First Ladies: Little known facts about these wonderful women

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First ladies, we really only think of the those of the presidencies during our lifetime. We don’t think about those from a hundred years ago. The women that loved and supported our Presidents were so interesting just being themselves. We’ve even had a couple that never got the opportunity to serve as First Ladies and one that didn’t divorce her first husband. You think the media picks on the White House occupants now? Well they did hundreds of years ago too.

  • Frances Folsom Cleveland
    (Library of Congress/Wikipedia)

    Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson died nineteen years before her husband became President and her daughter acted as First Lady. Martha’s grandchild was the first child born in The White House.

  • Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams was an illegitimate child born in London. She was the only First Lady born outside America until 192 years later when Melania Trump became First Lady.
  • Rachel Donelson Jackson married an abusive man at eighteen years old. Eventually she fled her marital home and returned to her parents. Three years later her husband bragged that he had divorced her. She met Andrew Jackson and married him in 1791. Two happy years of marriage later they learned that her first husband had not obtained the divorce when he filed suit for adultery. After the divorce was finally granted, they re-married in 1794. In the 1828 Presidential race, rumors of adultery and bigamy were sensationalized by the press. Rachel had a weak heart and the drama of the proceedings contributed to her stress, leaving her depressed and crying. She purchased a white gown and white slippers for the 1829 inauguration but suffered a heart attack and died three days before Christmas 1828. She was buried in the white dress and slippers. Newspapers who had previously attacked her now mourned her and over 10,000 people from all of the country attended her funeral.
  • Julia Gardiner Tyler, The Rose of Long Island married John Tyler in 1844, three years into his presidency. This was the first time a President married while in office.
  • Mary Todd Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln was loved by many but Mary was disliked by many. She spoke her mind freely without caution. The media wrote of her spending spree to decorate the White House. In 1862 during the war she hosted a lavish party sending five hundred invitations. Those who received an invitation were thrilled, those who did not were angry. They felt that a party during the war was not appropriate. Mary was so devastated at her husband’s death, she took to her bed for forty days and did not attended her husband’s funeral, giving them one more reason to talk of her behavior.
  • Betty Ford, official
    White House photo
    (David Hume Kennerly , Library of Congress/Wikipedia)

    Frances Folsom Cleveland – Frank. She was married in the White House in 1886 and was First Lady twice. 1886-1889 and then when Grover Cleveland was elected again 1893-1897. She held a Saturday afternoon reception so that women who worked could attend. Mrs. Cleveland was one of the most popular to serve as First Lady.

  • Betty Ford. Betty had breast cancer in 1974 undergoing radical surgery and spoke openly about her experiences, helping many women going through breast cancer at the time. She resumed her duties as soon as possible saying that “the role of First Lady is much more than a twenty-four-hour job than anyone could know.”

Being First Lady is a hard job, they have huge responsibilities. These beautiful, wonderful women have shown it can be stressful, depressing, and damaging to your health, or for most it was successful, filled with parties, excitement, family and hope for the future. They were a part of our history and I am grateful to our First Ladies for their guidance and sacrifices.

Top photo: First Ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush
with Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush
By Chad J. McNeeley Public Domain/Wikipedia