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The Madisons moved to Washington, D.C. in May, 1801, with Dolley Madison’s nine year old son, Payne Todd, and her youngest sister, Anna Payne Cutts.
As the wife of the Secretary of State, Dolley had no formal, official duties. Thomas Jefferson was a widower whose own daughters lived with their families in central Virginia, so Dolley acted as Jefferson’s hostess.
Madison worked with the architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe to furnish the White House.
As the invading British army approached Washington during the War of 1812, Dolley filled a wagon with silver and other valuables and sent them off to the Bank of Maryland for safekeeping. She also took the portrait of George Washington and fled from the city.
When James Madison’s second term of office ended the Madisons retired to their Virginia plantation.