First Ladies Library Blog

Welcome to the National First Ladies Library blog. This replaces the “asked/answered” page and all information from it has been transferred to the blog. Here will be an ongoing public forum on the work of the NFLL and its collections, discussion on new and emerging scholarship and popular publications, news stories, and any other information or discoveries related to directly to the subject of First Ladies. The public is invited to engage here with questions on the subject.

Research, reading and writing on the subject of American First Ladies opens windows into so many fascinating aspects of not just national and international history and culture but contemporary issues as well.

Enjoy our blog and feel free to post your comments.

Jim Haley and Grace Coolidge during one of their daily long walks around Washington. (NFLL)

Jim Haley and Grace Coolidge during one of their daily long walks around Washington. (NFLL)

Yesterday, the White House was placed on lockdown when an armed man approached a checkpoint to the complex and refused to put down his weapon, resulting in his being shot by a Secret Service agent. The incident yet again brings focus to the ongoing efforts by  the federal protection force to ensure the privacy and safety of not just the President, but the First Lady.

On the day President Kennedy was assassinated, Jacqueline Kennedy was preceded by her Secret Service agent Clint Hill. Shortly thereafter, after JFK was shot, he would jump on the presidential limousine to push her back into the car. (JFKL)

On the day President Kennedy was assassinated, Jacqueline Kennedy was preceded by her Secret Service agent Clint Hill. Shortly thereafter, after JFK was shot, he would jump on the presidential limousine to push her back into the car. (JFKL)

No matter how freely a First Lady may think she has managed to live while a resident of the White House, one thing is for sure: she will always be shadowed by members of the United States Secret Service.

Edith Roosevelt and daughter Ethel. (NPS)

Edith Roosevelt and daughter Ethel. (NPS)

Protection for the incumbent President’s family members was first enacted during Theodore Roosevelt’s Administration, he having inherited the position while Vice President to William McKinley, who was assassinated in 1901.

Despite the provision funding the safety of presidential family members, however, it was not yet strictly enforced.

Edith Wilson (artinamerica.com)

Edith Wilson (artinamerica.com)

When young Quentin Roosevelt walked out of the White House to attend classes at a local public school, for example, he might be trailed by a Secret Service agent from a distance – or he might not.

Edith Wilson was the first presidential spouse who was specifically assigned a Secret Service agent, she was almost always in the company of the President when in public and thus covered by those protecting him.

Florence Harding and her devoted Secret Service agent Harry Barker. (carlanthonyonline.com)

Florence Harding and her devoted Secret Service agent Harry Barker. (carlanthonyonline.com)

Harry Barker, a native of Newton, Massachusetts became the first Secret Service agent to truly serve a First Lady. In the process of being out in public with the highly active Florence Harding and at her side on presidential trips to the south and out west, and then up to Alaska, they became especially close.

While the President’s Secret Service agents developed a protective personal feeling for him, Barker remained doggedly loyal to Mrs. Harding, a quality she found especially comforting when those she’d considered reliable friends appointed to political office began to betray the trust she and the President had invested in them. On one occasion, when the President’s mistress came to meet with him, Barker interceded and informed the First Lady.

When she was at the residence, Florence Harding entrusted Harry Barker to retrieve her astrologer Marcia Chaumprey and discreetly deliver her to the family quarters for her readings and predictions.

Florence Harding and Laddie Boy. (NFLL)

Florence Harding and Laddie Boy. (NFLL)

Upon the death of the President, Mrs. Harding gave their beloved Airedale Laddie Boy to Harry Barker who lovingly made the dog part of his family, his wife and sons caring for the famous pooch at their Massachusetts home.

Whenever she set out on her daily power walks around Washington, D.C. Grace Coolidge was always in the company of her Secret Service agent James Haley and the duo became a familiar sight around the capital.

While later generations of agents would, for obvious security reasons, remain largely anonymous figures in public, Jim Haley was identified in the press by name.

Along with her Secret Service agent Jim Haley, Grace Coolidge walking the Harding dog Laddie Boy, who was soon after given by Mrs, Harding to her Secret Service agent Harry Barker. (carlanthonyonline.com)

Along with her Secret Service agent Jim Haley, Grace Coolidge walking the Harding dog Laddie Boy, who was soon after given by Mrs, Harding to her Secret Service agent Harry Barker. (carlanthonyonline.com)

He earned unwanted publicity during the 1927 presidential summer vacation to South Dakota, however, when he and the First Lady headed out for a hike in the nearby woods and were gone for several long hours.

The President feared something terrible had occurred and was angered when they finally appeared at the lodge that was serving as their residence. President Coolidge ordered that Haley be removed from his position and reassigned to another position within the agency.

The press, however, suggested that Coolidge was really jealous of a secret love affair between his wife and Haley. Unknown to the President, the First Lady wrote a strong letter to the Secret Service director, commending the behavior of Jim Haley. She remained a friend of his, as well as his wife Joan, for the rest of her life.

How each First Lady has reacted to being trailed by armed guards largely depended on both the degree of public exposure they had and how accustomed they may have previously been with the experience of being guarded.

Eleanor Roosevelt, with her constant travels around the nation and making three overseas trips as First Lady, felt the presence of protection was an encumbrance on her activities.

Eleanor Roosevelt conceded to the Secret Service request that she learn how to use a pistol for self-protection and the acquiesced in her request not to trail her (FDRL)

Eleanor Roosevelt conceded to the Secret Service request that she learn how to use a pistol for self-protection and the acquiesced in her request not to trail her (FDRL)

She refused to accept Secret Service protection and the agency acquiesced only on the condition that she always carry a pistol and learn how to properly use it. Mrs. Roosevelt went through the training, but rarely took her gun with her on trips.

Bess Truman especially dreaded having her privacy intruded upon and insisted upon driving her own car during her initial period as First Lady. Several months into her tenure, however, when she would drive and have to stop her car at a stop sign or red light, pedestrians and other motorists immediately recognized her. Finally, Mrs. Truman acquiesced to being guarded at all times.

Mamie Eisenhower formed a close friendship with agents who protected her and the President. During her first two summer sojourns to the Denver, Colorado home of her mother, the First Lady fostered a romance between a local woman and Secret Service agent Robert Newbrand.

When the couple married, Mrs. Eisenhower attended the wedding ceremony and stood prominently on the church steps to throw rice on them as they emerged.

Mamie Eisenhower showers her Secret Service agent and his new wife with rice at their 1954 wedding. (ebay)

Mamie Eisenhower showers rice on her Secret Service agent Robert Newbrand and his bride at their 1954 wedding. (ebay)

Finding that she could have relative peace and solitude by taking walks with scarves and sunglasses on, Pat Nixon enjoyed strolling the Pacific Ocean shoreline near the presidential home in San Clemente, California and window-shopping at night in Washington, D.C. With the risk of any potential harm to her being relatively low, Mrs. Nixon managed to have her Secret Service agents trail her at a slight distance, giving her a simulated sense of freedom.

Betty Ford, though never having had her every movement watched, formed an immediately friendly relationship with members of her Secret Service agent detail.

