Dolley Madison at 250

Presidential History Blog

At 250 years old, Dolley Madison has consistently “worn well.”

Happy Birthday to Dolley!

Dolley by Gilbert Stuart Dolley Madison, by Gilbert Stuart.

From the time Dolley Payne Todd Madison (May 20, 1768-1849) was in her mid-twenties, she was arguably the most famous woman in the United States. Two centuries later, according to the copious amount of written evidence, everybody had nice words for Dolley Madison!

Her good looks and ready smile attracted everyone in Philadelphia, where she lived as a teenaged girl-to-recently-widowed woman. Helping her mother run a boarding house in the new country’s temporary capital gave her proximity and won her the admiration of congressmen and other notables, including President and Mrs. George Washington.

So well known was the Widow Todd, that Congressman James Madison, seventeen years her senior, specifically wanted to meet her. He was immediately enchanted by her delightful personality, and within six months, they were married. As Mrs. Madison…

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