20 May 1768 – Dolley Payne is born to Quakers John Payne and Mary Coles Payne in New Garden, North Carolina.
1769 – Payne family returns to their native Virginia.
19 April 1775 – The battles of Lexington and Concord start the Revolutionary War.
4 July 1776 – The Declaration of Independence is adopted by the Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia.
3 September 1783 – The Treaty of Paris ends the Revolutionary War.
1783 – John Payne frees his slaves and the family moves to Philadelphia.
17 September 1787 – The United States Constitution is adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.
30 April 1789 – George Washington inaugurated as first President of the United States, in New York City.
7 January 1790 – Dolley Payne marries Quaker lawyer John Todd at the Pine Street Meeting House.
29 February 1792 – Dolley gives birth to John Payne Todd.
24 October 1792 – Death of Dolley’s father.
4 March 1793 – George Washington’s second inauguration, held in the Senate Chamber of Congress Hall, in Philadelphia.
20 May 1793 – Dolley’s fifteen-year-old sister, Lucy, elopes with seventeen-year-old George Steptoe Washington, ward and favorite nephew of President George Washington.
4 July 1793 – Dolley gives birth to William Temple Todd.
14 October 1793 – Deaths of Dolley’s husband, John Todd, and her infant son William Temple Todd, from the Yellow Fever epidemic sweeping Philadelphia. The epidemic would eventually kill five thousand of the city’s fifty thousand inhabitants.
Eighteenth century Americans seldom had the luxury of a mourning period following the death of a spouse. The roles of husband and wife were well defined with little duplication of effort, so surviving spouses immediately sought a suitable replacement to safeguard their children’s security and to reestablish the partnership of marriage.
No widow in Philadelphia was considered more suitable than the gorgeous, vivacious, twenty-six-year-old Dolley Payne Todd.