Betty Ford coaches a touch football game between her Secret Service detail and the President's. (Ford Presidential Library)

Betty Ford coaches a touch football game between her Secret Service detail and the President’s. (Ford Presidential Library)

With a tendency to take a protective attitude towards them, she famously cheered on and coached members of her Secret Service detail in a 1976 summer game of touch football against those who guarded the President, while at the presidential vacation home in Vail, Colorado.

The 1981 assassination attempt on her husband’s life just two months after he assumed the presidency left Nancy Reagan dramatically shaken; for the rest of his presidency, she remained worried about his exposure to potential harm and kept a direct line of contact with the chief of his detail.

Since the president’s four grown children were also trailed by agents, the First Lady found that she could keep an eye on their private activities by requesting reports of their movements from the Secret Service.

Nancy Reagan with her Secret Service agent John Barletta. (People)

Nancy Reagan with her Secret Service agent John Barletta. (People)

After leaving the White House in 1989 and until her death two months ago, in March of 2016, Mrs. Reagan maintained a close friendship with some of her former agents, especially John Barletti.

Barbara Bush endeared herself to agents with her motherly concern for their personal well-being.

Barbara Bush jogging in Chicago with her three Secret Service agents. (alamy)

Barbara Bush jogging in Chicago with her three Secret Service agents. (alamy)

As both the wife of a Vice President and a President, Mrs. Bush sought to ensure that they were warm when stationed outside in cold weather and arranging the presidential family vacations during the holiday season in a way that permitted the agents to spend time with their own families, as Jacqueline Kennedy and Lady Bird Johnson had also done.

Mrs. Johnson was even known to buy and wrap Christmas presents for some of her agents.

Mrs. Obama surrounded by her Secret Service detail in Spain. (andalucia.com)

Mrs. Obama surrounded by her Secret Service detail in Spain. (andalucia.com)

More recently, Michelle Obama also extended a warm overture to the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect her own and those of her family.

Reports claim that she insisted they call her by her first name, and that she invited them to and joined private family parties.

Since she was the first First Lady to make multiple and extensive trips to foreign countries, Jacqueline Kennedy’s Secret Service agent Clint Hill had an opportunity to travel the world, from a 1962 summer vacation on the Amalfi Coast of Italy to a 1963 luxury cruise on the legendary yacht of Aristotle Onassis.

Michelle Obama with Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan. (AP)

Michelle Obama with Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan. (AP)

While always maintaining a professional relationship and always calling him formally by “Mr. Hill,” the duo became especially close, even sharing cigarettes.

The 1963 assassination of President Kennedy forever changed the Secret Service protection of those women who either would be or had been First Ladies.

The new President, Lyndon B. Johnson ordered immediate protection for the three living former Presidents, the widowed Herbert Hoover, and the married Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.

Jackie Kennedy on her 1962 Italian holiday with Clint Hill in black shirt. (Getty)

Jackie Kennedy on her 1962 Italian holiday with Clint Hill in black shirt. (Getty)

By default, Bess Truman and Mamie Eisenhower had some form of protection.

Also, for the first time, special protection was approved for a singular First Lady, the widowed Jacqueline Kennedy, was given protection by vote of Congress as were her children. She lost her protection with her 1968 second marriage and they upon turning 16 years old.

The widowed Jackie Kennedy walking her dog in New York while her Secret Service agent blocks a photographer. (Pinterest)

The widowed Jackie Kennedy walking her dog in New York while her Secret Service agent blocks a photographer. (Pinterest)

Five years later, as former President Eisenhower began his long decline in health leading up to his April 1969 death, President Johnson recognized that the anxious Mamie Eisenhower would be left essentially abandoned and isolated upon widowhood, living in relative isolation at the large Gettysburg, Pennsylvania farm where the couple had retired; thus LBJ signed legislation providing for the first protection of presidential widows.

A nurse pushes Bess Truman in a wheelchair while the presidential widow's Secret Service agent looks on. (UPI)

A nurse pushes Bess Truman in a wheelchair while the presidential widow’s Secret Service agent looks on. (UPI)

At the time, this new ruling applied only to Bess Truman and Mamie Eisenhower, since Mrs. Kennedy had the protection since 1963. Just several months later, however, Jacqueline Kennedy lost her Secret Service protection when she lost her status as a president’s widow upon her October marriage to her second husband, Aristotle Onassis.

Nevertheless, when she was in the presence of her two young children Caroline and John, she remained under their observation if not their technical protection by law. The Kennedy children lost their Secret Service protection when each reached the age of 16 years old.

Presidential widow Nancy Reagan being escorted by Secret Service agent Richard Kyle Bui. (ocweekly.com)

Presidential widow Nancy Reagan being escorted by Secret Service agent Richard Kyle Bui. (ocweekly.com)

When their husbands’  presidencies ended, Secret Service guard was provided to Lady Bird Johnson (1969). Pat Nixon (1974). Betty Ford (1977), Rosalynn Carter (1981), Nancy Reagan (1989), Barbara Bush (1993), Hillary Clinton (2001), and Laura Bush (2009). Several years before her 1993 death, Pat Nixon gave up her Secret Service protection, making relatively few public appearances and feeling it was an unnecessary expense to the federal government.

Initially uncomfortable having the presence of guards around her, Hillary Clinton has had a long period of period of protection, beginning with her tenure as First Lady in 1993, continuing on while she served as a U.S. Senator unit 2009.

Hillary Clinton with her Secret Service detail during her 2008 presidential campaign. (hillarydaily.com)

Hillary Clinton with her Secret Service detail during her 2008 presidential campaign. (AP/hillarydaily.com)

Due to her status as a Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s Secret Service detail was increased between 2009 and 2013.

It reduced after she left that position until just recently, when she became a 2016 presidential candidate.

Pat Nixon had her agents trail behind during her cherished, solitary walks on the beach. (pinterest)

Pat Nixon had her agents trail behind during her cherished, solitary walks on the beach. (pinterest)

From the time that First Ladies were designated as figures requiring Secret Service, during Edith Wilson’s tenure, they have also been dubbed with nicknames used by the Secret Service.

However, the names have been chosen by the White House Military Office.

Some side notes on the matter of First Lady codenames.

Whatever agents may have called Florence Harding, Grace Coolidge and Lou Hoover remains a mystery; none have surfaced in nearly a century. Whether they were assigned one is even uncertain.

Rosalynn Carter, watched by her agent as she campaigned in a senior center. (pahrumpvalleytimes.com)

Rosalynn Carter, watched by her agent as she campaigned in a senior center. (pahrumpvalleytimes.com)

Barbara Bush had two known codenames.

Here is a list of each of their codenamed: Edith Wilson, Grandma; Eleanor Roosevelt, Rover; Bess Truman, Sunnyside; Mamie Eisenhower, Springtime; Jacqueline Kennedy, Lace; Lady Bird Johnson, Victoria; Pat Nixon, Starlight; Betty Ford, Pinafore; Rosalynn Carter, Dancer; Nancy Reagan, Rainbow; Barbara Bush, Snowbank, Tranquility; Hillary Clinton, Evergreen; Laura Bush, Tempo; Michelle Obama, Renaissance

 

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First Ladies as Author

Michelle Obama writing, in her Chicago home. (twodelighted.com)

Michelle Obama writing, in her Chicago home. (twodelighted.com)

As Michelle Obama goes through the final year of her tenure are First Lady, there has been a renewed interest in both her personal story leading up to her husband’s presidency and reflection on how much she has accomplished. All of this has inevitably begun speculation about when she might sign a book publishing contract to write her memoirs.  She has also authored a 2012 book on the White House vegetable garden, American Grown.

