Leadership support for Women and the American Story provided by
Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation
Celebrated during her life for her wartime bravery and personal appeal, today the wife of the nation’s fourth president is recognized for her astute understanding of politics, and for her role in shaping a political culture in the capital city.
Joseph Wood, Dolley (Payne) Todd Madison, 1817. Oil on canvas. Virginia Historical Society, 1967.14.
The primary framer of the U.S. Constitution, Madison wrote many of the Federalist Papers, and drafted the Bill of Rights, a paradox for a Virginia slave owner. He broke with Federalists, served as Thomas Jefferson’s secretary of state (1801–08) and was president (1809–17) during the War of 1812.
Charles Bird King, Margaret Bayard Smith, ca. 1829. Oil on canvas. Redwood Library and Athenaeum, Newport, Rhode Island, Gift of the artist.
Born to slavery on James Madison’s Virginia plantation, she served Dolley for some forty years, and may have aided her enslaved daughter’s attempted escape aboard the abolitionist-sponsored Pearl.
Baroness Anne-Marguerite-Henriette Hyde de Neuville, Martha Church, Cook in “Ordinary Costume,” ca. 1807-1814, Watercolor, graphite, and brown ink on paper. New-York Historical Society, 1953.276.
A young white servant during Philadelphia’s yellow fever epidemic in 1793, she tended the dying John Todd, Dolley Madison’s first father-in-law. Later married to a well-off farmer, she faced financial and personal turmoil as a widow, and wrote to Dolley asking for help in 1844, unaware that Dolley was herself facing severe financial difficulties.