Sarah Polk

12th First Lady of the United States Sarah Childress Polk (1803–1891) was the wife of the 11th President of the United States James Polk, and the 12th woman to serve as First Lady. Childless at a time when motherhood was considered a woman’s greatest role, she devoted her life to her husband’s career. In the White House she appeared to be the epitome of the proper lady, while exerting a powerful influence behind the scenes. Image: First Lady Sarah Polk and President James Polk Childhood and Early Years Sarah Childress was born on September 14, 1803 to prominent planter and merchant Joel Childress and Elizabeth Whitsitt Childress. The third of six children, Sarah Childress grew up on a plantation two…

Read Article

Julia Tyler

11th First Lady of the United States Julia Tyler (1820–1889), the beautiful daughter of a prominent New York family, quickly became the darling of Washington society. Congressmen wooed her, but it was the widowed President John Tyler, thirty years her senior, who won her hand in marriage. Beginning at age 23 Julia Tyler served as First Lady of the United States from June 26, 1844, to March 4, 1845, captivating Americans with her beauty, gaiety, and love of public adulation. Childhood and Early Years Julia Gardiner was born on July 29, 1820 on Gardiner’s Island – a 3000-acre island off the eastern tip of Long Island, New York. She was the daughter of Juliana McLachlan Gardiner and David Gardiner, a…

Read Article

Letitia Tyler

10th First Lady of the United States Letitia Tyler (1790–1842), first wife of President John Tyler, was First Lady from April 4, 1841 until her death on September 10, 1842. After giving birth to eight children in fifteen years, Letitia Tyler suffered a stroke, which left her unable to walk. Yet her poor physical health did not prevent her from overseeing her family’s successful Virginia plantation and raising their children. In fact, it was Letitia’s success in these roles throughout their married life that allowed John Tyler to pursue his political ambitions full time. Childhood and Early Years Letitia Christian was born on November 12, 1790 on a Tidewater Virginia plantation named Cedar Grove in New Kent County, about twenty…

Read Article

Harriet Lane

First Lady for Her Bachelor Uncle, James Buchanan Harriet Lane (1830-1903) was the niece of lifelong bachelor and 15th United States President James Buchanan. At age 26 she moved into the White House and acted as First Lady of the United States from 1857 to 1861, one of the few women to hold that position while not being married to the president. Known as the Democratic Queen, Lane was admired for her beauty and vivaciousness, and she used her position to advocate for better living conditions for Native Americans. Harriet Lane was born May 9, 1830 in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, the youngest child of merchant Elliott Tole Lane and Jane Ann Buchanan Lane. Harriet’s mother died when she was nine…

Read Article

Hannah Van Buren

Eighth First Lady of the United States Hannah Hoes Van Buren was the wife of U.S. President Martin Van Buren. She was the first president’s wife to be born a U.S. citizen and not as a subject of the British crown. Because she died eighteen years before Van Buren became President (1837-1841), she is one of the most obscure of our First Ladies. Van Buren never remarried and was one of the few Presidents to be unmarried while in office. His new daughter-in-law Angelica Singleton Van Buren presided as the lady of the White House from 1839 until the end of his term. Hannah Hoes was born on March 8, 1783 in Kinderhook, New York to Johannes Dircksen Hoes and…

Read Article

Rachel Jackson

Seventh First Lady of the United States Rachel Donelson Jackson was the wife of Andrew Jackson, 7th President of the United States. As a child, Rachel was brought to the homes of Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee, all of whom were colleagues of her father in the House of Burgesses. Although she died before President Jackson took office, Rachel Jackson is considered an American First Lady. Rachel Donelson was a child of the frontier. Born near present-day Chatham, Virginia in June 1767, she journeyed to the Tennessee wilderness with her parents when only 12. Her father Colonel John Donelson was a Revolutionary War soldier, member of the Virginia Assembly and co-founder of the new settlement of Fort…

Read Article

Louisa Adams

Sixth First Lady of the United States Louisa Johnson Adams was born in London, England – the only First Lady born outside of the United States. She met John Quincy Adams in 1794 when he was sent to England on a diplomatic mission, and they married shortly after his father, John Adams, became President. Their marriage was stormy and her mother-in-law, Abigail Adams, reportedly disapproved of Louisa. Louisa Catherine Johnson was born February 12, 1775 in London to Catherine Nuth Johnson, an Englishwoman, and Joshua Johnson, an American merchant who was serving as United States consulate general in London. The family moved to France when Louisa was three, where she completed her education. John Quincy Adams was born July 11,…

Read Article

Anna Harrison

Ninth First Lady of the United States Anna Harrison, wife of the President William Henry Harrison, was First Lady of the United States during her husband’s one-month term in 1841, though she never entered the White House. She also holds the distinction of being the only First Lady to be wife of one president and grandmother of another: twenty-third president, Benjamin Harrison. She was born Anna Tuthill Symmes on July 25, 1775 at the family estate Solitude near Morristown, New Jersey to John Cleves Symmes and Anna Tuthill Symmes, who died the following year. Anna’s father was a Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court and later became a prominent landowner in southwestern Ohio. Because the Revolutionary War was…

Read Article

Lucy Webb Hayes

First Lady and Wife of Union General Rutherford B. Hayes Lucy and Rutherford B. Hayes Circa 1877 Lucy Webb Hayes (1831-1889) was First Lady of the United States and the wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes, but prior to his presidency, Hayes was a general in the Union Army during the Civil War. Lucy’s kindness and great moral courage contributed greatly to her husband’s successful military and political careers. Early Years Lucille Webb, born August 28, 1831, was the daughter of Dr. James Webb and Maria Cook Webb of Chillicothe, Ohio. Though he was originally from Kentucky, Dr. Webb and his family were highly opposed to slavery. After inheriting several slaves from his aunt, he returned to his family home…

Read Article

Elizabeth Monroe

First Lady: Wife of Fifth U.S. President James Monroe Elizabeth Kortright was born June 30, 1768, and was raised in New York City. Her mother died when Elizabeth was nine, and Hester Kortright, her paternal grandmother, raised the young girl. Hester had a reputation of being a strong and independent woman, who owned and managed her own vast real estate holdings in old Harlem. Elizabeth was considered one of the most beautiful women of her generation. James Monroe was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, on April 28, 1758, on his parents’ small plantation. He lost both parents by age 16 and inherited his father’s estate. He enrolled in William and Mary College in 1774 but when the American Revolution began…

Read Article