Michelle Obama's first book.

Michelle Obama’s first book.

Certainly there is good reason for her to do so. The memoirs of former presidential spouses have a history of outselling those penned by their husbands and, if Mrs. Obama does write the story of her life and include her White House years, she would become the seventh consecutive First Lady to do so. Each one since Betty Ford has published a post-White House memoir.

There is also a rich and long history of First Ladies as authors of works other than their memoirs.

The first presidents’ wife to write a book that was published in her lifetime was Helen “Nellie” Taft. In 1914, two years after leaving the White House she wrote her memoirs, Recollections of Full Years.

The other First Ladies who wrote and published their memoirs after leaving the White House were: Eleanor Roosevelt, Lady Bird Johnson (based on excerpts of her daily taped recordings of a White House diary), Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush. However, there are several interesting footnotes to this:

the posthumously published memoirs of Julia Grant, the first First Lady to pen such a book.

the posthumously published memoirs of Julia Grant, the first First Lady to pen such a book.

Julia Grant actually wrote her memoirs in the 1890′s but was advised not to publish them because she was too harsh in her assessment of her husband’s political and military colleagues. They were posthumously published in 1975.

Grace Coolidge wrote a series of articles in American Magazine in the early 1930′s that consisted of her White House memoirs, treated topically, but did not choose to have the articles published as a book.

Lou Hoover co-translated with her husband an ancient Latin text on mineralogy before she was First Lady – but not her memoirs.

Eleanor Roosevelt wrote the first volume of her memoirs, covering her early years, while still First Lady.

Eleanor Roosevelt wrote numerous articles and contributed to different books before she became First Lady. Following her husband’s election as President, she published a small booklet-magazine called Babies, Just Babies about maternal care. She also wrote numerous books – besides her memoirs – as a former First Lady, including her last one, published posthumously, called Tomorrow is Now.

Nancy Reagan's memoirs were actually the second version she wrote, the first appearing during her husband's presidential election,

Nancy Reagan’s memoirs were actually the second version she wrote, the first appearing during her husband’s presidential election,

Nancy Reagan wrote and published an early, first version of her life called Nancy in time for the 1980 presidential race of her husband. She then wrote the introduction for To Love a Child, a book about the Foster Grandparent program in 1981, while First Lady.

Barbara Bush “ghostwrote” two books by her dogs, one while she was the vice-president’s wife, C. Fred’s Story, and the other, Millie’s Book, while First Lady.

Hillary Clinton wrote It Takes a Village to Raise a Child in 1995 – and also read portions of it for a books-on-tape version which won a Grammy for the Spoken-Word Category.

Betty Ford wrote a second volume of her autobiography that actually returned to her earlier life covered in her first book – but in her second book, Glad Awakening, written once she had been in recovery.

Although Jacqueline Kennedy never wrote her own White House memoirs, she did quietly aid in the publishing of her White House “story” from her perspective by drafting and editing discreetly two books written by a trusted friend of her family, journalist Mary “Molly” Thayer. The first was Jacqueline Kennedy, a biographical overview of her life up to the point of her husband’s inauguration and appeared in bookstores to coincide with that January 20, 1961 event.

Lady Bird Johnson's memoirs were actually edited transcripts of her daily tape recordings made during her White House years.

Lady Bird Johnson’s memoirs were actually edited transcripts of her daily tape recordings made during her White House years.

The new First Lady’s mother provided the author with previously unpublished family photographs and some drawings and poetry by the young Jackie. She also told her some tales and handed over some private letters that Mrs. Kennedy had written to her family as a student – a fact that the exasperated First Lady wished she hadn’t done. Four years after President Kennedy’s assassination, Jacqueline Kennedy again worked with Molly Thayer in authoring Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years.

First Ladies who published books in addition to their memoirs were Eleanor Roosevelt, Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan.

The earliest book written and published by an incumbent “First Lady” who was not a president’s wife but a president’s sister, was the unmarried Rose Elizabeth Cleveland, whose brother was bachelor President Grover Cleveland (before he married his wife Frances in the White House in June of 1886.

Edith Wilson's vindictive memoirs, written to counter those written by aides of her husband that she felt miscast him.

Edith Wilson’s vindictive memoirs, written to counter those written by aides of her husband that she felt miscast him.

In fact, “Miss Rose,” as the nation’s newspapers dubbed her, “Libbie” to her family – published several books while in the White House and it launched her career. She wrote literary criticism and even works on proper social roles and behavior – not quite etiquette, not quite sociology, but a bit of both.

Written works by earlier First Ladies have also been published.

The earliest book ever “written” by a First Lady was unintended and dreaded by her as a possibility after her death – these were the published letters of Abigail Adams in 1848, Letters of Mrs. Adams – Wife of John Adams.

The book, Memoirs and Letters of Dolley Madison, Wife of James Madison, President of the United States, appeared posthumously but was not actually written by the former First Lady, but rather by her niece Lucia Cutts in 1886.

Rosalynn Carter's acclaimed memoirs were an honest accounting of her political role, as well as the many others that she played.

Rosalynn Carter’s acclaimed memoirs were an honest accounting of her political role, as well as the many others that she played.

It was published thirty-seven years after the legendary Mrs. Madison’s death but it contained many of the anecdotes she told her niece that she felt were important enough to be recorded for the public, and drew on the rich resource of her personal letters.

Surprisingly, no other First Ladies wrote what would be considered strictly a “children’s book” but Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a Christmas book intended for a children’s reading audience, and Laura Bush co-wrote one with her daughter Jenna in the last year of her incumbency.

Laura Bush is the most recent First Lady who penned her memoirs.

Laura Bush is the most recent First Lady who penned her memoirs.

The two “as-told-to” books that Barbara Bush wrote as memoirs of her dogs, were largely picture books with her commentary and could be read by and understood by children, but they weren’t “children’s books” in terms of publishing industry classification.

Edith Roosevelt contributed a chapter to a book that included chapters written by her son, Cleared for Strange Ports, published in 1925.

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As former First Ladies, Edith Wilson, Eleanor Roosevelt and Bess Truman agreed to headline a large Democratic Party fundraiser in the 1950s. (Bettman/Corbis)

As former First Ladies, Edith Wilson, Eleanor Roosevelt and Bess Truman agreed to headline a large Democratic Party fundraiser in the 1950s. (Bettman/Corbis)

She was the first incumbent First Lady to actually take control of a plane briefly and fly it. The first to write a daily column, a months magazine column, multiple books, host a weekly radio show. The list of precedents that Eleanor Roosevelt shattered for First Ladies and those she established are endless. So, in many respects it seems highly appropriate that she might well be dubbed the Dean of First Ladies in the long march of history, meaning the one who knew or met more of her peers than any other.

