Dolly

Madison

Dolly Payne Madison was born in Guilford County, North Carolina on May 20, 1768.

Dolly was born the first girl in a family of several children to Quaker parents,

John Payne and Mary Coles. She spent her childhood in Scotchtown, Virginia.
"The Paynes were well connected and sufficiently prosperous, small planters
in Hanover County."1 The Quaker house forbade festivity, shunned amusement
and frowned upon the world\'s vanities. After a preliminary visit to

Philadelphia, John Payne returned to Hanover County to dispose of his property
and free his slaves and in July 1783 he settled with his family in the pleasant
city of Philadelphia. In Philadelphia Dolly brought loveliness and charm to the

Quaker Evening Meetings. In her mind, however, there were other things in

Philadelphia more engrossing than the routine of meetings. Under her Quaker gown

Dolly\'s heart yearned, frankly and without any shame, for these things. Yet,
when her family told her to marry John Todd, she stood up dutifully at first and
second meeting and proclaimed her willingness to do so. His father was an
eminent Quaker schoolteacher; John was a prominent young lawyer, twenty-seven
years old. She did not contend against John Todd. "Dolly had the ability to
accept whatever fate might have to offer and make the very best of it."2

They were married on January 7, 1790, at the Friends\' Meeting House on Pine

Street. In the summer of 1793 there came the yellow plague. Dolly was struggling
with her children along the crowded road to Gray\'s Ferry, one of the panic
driven throngs escaping from the stricken city. John Todd stayed behind to give
his able bodied and courageous help, and before the winter was over Dolly had
lost her husband and her baby. Dolly herself was desperately ill for she had
caught the fever from John when he came staggering out at last to Gray\'s Ferry.

She recovered to find herself a widow at twenty-five, and executrix of her
husband\'s will. In the fall Dolly returned to her mother\'s house, which was now
a boarding house. At all events, the Senator from New York, Colonel Aaron Burr,
lodged at the Madison Lodging House. He told everyone about the pretty widow

Todd. He finally told his friend Congressman Madison of Virginia. The

Congressman, however, disliked women after Catherine Floyd had ended their long
engagement. One day James Madison saw the widow driving by and began pestering

Colonel Burr for an introduction. In the spring of 1794 Dolly and James were
introduced for the first time. It was not long before their engagement was
rumored all over Philadelphia. John Todd had not been dead a year when, on

September 15, 1794, James and Dolly were married at Harewood. Now there was a
new Philadelphia for Quaker Dolly, the Philadelphia she had always longed for.
"The town had never been more gay, a continually changing pageant of
foreign guests and ministers."3 A brilliant scene graced by the presence of
many of the emigrated nobility of France. In her new role, as Mrs. Madison of

Montpellier, Dolly plunged into these festivities with all the stored-up zest of
her restrained girlhood. For three years Dolly brought a fresh, bright
personality to enliven Lady Washington\'s somewhat stuffy levees in the old brick
house on Market Street. Dolly Madison adored the Washington\'s. Dolly made
friends in all camps for James Madison, which probably helped him win
presidency. He did not care for all the routs and levees so he retired to his
beloved town of Montpellier, to his solitude and his books. On the morning of

March 4, 1801 the Federalists were defeated, and Thomas Jefferson was to take
his place as President of the United States. Soon secretary of state Madison and
his wife were dragged away from Montpellier again and came to reside in

Washington. "Present me respectfully to Mrs. Madison," Mr. Jefferson
wrote, "and pray her to keep you where you are, for her own satisfaction
and for the public good."4 Since Mr. Jefferson was fond of them both, and
because he was a widower, Mrs. Secretary of State Madison found herself
presiding at the head of the Executive board. For eight years, "Queen

Dolly," as they called her, ruled over the social destinies of the

Executive Mansion in spite of the demands upon her strength and the humidity of
the malarial marshes, which crippled her with inflammatory rheumatism from which
she suffered for the rest of her life. In March, 1809, Mr. Jefferson retired,
smiling to Monticello; Mr. Madison inevitably became President, and Dolly moved
into that Great House