George Washington by Gilbert Stuart

Dolley Madison

Fourth First Lady of the United States


Dolley Madison was the wife of the fourth President of the United States, President James Madison. She established many American political traditions. Dolley began a public outreach program that first ladies still carry on today. She redecorated the White House and threw the very first Inaugural Ball. Dolley was such a good hostess at the White House that her events became the talk of the town among foreign dignitaries and politicians. Her most famous moment came during the War of 1812. The British burned the U.S. Capitol Building, and Dolley saved a famous portrait of George Washington from total destruction. Dolley set an incredible precedent for all future first ladies to follow with her incredible personality, exuberance, and outgoing attitude.

“It is one of my sources of happiness never to desire a knowledge of other people’s business.”

“It is done… the precious portrait placed in the hands of the gentlemen for safe keeping.”

Dolley served as the “Directress” at an orphanage for young girls.


Dolley was a social butterfly who loved to host weekly gatherings and parties.


Dolley acted as first lady at official functions for President Thomas Jefferson as he was a widower.


Dolley also saved some very important government papers when she saved the portrait of George Washington during the War of 1812.