She finally decided to marry him after her father told her that she should marry him if she loved him. Her father was very ill, and she decided that even as an adult she would continue to obey her father's words as she always had; so she married John in 1790. She gave birth to a baby boy and named him Payne after her father. Later, they had another baby boy and decided to call him William.
Suddenly, yellow fever swept over Philadelphia, and John took his family out to the country to get away from the disease. Then he went back to take care of his mother and father. Despite everything that he did, his parents still died. He decided to go back to his family because there was nothing left for him to do. As he was riding, he began to feel sick; he knew that he had caught the yellow fever. His one thought was of getting home to see his wife, Dolley. When he got to the house, he collapsed in Dolley's arms. He died almost instantly, but Dolley was not afraid. Soon after, Dolley caught yellow fever, but she bravely fought her way through. Although she survived, her son, William, was not so lucky. He also died in Dolley's arms. She said that it was one of the hardest times in her life.
Later, a friend brought over a man called James Madison. At that first meeting, they fell in love. Soon they married, even though he was not a Quaker. Dolley did not desire to be a Quaker anymore either, and her religion changed. She never forgot her Quaker rules of kindness, love, and duty, though. They lived at Montpelier, the place where some said, "It's a squirrels throw from heaven."
In 1800, Jefferson made Madison Secretary of State and Dolley was made the nation's official hostess since Jefferson's own wife had died. She did this job charmingly. They moved to Washington. Then, in 1809, Madison was made president and so they stayed in Washington. Dolley decorated the President's House with many mirrors because they reflected light in the room and made it look larger.
One very honorable trait that Dolley had was to remember everyone she met, their faces, and their names.
All of a sudden, in 1812, war began. In 1814, the soldiers headed for Washington. Madison went and fought, leaving Dolley with a guard. As the sound of cannons came nearer, Dolley packed away the important government papers as her guard fled. When a note came to her from Madison to leave, she quickly took the picture of George Washington and the government papers. Then, she left and escaped across a river. At first, the officer at the river didn't believe that she was the President's wife because she was dressed in ragged clothes, but she finally convinced him and got safely across. Finally, in 1815, a peace treaty was signed. Many buildings had been destroyed, including the President's House. They built a new one which was painted white. It was called the White House and has been called that ever since.
In 1817, when he was sixty-six, Madison retired and they moved back to Montpelier. After a while, Madison had to be taken around in a wheelchair, but he was always cheerful, never complaining. Dolley never left his side; she used all of her ability and charm to keep her beloved husband happy. Despite all of her efforts, he died on June 28, 1836. He had been so quiet and brave, no one knew how weak he really was. At his death, the country lost one of their most devoted and brilliant statesman who had helped to write the famous Constitution. He deeply deserved that title, "Father of the Constitution."
She went to Washington after Madison's death. She was sixty-nine, and although she had little money, she had not lost her charm or dignity. Congress gave her a seat in the House of Representatives, the first seat ever given to a woman.