From both the written and photographic record, it appears that Eleanor Roosevelt interacted with First Ladies stretching from Frances Cleveland to Barbara Bush, for a total of fifteen.

Theodore and Edith Roosevelt and her husband signed the marriage certificate of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. (FDRL)

Theodore and Edith Roosevelt and her husband signed the marriage certificate of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. (FDRL)

Along the timeline of her own life, Eleanor Roosevelt knew Edith Roosevelt, the wife of her uncle Theodore (who was her father’s brother”) from her earliest childhood. Although “Uncle Ted” took an especially tender concern about young Eleanor’s development following her being orphaned by age ten, Edith Roosevelt kept a certain degree of distance in terms of anything resembling an active role in raising her niece, who was living full-time with her maternal grandmother. It was Edith Roosevelt who first saw the internal beauty of the young girl who had been cruelly termed an “ugly duckling” by venturing that someday she would grow into a “beautiful swan.”

When Eleanor Roosevelt’s husband first ran for President, her aunt Edith came out in public opposition to him, but she remained a cordial correspondence with her niece during the tenure of her years as First Lady, commiserating with her on some of the more trying aspects of it.

Eleanor Roosevelt first met Nellie Taft at the time the latter was First Lady, in Canada where both families maintained summer residences. During her time in the White House, Mrs. Roosevelt hosted a reception for Mrs. Taft and other widows and spouses of Supreme Court members. Despite their partisan difference, the two women liked one another and often sat together at other various events in Washington, D.C., where the former First Lady lived.

In her capacity as the wife of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Eleanor Roosevelt came to know both the first and second wives of Woodrow Wilson.

Edith Wilson and Eleanor Roosevelt proceed to the U.S. Capitol to hear President FDR declare war on December 7, 1941. (carlanthonyonline.com)

Edith Wilson and Eleanor Roosevelt proceed to the U.S. Capitol to hear President FDR declare war on December 7, 1941. (carlanthonyonline.com)

Ellen Wilson inspired her own later advocacy for better housing, when she led the young woman and other interested officials on tours of slum areas of Washington to inspect substandard conditions she was working to eradicate.

Eleanor Roosevelt had perhaps the longest relationship among other First Ladies with Edith Wilson. It began in 1919, following the end of World War I, when both women were in Europe during President Wilson’s postwar negotiations with other world leaders and the drafting and signing of the Versailles Treaty. It was not always a smooth alliance, Edith Wilson often refusing to cooperate with Eleanor Roosevelt’s efforts to enlist her support of Democratic Party campaigns. Still, they were cordial and Mrs. Roosevelt invited Mrs. Wilson to sit beside her during President Franklin Roosevelt’s declaration of war message to Congress on December 8, 1941. They last saw one another during the 1961 Kennedy Inauguration and rode together in an open car in the Inaugural Parade. Mrs. Wilson died eleven months later, and Mrs. Roosevelt died elevens months after her.

Lou Hoover and Eleanor Roosevelt, Inauguration Day, March 4, 1933. (carlanthonyonline.com)

Lou Hoover and Eleanor Roosevelt, Inauguration Day, March 4, 1933. (carlanthonyonline.com)

It was as both she and Florence Harding, as the wife of a U.S. Senator, volunteered together at the servicemen’s canteen set up in Union Station that Eleanor Roosevelt first met this First Lady. During the 1920 campaign, Mrs. Harding was the wife of the Republican presidential candidate and Mrs. Roosevelt the wife of the Democratic vice presidential candidate, but neither crossed paths at that time. Upon President Harding’s death, Eleanor Roosevelt sent a telegram offering the sympathies of her and FDR.

It was also during World War I that Eleanor Roosevelt came to initially befriend Lou Hoover, her husband then heading up President Wilson’s Food Administration. The two women even picnicked together at the time. Later, there was tension between them when Hoover lost his 1932 re-election bid to FDR, but they convened together at a Girl Scouts leader meeting in Boston.

Grace Coolidge and Eleanor Roosevelt, 1934. (ebay)

Grace Coolidge and Eleanor Roosevelt, 1934. (ebay)

Mrs. Roosevelt went as the representative of FDR, at the time he was president-elect, at the Boston funeral of former President Calvin Coolidge and then first briefly met Grace Coolidge. During World War II, the two women came together when Mrs. Coolidge hosted a reception for Mrs. Roosevelt who came to Northampton, Massachusetts for a meeting involving the WAVES, the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, the US Navy’s Women Reserves corps, members of which Mrs. Coolidge permitted use of her home for housing and gatherings.

On at least two occasions while she was First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt encountered her predecessor Frances Cleveland, by then remarried and known as Mrs. Preston. The first known occasion was when the First Lady gave a speech at Princeton, New Jersey where Frances Preston lived and the second documented time was at a formal dinner in New York, where Sara Roosevelt, the mother-in-law of Eleanor Roosevelt was also in attendance.

There were numerous occasions when Eleanor Roosevelt and Bess Truman were together, the latter first meeting the former at the White House when Harry Truman was serving as a U.S. Senator. Together they presided at the White House reception following the 1945 Inaugural ceremony giving FDR his fourth term and Truman as his vice president. During and after the Truman presidency, the two women were often together at Democratic Party events, and Eleanor Roosevelt also attended the opening festivities of the Truman Presidential Library.

Eleanor Roosevelt greets Mamie Eisenhower in Paris. (columbia.edu)

Eleanor Roosevelt greets Mamie Eisenhower in Paris. (columbia.edu)

As the wife of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during World War II, Mamie Eisenhower had long admired Eleanor Roosevelt and kept an autographed picture of the First Lady signed for her on her mantlepiece alongside pictures of her family.

Mrs. Eisenhower even once served her when she was volunteering as a waitress at a serviceman’s center, and Mrs. Roosevelt the incumbent First Lady appeared unannounced to join some enlisted men for lunch. Later, when General Eisenhower was heading NATO, his wife and the former First Lady met in Paris at Barnard College’s dormitory for women’s students. They last saw each other at the 1961 Kennedy Inaugural ceremonies.

Jacqueline Kennedy’s first reaction to the 1945 death of President Roosevelt as a high student student was to think of the impact on Eleanor Roosevelt. As the wife of Massachusetts’s junior U.S. Senator and a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, she joined her husband at numerous Democratic Party fundraisers in the 1950s, including one held to honor the former First Lady on her 75th birthday. During the 1960 presidential campaign, the joined together at a rally in Harlem, New York and both addressed the crowds from the podium.

Five women who served as First Lady after her death had also met Mrs. Roosevelt.

Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman and, at the end of the row, Lady Bird Johnson, at the 1956 National Democratic Convention. (carlanthonyonline.com)

Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman and, at the end of the row, Lady Bird Johnson, at the 1956 National Democratic Convention. (carlanthonyonline.com)

Lady Bird Johnson, as a young congressional spouse always recalled the “long, purposeful strides” of the First Lady as she arrived for an afternoon reception and she even filmed her with her home movie camera. She would also be invited with Congressman Johnson to dinner at the Roosevelt White House. During the 1950s, the two women were often together at Democratic Party events.

