Dolley and Her Sisters: The Merry Wives of Washington

Presidential History Blog

Dolley Payne was the eldest daughter of eight; she had three younger sisters.

Dolley Payne: Quaker Daughter

John Payne, Dolley’s father was a convert to the Quaker religion, and like many people who choose their faith, was strict in its observances. The family moved from North Carolina (where Dolley and her older brother were born) to Virginia, where they had a comfortable mid-sized plantation. They lived there until Dolley was around fourteen or fifteen.

While she received a basic education of reading and writing and sufficient arithmetic to manage household accounts, she was mostly trained in homemaking skills – and helping to tend to the younger siblings who appeared at regular intervals. It was a close and loving family, but perhaps because of their “plain” manners, it was not opulent or particularly merry.

The Payne family moved to the house (below the steeple).

Since Quakers were adamantly against slavery, John…

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