Dorothy “Dolley” Madison was the wife of James Madison, the fourth president of the United States. She is known as the woman who turned the new nation’s capital at Washington, D. C. from a dull swamp into a high-society social scene. Dolley served as the official White House hostess while her husband served as Secretary of State. Dorothea Paine “Dolley” Madison was one of the most popular first ladies to have presided in the White House. She was born in 1768 and became the wife and the young widow of John Todd, a Quaker lawyer of Philadelphia. 1794, at the age of twenty-six, she married James Madison, who became, in 1809, fourth president of the United States.
Dolley’s wit and charm and her ability to remember faces endeared her to everyone. But she never liked to be crossed, as the legend of her ghost bears out. When the second Mrs. Woodrow Wilson occupied the White House, she ordered gardeners to dig up the familiar Rose Garden. They never turned a spade. Dolley Madison had planned and built the garden! Her ghost arrived in all her nineteenth century to upbraid the workmen for what they were about to do. The men fled. Not a flower was disturbed and Dolley’s garden continues to bloom today as it has for nearly two centuries.