An avid admirer of Mrs. Roosevelt, it was while working in New York as an x-ray technician before her marriage that Pat Nixon met the First Lady on a reception line following her address to a hospital workers’ conference attended by the future First Lady.

Betty Ford only briefly met Mrs, Roosevelt when both attended the 1961 Kennedy Inaugural ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. She later named the First Lady along with her mother as her two role models.

Although all four were Republicans, Pat Nixon, Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush each shook hands and briefly met Mrs. Roosevelt and later spoke of their admiration for her., (Nixon Foundation)

First Ladies Nixon Ford, Reagan and Bush each briefly met Mrs. Roosevelt. (Nixon Foundation)

Recalling it was nothing more than a handshake, Nancy Reagan’s one meeting with Eleanor Roosevelt took place backstage at the 1940 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where the former grew up. she and her mother were guests of the mayor Ed Kelly, and he made the introduction.

As a young housewife, Barbara Bush met Eleanor Roosevelt in Texas, at the home of the latter’s granddaughter Chandler, the daughter of Elliott Roosevelt and a friend of Mrs. Roosevelt’s.

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First Ladies At the Old Ballgame

Nancy Reagan throws the first pitch of the 1988 World Series featuring the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Dodgers on October 15, 1988.

Nancy Reagan throws the first pitch of the 1988 World Series featuring the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Dodgers on October 15, 1988.

The onset of spring, for many Americans, means just one thing. The start of baseball season. And among those who have loved going out to the old ballgame one can count a number of First Ladies.

The Coolidges at Game Seven of the 1924 World Series (LC)

The Coolidges at Game Seven of the 1924 World Series (LC)

It is probably a dead heat tie between Grace Coolidge and Bess Truman when it comes to the Biggest White House Baseball Fan – and that includes the Presidents too.

Just how and when Grace Coolidge began her love of the sport as a spectator is unclear, but by the time her husband was tossing out the first ball of the season for the old Washington, D.C. team of the Senators at the long-gone Griffith Stadium, she was the most obviously enthusiastic one between them.

The Coolidges and their son John take in a local ballgame on the Ellipse, behind the White House. (LC)

The Coolidges and their son John take in a local ballgame on the Ellipse, behind the White House. (LC)

In later years, she confessed that, “Mr. Coolidge never played baseball. I know of no sport in which he took part. He did not share my enthusiasm for baseball.”

Barely three months after becoming First Lady, on October 10, 1924, the First Lady made her first public appearance at a ballgame, bringing her husband to watch Game 7 of the World Series between the New York Giants and Washington Senators.

Phil Rizzuto gives the elderly Mrs. Coolidge an autograph at the 1950 World Series. (sbnation.com)

Phil Rizzuto gives the elderly Mrs. Coolidge an autograph at the 1950 World Series. (sbnation.com)

It was as a former First Lady that Mrs. Coolidge’s devotion truly emerged, with her loyalty to the Boston Red Sox.

Well into her 70s she was a familiar figure in Boston’s Fenway Park, cheering on her team and when the management knew she was coming from her home in Northampton, there was always a special seat reserved for her just above the Sox dugout.

In 1946, First Lady Grace Coolidge chatted up Red Sox manager Joe Cronin before taking in a game. (Boston Globe)

In 1946, First Lady Grace Coolidge chatted up Red Sox manager Joe Cronin before taking in a game. (Boston Globe)

Contradicting her staid public appearance, Bess Truman had been an active sportswoman as a young girl, winning awards in high school for her physical prowess at tennis, shot-put, track, and basketball.

One legendary tale in her family was how, one day, while passing a baseball game where her two younger brothers were playing they needed an extra player.

Bess Truman casting her vote for the players she wanted to see in the all-stars game. (HSTL)

Bess Truman casting her vote for the players she wanted to see in the all-stars game. (HSTL)

Young Bess Wallace took her place as a pinch-hitter among the otherwise all-boy baseball team.

As First Lady, Bess Truman not only appeared with the President on opening day of the Senators at Griffith Stadium, but also went on her own or with her daughter and friends.

Shortly after leaving the White House, she appeared at a  Yankees game in New York where, by coincidence, three rows in front of her was sitting another out-of-towner there for the game, Grace Coolidge.

Bess Truman with her daughter Margaret, friend and former Truman Trasury Secretary John Snyder and his daughter drucie at a June 1953 Senators game. (HSTL)

Bess Truman with her daughter Margaret, friend and former Truman Trasury Secretary John Snyder and his daughter drucie at a June 1953 Senators game. (HSTL)

Upon retiring to Independence, Missouri, the former First Lady was able to fully indulge her love of the game, a doggedly loyal Kansas City Royals game.  She also had loyalty to Missouri’s other team, the St. Louis Cardinals.

When the strictly unpolitical former First Lady was asked to co-chair the reelection campaign of U.S. Senator Thomas Eagleton, part of her incentive for accepting was the fact that former Cardinals star Stan Musial would serve as her co-chair and she had the chance to talk baseball with him.

Nellie Taft and the President at the April 14, 1910 game between the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies when he threw out the first presidential baseball pitch. (LC)

Nellie Taft and the President at the April 14, 1910 game between the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies when he threw out the first presidential baseball pitch. (LC)

Not long after baseball caught on as the national pastime, several First Ladies showed an interest or support for it.

When White House clerical staff members used their lunch hour to play ball on the White House South Lawn they were cheered on by Ida McKinley watching from a window.

Nellie Taft insisted on joining her husband, President William Howard Taft, when he became the first President to throw out the ball to open the baseball season, on April 14, 1910 in a game between the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Athletics.

Upon their retirement to New Haven, Connecticut, Mrs. Taft often slipped off to watch Yale baseball games on her own, or taking her caramel-colored poodle Caro with her.

Florence Harding and the President at a baseball game. (LC)

Florence Harding and the President at a baseball game played by locals in a small Alaska village, 1923. (LC)

Florence Harding was also a baseball fan, keeping her own scorecard. While taking a winter sojourn in Augusta, Georgia in 1922 she joined her husband to take in a Warren Park exhibition game between the Detroit Tigers and an unspecified Canadian team, but what especially excited the First Lady was the presence there of local resident and baseball legend Ty Cobb.

Although details are sketchy, it is believed she returned to see Cobb play there again, the following year, when the presidential party again stopped in Augusta on its way to Florida. Following the sudden death of President Harding in August 1923, the legendary Babe Ruth wrote a heartfelt sympathy letter to the presidential widow.

Jackie Kennedy at the Yankees' opening day game April 14, 1967, with her son and one of his friends.

Jackie Kennedy at the Yankees’ opening day game April 14, 1967, with her son and one of his friends.

Following Bess Truman’s omnipresence at Griffith Stadium, however, it was nearly two decades before another First Lady regularly returned to the ballpark.

Jacqueline Kennedy never joined her husband when he pitched the ceremonial season opening game, but as a former First Lady, she often took her son, John F. Kennedy, Jr. to local New York Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium for games played by the Mets and the Yankees, respectively.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis at the 1969 World Series with her husband, daughter and son. (Getty)

Jackie Kennedy Onassis at the 1969 World Series with her husband, daughter and son. (Getty)

Jackie would even return to Shea Stadium with her daughter and second husband, Aristotle Onassis for a 1969 World Series game, and all eyes were on her as she explained the finer points of the game to him.

