History of the U.S.: Ladies Love George Washington

Stacy Conradt

Washington wasn’t always the old, white-haired patriarchal Founding Father we know and love. At six feet three inches, the young Washington had the ladies of pre-Revolutionary Virginia swooning. On closer introduction, they were enchanted by his magnetic gray-blue eyes and auburn ponytail.

And he was ripped: modern experts who reconstructed Washington’s appearance using techniques from forensic anthropology say he had a quarterback’s physique, weighing 220 pounds with wide shoulders, a narrow waist, and muscular legs. Legs were a particularly important feature in colonial America, where styles favored breeches and knee stockings so women could admire men’s calves. In 1759, at the age of 27, Washington’s masculine wiles snared Martha Custis— the young, beautiful, and spectacularly wealthy widow of a Virginia planter.

Six feet high and proportionably [sic] made; if anything rather slender than thick for a person of that height with pretty long arms and thighs. —George Washington’s description of himself to a London tailor, 1763

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