wife of President James Madison was defined by her ability to make people comfortable and open them to political conversations. She used the means available in her role as first lady to build substantial influence.

Dolley Payne was born in March of 1768 to Quaker parents in North Carolina. Her father moved north to Philadelphia after emancipating his slaves. The family had extensive political connections. Two sisters were married to U.S. Congressmen and one to a U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice. Dolley’s first husband, John Todd, died of yellow fever just three years after their marriage.

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James and Dolley Madison were married in 1794. She first gained a reputation as an excellent and politically savvy hostess when her husband was Secretary of State during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency. During that time, Dolley stood by the widowed Jefferson at state functions that needed a female “co-host.”

After her husband was elected President, Madison presided over the first inaugural ball.
Dolley Madison served as first lady from 1809 to 1817 and helped define the importance of the role. The cause that defined her was the ability to host and guide social occasions for the political benefit of her husband and the country.

The National First Ladies’ Library describes her skills: “She would steer conversations with political figures, including their spouses, in a way that revealed their positions on issues facing the Madison Administration, or sought to convince them to consider the viewpoint of her husband.”

Dolley Madison’s public cause while first lady was the founding of a home for orphaned girls. The National Women’s History Museum reports this was the first time the wife of a president formally associated with this kind of charity project.

Madison also brought a great deal of style to White House décor. She used a simple style that drew other women to her fashion knowledge, according to the Miller Center.

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The National First Ladies' Library calls Dolley Madison the perfect hostess. This popular wife of President James Madison was defined by her ability to make people comfortable and open them to political conversations.
Dolley Madison, first lady, James Madison
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2015-52-29
Monday, 29 Jun 2015 02:52 PM
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