A local newspaper would later suggest that Mrs. Onassis be invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Mets to break a long slump but she was apparently never actually approached to do so.

Pat Nixon became the first First Lady to toss a ceremonial ball at a professional baseball league game during the 1971 World Series. (carlanthonyonline.com)

Pat Nixon tosses the ball starting a 1971 World Series game, the first First Lady to toss a ceremonial ball. (carlanthonyonline.com)

When next an incumbent First Lady showed up at a professional ball game without a President, she made history.

On October 11, 1971 Pat. Nixon became the first First Lady to toss out a baseball for a major league team, being at Game Two of the 1971 World Series, making her ceremonial first pitch at Baltimore Memorial Stadium.

While not as avid as Mrs. Coolidge or Mrs. Truman, Mrs. Nixon had long loved going to watch baseball games with the stadium crowds, sometimes with her husband or with her daughters, a presence at Griffith Park in the 1950s when she had been serving as Second Lady.

Pat Nixon with her husband at a July 14, 1970 Major League Baseballs All Star game at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium. (Getty)

Pat Nixon with her husband at a July 14, 1970 Major League Baseballs All Star game at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium. (Getty)

Pat Nixon’s precedent, however, was not followed. It was not until the last months of the Reagan Administration that another First Lady stepped up to the plate, literally.

On October 15, 1988, Nancy Reagan threw out the first pitch for Game One of the World Series, between the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Dodgers, at Dodgers Stadium. Here is a video of the moment, which the outgoing First Lady used to promote her “Just Say No” program:

Barbara Bush tossing out the first ball of the new Texas Rangers team, 1989. (Corbis)

Barbara Bush tossing out the first ball of the new Texas Rangers team, 1989. (Corbis)

Six and a half months later, Barbara Bush became the first First Lady to toss a ceremonial first pitch for aa Texas Rangers baseball game, on May 5, 1989.

Mrs. Bush tosses another ball, this time at a World Series game. (Getty)

Mrs. Bush tosses another ball, this time at a World Series game. (Getty)

She did so just a month after her son, the future president, became managing general partner of the Texas Rangers and did so as a way to help promote his endeavor. Mrs. Bush would prove to be a regular at opening games.

And she continued her love of baseball well past her White House years, often seen attending games of her local team, the Houston Astros.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush and her husband at a Astros game. (Getty)

Former First Lady Barbara Bush and her husband at a Astros game. (Getty)

Mrs. Bush would also become the only former First Lady to date to town out a first pitch, in this case at Game Four of the Yankees vs. Red Sox World Series, on  October 17, 2004.

Her visibility at the nationally-televised event, many discerned, was a boost to the presidential re-election campaign of her son, incumbent president, George W. Bush.

Hillary Clinton in a Chicago Cubs cap and then a New York Yankees ones. (Clinton Library and Getty)

Hillary Clinton in a Chicago Cubs cap and then a New York Yankees ones. (Clinton Library and Getty)

On April 4, 1996 Hillary Clinton threw out the ceremonial first pitch of the baseball season at a Chicago Cubs game in Wrigley Field; born and raised in the city she was a lifelong fan of the team.

She spent the weekend before practicing her pitch to the President in the White House Rose Garden.

Hillary at bat. (Clinton Library)

Hillary at bat. (Clinton Library)

Hillary Clinton also proved herself formidable as a player, participating in a White House baseball game informally held for members of the staff, to help kick off the PBS documentary series on baseball.

When she began her unprecedented campaign for a U.S.Senate seat in her adopted state of New York, however, Mrs. Clinton had to split her loyalties with the Chicago Cubs, adopting the Yankees and happy to don one of the team baseball caps.

Mrs. Obama practices her pitch at Camden Yards. (WH)

Mrs. Obama practices her pitch at Camden Yards. (WH)

Not since Barbara Bush has there been as frequent a ballpark First Lady as Michelle Obama.

In July 2010, the First Lady tossed the first pitch of a Baltimore Orioles vs.Tampa Bay Rays game, practicing first at Camden Yards, the Orioles stadium..

Her appearance, as had been Nancy Reagan’s, was in conjunction with her primary special project, the “Let’s Move” effort to encourage exercise among children.

The First Lady handed the ball she tossed at the 2010 World Series from a member of the US Armed Forces. (Getty)

The First Lady handed the ball she tossed at the 2010 World Series from a member of the US Armed Forces. (Getty)

She was joined by members of Baltimore’s Boys and Girls Club of America and not only pitched – but caught a baseball.

That autumn, she was at another major league game, this time for Game One of the World Series, appearing with Second Lady Jill Biden to help promote their project,  “Joining Forces.”

 

 

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First Ladies at the Funerals of Other First Ladies

First Ladies Clinton, Carter, Reagan and Obama gather after the funeral services for Betty Ford in 2011.

Hillary Clinton, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan and Michelle Obama together attended the California desert after t services for Betty Ford in 2011.

When the plans were announced for Nancy Reagan’s Friday, March 11, 2016 funeral and burial at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, five days after her death, came word that four of her five living fellow First Ladies would be in attendance: Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton and Rosalynn Carter. The only living First Lady who would not attend was Barbara Bush.

Mrs. Reagan’s funeral gathering continued a tradition unbroken for all of her predecessors who had served as First Ladies since 1933, beginning with Eleanor Roosevelt. However, a closer examination of the circumstances of each of these gatherings tells a more nuanced, somewhat haphazard history.

On only one known occasion before the funeral of Mrs. Roosevelt had a First Lady been honored by one of the small sorority of women who have been married to U.S. Presidents and who served in that unsalaried, unofficial yet publicly expected role of First Lady. Like Eleanor Roosevelt, that earlier First Lady was one held as the standard against which all her successors were judged, Dolley Madison.

Having retired to Washington, D.C. and living across the street from the White House, Mrs. Madison was honored at her July 16, 1849 funeral with the presence of her friend and fellow former First Lady Louisa Adams. Almost certainly also in attendance was the incumbent First Lady Peggy Taylor, who worshipped daily at St. John’s Church where the funeral was held, and whose husband, the incumbent President Zachary Taylor, also attended.

It was, however, the funeral of Eleanor Roosevelt that seems to have set in motion the modern tradition of First Ladies being honored by others who have had the challenge of interpreting a puzzling role in a way that manages to permit them to remain authentic, support the administration of their spouse and initiate effective, positive change for ignored demographics.

Eleanor Roosevelt

November 10, 1962, Hyde Park, New York

Three Presidents were among mourners at graveside services for Eleanor Roosevelt at Roosevelt esate in Hyde Park, New York. From left to right are Jacqueline Kennedy, President John F. Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, former President Harry S. Truman, Bess Truman, and former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. (Corbis)

Three Presidents were among mourners at graveside services for Eleanor Roosevelt at Roosevelt esate in Hyde Park, New York. From left to right are Jacqueline Kennedy, President John F. Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, former President Harry S. Truman, Bess Truman, and former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. (Corbis)

Eleanor Roosevelt, serving as First Lady for an unprecedented twelve years and using every means of media to initiate and continue a national dialogue during the dark days of the Great Depression and World War II, became a nation figure in her own right. Also, like Mrs. Madison, Mrs. Roosevelt remained active in national life after her time in the White House. In the case of the latter she became a leading and powerful voice within the liberal wing of the national Democratic Party and a passionate advocate for equal rights regardless of gender or color.

