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American Dolley MADISON

born Dolley PAYNE

First Lady of the United States from 1809 to 1817

Born: on May 20, 1768 in Guilford County, North Carolina, USA
Died: on July 12, 1849 in Washington DC, USA


Dolley Payne was born in the Quaker settlement of New Garden, North Carolina, in Guilford County. Her parents, both Virginians, had moved there in 1765. Her mother, Mary Cole, a Quaker, married John Payne, a non-Quaker, in 1761. Three years later, he applied and was admitted to the Quaker Monthly Meeting in Hanover County, Virginia, and Dolley Payne was raised in the Quaker faith.

Dolley was one of 8 children, four boys (Walter, William Temple, Isaac, and John) and four girls (Dolley, Lucy, Anna, and Mary). In 1769, the family returned to Virginia. As a young girl, she grew up in comfort in rural eastern Virginia, deeply attached to her mother's family.

In 1783, John Payne emancipated his slaves and moved his family to Philadelphia, where he went into business as a starch merchant. By 1789, however, his business had failed. He died in 1792. Dolley's mother initially made ends meet by opening a boarding house. A year later she moved to western Virginia to live with her daughter Lucy, who had married George Steptoe Washington, a nephew of George Washington. Mary Coles Payne took her two youngest children, Mary and John, with her. By then, Dolley Payne had married Quaker lawyer John Todd in January 1790. Their son, John Payne Todd, was born in 1792 and William Temple Todd in 1793. Her sister Anna lived with the Todds as well.

In the fall of 1793, yellow fever struck Philadelphia. Her husband and younger son, William Temple, both died in the epidemic, and Dolley Todd was left a widow at the age of twenty-five.

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