Little Known Facts About the First 16 U.S. First Ladies

The First Lady has always played an important role in U.S. Presidency. Whether she is simply showing support for her devoted spouse during the campaign or coming up with viable solutions that could help our nation to grow and prosper, our First Ladies have definitely made their mark in U.S. History. Here are a few facts that you may not have heard about the first 16 First Ladies of the United States.

Martha Washington 1731-1802

George Washington’s wife was the first to be given the title of “lady” by the press, as in “Lady Washington”. And she was the first wife of a president to appear on the U.S. Postage Stamp.

Abigail Adams 1744-1818

John Adam’s wife urged her husband to “remember the ladies” when he was writing the nation’s Declaration of Independence in 1776. She was also the first woman to be both a president’s wife and the mother of a president, as well as the first to live inside the White House.

Martha Jefferson 1748-1782

Martha Jefferson died 18 years before her husband was elected as president of the United States. And there is no known portrait that exists of her. Their daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph served as White House hostess, and was the first to give birth in the presidential mansion in Washington D.C.

Dolley Madison 1768-1849

James Madison’s wife is the only first lady given an honorary seat on the floor of Congress, and she was the first American to respond to a telegraph message, sent by inventor Samuel Morse.

Elizabeth Monroe 1768-1830

James Monroe’s wife ended the custom of the president’s wife making the first social call on the wives of other officials in Washington-and the insulted women ended up boycotting her White House receptions.

Louisa Adams 1775-1852

John Quincy Adams’ wife was the only first lady born in a foreign Country-England. She played the harp, wrote satirical plays and raised silkworms.

Rachel Jackson 1767-1828

Andrew Jackson’s wife was a bigamist, having married Jackson before she was divorced from her first husband. She died after Jackson was elected president, but before his inauguration. Her niece, Emily Donelson served as White House hostess during the majority of Jackson’s administration.

Hannah Van Buren 1783-1819

Martin Van Buren’s wife, who was also his second cousin, died 18 years before her husband was elected as president. Their daughter-in-law Angelica Van Buren served as the White House Hostess during the -last two years of Van Buren’s administration.

Anna Harrison 1790-1842

William Henry Harrison’s wife was the only spouse of a president and grandmother of another. She never lived in the White House because her husband died a month after his inauguration. Their daughter-in-law Jane Harrison served as White House hostess for the shortest time, 30 days.

Letitia Tyler 1790-1842

John Tyler’s first wife was a stroke victim and the first president’s wife to die in the White House. Their daughter Letty Tyler Semple and daughter-in-law Priscilla Cooper Tyler served as White House hostesses until Tyler eloped with his second wife, Julia (1820-1889), who became the first photographed First Lady.

Sarah Polk 1803-1891

James Polk’s wife worked as the president’s secretary without taking a salary, and forbid dancing and card playing inside the White House.

Margaret “Peggy” Taylor 1788-1852

Zachary Taylor’s wife learned how to shoot a gun when she lived with her husband on the Western Frontier. When she lived in the White House, she refused to serve as hostess, giving that role to their daughter, Betty Taylor Bliss.

Abigail Fillmore 1798-1853

Millard Fillmore’s wife was the first presidential spouse to work and earn a salary before marriage. She was a schoolteacher. She died three weeks after leaving the White House and her husband later married Caroline Fillmore, a widower who turned out to be wealthier than he was.

Jane Pierce 1806-1893

Franklin Pierce’s wife discouraged her husband’s interest in politics. Two months before his inauguration, Mrs. Pierce was overtaken with grief and depression after she had witnessed the gruesome death of their only living son in a train accident. She never completely recovered from the trauma.

Harriet Lane 1830-1903

James Buchanan’s niece was the White House hostess for the only president to remain a bachelor. She was an avid art collector, and upon her death bed, bequeathed her collection to the Smithsonian Institution, which today includes the National Gallery of Art.

Mary Lincoln 1818-1882

Abraham Lincoln’s wife was the first to hold séances in the White House, the first to be attacked in the press for lavish purchases during wartime, and the first to fight for the abolition of slavery.