Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis
Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis.jpg
Born (1788-04-22)22 April 1788
Chatham Manor, Virginia
Died 23 April 1853(1853-04-23) (aged 65)
Arlington, Virginia
Spouse(s) George Washington Parke Custis
Children 4, including Mary Anna Custis Lee

Mary Lee "Molly" Fitzhugh Custis (April 22, 1788 – April 23, 1853) was an Episcopal lay leader in Alexandria County (now Arlington County, Virginia, United States). She was the mother of Mary Anna Randolph Custis who was the wife of Robert E. Lee. Early in the 1820s, Molly Custis helped form a coalition of women who hoped to eradicate slavery.[1]

Early life[edit]

The daughter of William Fitzhugh (1741–1809) a member of the Continental Congress, and Ann Bolling Randolph Fitzhugh, Molly Custis was most likely born at Chatham Manor, in Stafford County, Virginia.[2]

Marriage and Family[edit]

Arlington House from an antebellum sketch, published in 1875.

On July 7, 1804, Molly married George Washington Parke Custis, an orator, playwright, writer, and the grandson of Martha Custis Washington through her first marriage to Daniel Parke Custis. Molly Custis thus became George Washington's step-granddaughter-in-law. Molly's father William Fitzhugh and George Washington were long-time friends, with Washington mentioning in his diaries the hospitality of Molly's mother Ann Bolling Randolph Fitzhugh; a visit to William Fitzhugh turned out to be the last time Washington left Mt. Vernon before his death.[2]

The Custises lived at Arlington House, an 1,100-acre (4.5 km2) plantation in Alexandria County, Virginia. Of their four daughters, only Mary Anna Randolph Custis, who later married Robert E. Lee, survived childhood; Lee's father Henry had famously eulogized President Washington at the 1799 funeral.[3] Molly's brother, William Henry Fitzhugh, supported his niece Anne Lee and her six children by allowing them to stay at his home in Fairfax County, Ravensworth where she died in 1829.[1] In 1824, when Robert E. Lee was 17, William Henry Fitzhugh wrote to the Secretary of War, John C. Calhoun, urging that Robert be given an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Religious Influence[edit]

Molly Custis was a member of a family network in northern Virginia that helped revive the state's Episcopal Church in the first part of the nineteenth century. She particularly influenced her cousin Bishop William Meade. Molly Custis promoted Sunday schools and supported the work of the American Colonization Society.[2] Molly followed the teachings of the Second Great Awakening, with its emotional surrender to a just but inscrutable, God and rejection of transient worldly pleasures.[1]


She died at Arlington on April 23, 1853, and was buried on the estate. Her husband survived her by four years, at which point Arlington House and the grounds were inherited by their daughter Mary Anna Randolph Custis, Mrs. Robert E. Lee.


  1. ^ a b c Carlo,, DeVito,. Mrs. Lee's rose garden : the true story of the founding of Arlington (First ed.). Kinnebunkport, Maine. ISBN 9781604335460. OCLC 883147972.
  2. ^ a b c "Custis, Mary Lee Fitzhugh (1788–1853)". Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  3. ^ "Immediate Response". Papers of George Washington. Archived from the original on 2012-02-28. Retrieved 2012-05-14.
  • ^ Death notice and tribute in Alexandria Gazette, May 16, 27, 1853.

External links[edit]