The early first ladies spent much of their time managing the presidential household and entertaining visitors.
As the wife of the first U.S. president, Martha Washington helped set the dignified social tone of the early presidency, although some people criticized her receptions as too regal.
Her successor, Abigail Adams, was attacked for holding strong political views, but there is no clear evidence that she influenced her husband’s policies.
During the War of 1812, a three-year conflict between the United States and Britain, the British set fire to Washington, D.C.
Before the fire reached the White House, First Lady Dailey Madison fled, carrying a famous portrait of George Washington and important government papers.