While it is easy to presume that those who attended her funeral did so due to her having achieved a near mythical status in the imagination of the nation, much as had Dolley Madison, it was less a matter of honoring the position of First Lady than it was of paying homage to Eleanor Roosevelt.  

As a presidential widow, Mrs. Roosevelt had forged alliances with the Democratic presidential successors to her husband. President Harry Truman named her a delegate to the United Nations and President John F. Kennedy made her chair of his Commission on the Status of Women.

She also had a close relationship with the Senate Majority Leader during the 1950s, Lyndon B. Johnson, who would become President of the United States just a year and two weeks after her death. Former President Dwight Eisenhower also attended; his presence might have seemed curious, given the fact that throughout his two terms as president, Mrs. Roosevelt was highly critical of many of his decisions. It might be supposed that the Republican President and former may have attended more as a matter of respect for the late Franklin D. Roosevelt, his commander-in-chief when Eisenhower was Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during World War II. He had also been on friendly terms with Mrs. Roosevelt as widow, from 1945 to 1952.

Thus it was that Eleanor Roosevelt’s funeral and burial were attended by former President Truman, incumbent President Kennedy, and future President Johnson. As was the custom in that era, the wives of all three men – Bess Truman, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Lady Bird Johnson – accompanied their husbands. Mamie Eisenhower did not join her husband, not out of partisanship but because she was unwell at the time. Another fact seems to suggest that the presence of two of her successors (and one future successor) was not intended as a gathering to honor her as a First Lady but as a national figure.

Just a year earlier, Edith Wilson had died; her funeral and burial took place right in Washington, D.C. just a few miles from the White House. She had long been close to both Eleanor Roosevelt, who lived in New York City, and Mamie Eisenhower, who lived not far away, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. She had also been an enthusiastic supporter of the incumbent First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy. Mrs. Wilson also had a national reputation, spending nearly four decades as the keeper of her late husband’s legacy and as a popular representative of him within the Democratic Party. Nonetheless, none of the four living First Ladies at the time (Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy) attended her funeral.

Mamie Eisenhower

November 3, 1979, Abilene, Kansas

Pat Nixon and Rosalynn Carter gather for Mamie Eisenhower's 1979 funeral, with members of her family. W

Pat Nixon (lower left), Richard Nixon (partially obscured, center) Rosalynn Carter (white coat, at right), gather for Mamie Eisenhower’s 1979 funeral, with members of her family. 

Strictly adhering to a policy of not speaking out on controversial political and social issues during her eight years as First Lady, Mamie Eisenhower occupied a more sentimental but far less legendary place in the minds of Americans at the time of her death in 1979. The fact that former First Lady Pat Nixon attended her funeral seemed to be an act less of a successor honoring a predecessor than a highly personal decision. The two women had been extremely close during the two Eisenhower terms when Mrs. Eisenhower befriended the younger Mrs. Nixon who, as wife of Eisenhower’s Vice President, often assumed ceremonial duties on her behalf. Too, they were family, Mamie’s grandson having married Pat’s daughter. Even had these not been factors, it would have unusual for her to be there accompanying her husband, former president Richard Nixon since he had been, as stated Eisenhower’s Vice President for eight years.

It was, however, the presence at Mrs. Eisenhower’s funeral and burial of the incumbent First Lady, Rosalynn Carter, that is the overlooked but important factor in establishing the tradition of former and incumbent First Ladies attending the funeral of one of their own. Several factors suggest that Mrs. Carter made a conscious decision to honor Mrs. Eisenhower for her role as the nation’s First Lady. 

First, Mrs. Carter came on her own, without the President.  Second, she was from the oppositional political party, and her presence thus signaled a motive transcending partisanship. Third, Mrs. Carter had only met Mrs. Eisenhower on one occasion, so there was no long link between them.

Those who did not attend were Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who was overseas at the time on travel related to her professional life as a book publishing editor and had not been personally close to Mrs. Eisenhower. Inexplicable were the absences of Lady Bird Johnson, who had been especially close to Mamie Eisenhower, and Betty Ford, who had been relatively close. Understandable was the absence of Bess Truman, who was then 94 years old and in frail health.

Bess Truman

October 21, 1982, Independence, Missouri

Nancy Reagan, Betty Ford and Rosalynn Carter attend the 1982 funeral of Bess Truman.

Nancy Reagan, Betty Ford and Rosalynn Carter attend the 1982 funeral of Bess Truman.

Bess Truman’s funeral was arranged by her only child Margaret Truman. Although she made a point of stating she did not invited former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, the latter did come to uphold the tradition. Invited and attending were former First Lady Betty Ford and incumbent Nancy Reagan. Also invited by absent were Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, then in China on a work project, and Lady Bird Johnson, sequestered in Rochester, Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic for medical testing. 

Pat Nixon

June 26, 1993, Yorba Linda, California

Reverend Billy Graham and a grieving Richard Nixon arrive at memorial services for former First Lady Pat Nixon, at the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California.

Reverend Billy Graham and a grieving Richard Nixon arrive at memorial services for former First Lady Pat Nixon, at the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California.

Although Pat Nixon was living in New Jersey at the time of her death, her funeral and burial were conducted at the Nixon Presidential Library in her native southern California. The two former First Ladies who lived relatively close, Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan were in attendance, along with their husbands and the widowed President Nixon. The incumbent First Lady Hillary Clinton sent regrets due to previously scheduled events involving her young daughter. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis sent a letter to Mrs. Nixon shortly before her death, but did not attend the funeral, nor did the other living Democratic First Ladies, Rosalynn Carter and Lady Bird Johnson. Thus the guest list seemed to divide along partisan lines, which was unusual.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

May 23, 1994, New York, New York

Mourners leave the funeral mass of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, including the incumbent First Lady Hillary Clinton,

Mourners leave the funeral mass of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, including the incumbent First Lady Hillary Clinton, pictured in the far left corner.

Requesting of her children that her funeral guests be limited to those she considered herself personally close to, with as little official recognition as possible, the funeral mass of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was attended by incumbent First Lady Hillary Clinton and former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson. Mrs. Clinton would also join the close circle of friends and family at the Arlington National Cemetery burial.

Lady Bird Johnson

July 14, 2007, Austin, Texas

14 Jul 2007, Austin, Texas, USA --- (L-R) Former first lady Nancy Reagan, former first lady Rosalynn Carter, former president Jimmy Carter, first lady Laura Bush, former president Bill Clinton and former first lady and senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York) stand during the funeral services for Lady Bird Johnson at Riverbend Church in Austin. --- Image by © David Phillip/Pool/Corbis

A record number of five First Ladies attended the funeral of Lady Bird Johnson, along with two former presidents. (Corbis)

Lady Bird Johnson, an especially strong friend to other First Ladies was honored when the largest number of them appeared at her funeral in Austin, Texas: Nancy Reagan, Rosalynn Carter, Barbara Bush, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton. The only one missing was Betty Ford, who was too frail, having undergone surgery relatively recently before and still in mourning for the loss of her husband seven months earlier.

