Ona Judge: Women’s History Month, Part 3

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Episode Description:
Ona Judge escaped George and Martha Washington's household, where she was an enslaved housemaid, and made her way to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where she eluded George Washington's determined attempts to capture her. She made a new life for herself in New Hampshire, marrying and having three children. Her side of her remarkable story survives because she gave interviews to at least two abolitionist newspapers.

Script for Ona Judge: Women’s History Month, Part 3


Ona Judge was born into slavery at Mount Vernon, Virginia, around 1774.

Her mother was an enslaved seamstress to Martha Washington, and when she was old enough, Ona was also pressed into  service as one of Martha's most trusted housemaids.

As a housemaid, she was spared the backbreaking labor many enslaved women were forced to endure in the fields.

However, she was enslaved, and did not even have the modest liberties that free African American women enjoyed.

When she learned that Martha Washington intended to give her away to Martha's bad-tempered granddaughter as a wedding present, Ona fled the president's house in Philadelphia, eventually making her way to safety in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where she eventually married and had children.

The Washingtons were frustrated by Ona's escape with George Washington making persistent efforts to return Ona to Mount Vernon, instructing Martha's nephew to take Ona “by force, and carry her back” if she refused.

Ona did refuse, and eluded her would-be kidnappers, remaining free for the rest of her life  and giving at least two interviews to abolitionist newspapers.

This has been 60-Second Civics, a podcast of the Center for Civic Education. 

I’m Mark Gage.


Copyright Center for Civic Education. 

Listen to more Women's History Month podcasts.

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