Martha Skelton Jefferson


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Martha Skelton Jefferson

by Michael Gabriele


Martha Skelton Jefferson was President Thomas Jefferson’s wife, the third First Lady of America. She was born on October 19, 1748, on the plantation owned by her father near Williamsburg, Virginia. Her mother passed away just a week after her birth, so Martha grew up without a motherly figure in her life. She turned to music and practiced enough piano and violin music to become extremely skillful later in life. In 1766, Martha married her first husband at the age of eighteen and gave birth to a son a year after the marriage. Only two years into the marriage, Martha was hit with another tragedy when her husband passed away and she was left a widow. She moved back to her father’s plantation with her son, where she met Thomas Jefferson and he began courting her. During this time, Martha’s son also passed away.

Though she had suffered through difficult deaths in her family, Martha’s time with Thomas would bring her great joy. Thomas shared Martha’s love of music and the arts. They were known to read poetry and play music together. They married on her father’s plantation in 1772. Over the years, she gave birth to seven children, although only two survived to adulthood. It is thought that the birth of her last child contributed to a gradual decline in her health. As she grew weaker and sicker, Thomas was so worried about her that he denied an appointment by the Continental Congress to serve as a commissioner to France. He stayed home with his wife until her death on September 6, 1782. Martha was only thirty-three years old when she died and never got to see her husband become America’s third president.