Local Women In History: Mary Ball Washington

Learn about local history in Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania and Stafford, VA

By Jenny Sites March 4, 2021

Fredericksburg, VA is home to a number of famous women in history - going back all the way to the mother of our first President, George Washington.

Mary Washington was born Mary Ball in 1708 in Lancaster, VA. Mary's father passed away when she was just three years old, and although her mother remarried, her step-father passed away a few years later. Sadly Mary's mother passed away when Mary was only 12 years old and she was sent to live with her uncle. 

At age 22, Mary married Augustine Washington, and their first child, George, was born in 1732 in Pope's Creek. In 1738 the family moved to Ferry Farm. Mary gave birth to five more children before her husband passed in 1743. Rather than remarry, Mary took care of her children and managed the farm, despite economic depression. 

In 1772, with no one left at home to help Ferry Farm becoming overwhelming for Mary. George purchased a house for his mother, now known as The Mary Washington House, on the corner of Charles Street and Lewis Street in downtown Fredericksburg.  

Mary Washington House

Photo Credit: Washington Heritage Museum

George last saw his mother in this house in 1789 on his way to his inauguration. She died that same year of breast cancer at age 81.  Mary is buried at Kenmore, property owned by Mary's daughter Betty and her husband. Her burial site is marked with The Mary Washington Monument and meditation rock. Located on Washington Avenue, the base of this statue was first laid at Mary's burial place by President Andrew Jackson in 1833. Unable to be completed due to funding, the monument was put up for auction. The National Mary Washington Memorial Association and the NSDAR solicited donations to fund the competition of the project and the monument was officially dedicated in 1894. Mary's legacy also lives on through the University of Mary Washington.


DAR,, Washington Heritage Museums,