Betty Ford

July 12, 2011, Palm Desert, California and Grand Rapids, Michigan

Four First Ladies and one President at Mrs. Ford's funeral in the desert: Rosalyn Carter, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush and Nancy Reagan.

Four First Ladies and one President at Mrs. Ford’s funeral in the desert: Rosalyn Carter, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush and Nancy Reagan.

Like Mrs. Johnson, Betty Ford had formed more than superficial bonds with the other First Ladies, and it was reflected in by the fact that all but one of the living First Ladies honored her by attending her funeral and burial. However, rather uniquely the two events were separated, the former held in Palm Desert, California, the latter in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Not all of the First Ladies gathered at one event: Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Rosalynn Carter and Nancy Reagan attended the funeral, while Barbara Bush  attended the burial. It is not clear why Laura Bush did not attend either event but her husband did attend the California funeral. Most uniquely, the fellow First Lady that Mrs. Ford was closest to personally, Mrs. Carter, delivered one of the eulogies.

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Presidential Daughters Attending State Dinners, Part 3

A state dinner underway in the State Dining Room. (WH)

A state dinner underway in the State Dining Room. (WH)

Prime Minister Trudeau also made reference to the presence of his own mother at the state dinner held in his honor by the Obamas, and pointed out that she had been at a 1977 state dinner where President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter had honored her and her husband Pierre Trudeau.

Amy Carter with her mother Rosalynn at the 1977 Inaugural Ball. She attended her first state dinner just one month later, at nine years old. (JCVPL)

Amy Carter with her mother Rosalynn at the 1977 Inaugural Ball. She attended her first state dinner just one month later, at nine years old. (JCVPL)

Whether or not the current Prime Minister was aware of the fact, that also attending that 1977 state dinner honoring his father was another First Daughter, in fact the youngest one ever known to appear as a guest and with an unusual degree of controversy.

One of the youngest children to ever live in the White House, Amy Carter was only 9 years old when her father was inaugurated President.

Just weeks into his administration, as her parents hosted the February 21, 1977 state dinner for Pierre Trudeau, guests were initially startled to see their small daughter quietly slip over to a table where a seat was reserved for her, and downright shocked when they watched her calmly pull out two books that she brought to the table. As the event got underway, guests kept glancing at the First Daughter.

Amy Carter is introduced to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher by her mother, just prior to the state dinner held in the British leader's honor. (JCPL)

Amy Carter is introduced to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher by her mother, just prior to the state dinner held in the British leader’s honor. (JCPL)

She did not look up at them, her head down as she became engrossed in reading Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, and The Story of the Gettysburg Address while the formal toasts by her father and Trudeau were exchanged.

Her appearance generated a bit of controversy. Some foreign guests considered it insulting to foreign countries to have a host presidential daughter ignore what their leader was saying. One U.S. Senator reportedly tried to encourage her to eat the spinach on her china plate, to no avail.

Columnist Art Buchwald penned a witty commentary on the incident:

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 4.59.24 AMScreen Shot 2016-03-17 at 4.59.52 AM

Amy Carter attended what seems to have been her last state dinner hosted by her parents, on December 17, 1979, for British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, but it is unclear whether she read any books during the course of dinner.

President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau at the state dinner. (WH)

President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau at the state dinner. (WH)

Most unique, however, in the most recent state dinner where First Daughters were in attendance was the public acknowledgement of the unique existences they live out.

As Prime Minister Trudeau stated about Malia and Sasha Obama:

“It’s also touching to meet Malia and Sasha, who are here at their first state dinner, and quite frankly the memories for me of being a kid and not being old enough to attend these kinds of events with my father almost makes we wish I had gone through my teenage years as a child of a world leader, but not quite. I admire you very much, both of you, for your extraordinary strength and your grace through what is a remarkable childhood and young adulthood that will give you extraordinary strength and wisdom beyond your years for the rest of your life. The one thing you have received from your extraordinary parents is the tools to be able to handle the challenges and the opportunities in front of you. So thank you very much for joining us tonight.”

 

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Presidential Daughters Attending State Dinners, Part 2

The President and Mrs. Obama descending the grand staircase for a state dinner. (WH)

The President and Mrs. Johnson descending the grand staircase for a state dinner. (LBJL)

President George Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush had made a conscious effort to invite each of their five children to a state dinner, for the memorable experience. In contrast were Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Their two children Ron and Patti were never invited to a state dinner, nor was the President’s adopted son from his first marriage, Michael.

Maureen Reagan (in black) with CBS reporter Lesley Stahl at a Washington dinner. (Getty)

Maureen Reagan (in black) with CBS reporter Lesley Stahl at a Washington dinner. (Getty)

His daughter by his first marriage, however, was in attendance for two. Maureen Reagan appeared as a guest at the November 16, 1988 state dinner for Margaret Thatcher and the June 11, 1985 one for  Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, hosted by her father and stepmother.

The likeliest reason for this was the simply that unlike the other three Reagan children who lived permanently in California, Maureen Reagan was working for weeks on end in Washington during her father’s second term, and lived at the White House when she was in town.

Maureen Reagan hugs her stepmother Nancy Reagan. They became closer during her lengthy stays at the White House. (Getty)

Maureen Reagan hugs her stepmother Nancy Reagan. They became closer during her lengthy stays at the White House. (Getty)

Those adult presidential children who did live “at home” with their parents in the White House certainly seemed to have the advantage on invites to the big suppers downstairs.

Susan Ford may well hold the record. Of the four Ford children, she lived longest and most permanently at the White House.

In 1976 alone, she scored invitations to the February 24, 1976 state dinner for U.S. Governors, the March 17, 1976 state dinner for the Irish Prime Minister, and the March 30, 1976 state dinner for the King of Jordan.

Susan Ford laughs with her father before serving as hostess for a state dinner on behalf of her mother, who was recuperating from surgery. (GFPL)

Susan Ford laughs with her father before serving as hostess for a state dinner on behalf of her mother, who was recuperating from surgery. (GFPL)

In contrast, her brother Jack Ford, who lived in the White House for the second longest time among his siblings, was invited that year only to the January 27, 1976 state dinner for the Israeli Prime Minister.

In his speech, Prime Minister Trudeau made reference to remarks made by an American President on June 10, 1946 to the Canadian legislature, after which his predecessor Mackenzie King hosted a state dinner for Harry and Bess Truman – and their daughter.

Margaret Truman was later invited by her parents to attend a January 1952 state dinner for the visiting British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

By then the First Daughter no longer made the White House her primary residence and as then living full-time in New York, pursing a professional theatrical career. Part of the reason she was asked to attend, however, was to serve as a companion to her English counterpart: Sarah Churchill was then pursing a professional acting career.

Margaret Truman at state dinner for British Prime Minister Winston Churchill also seen here with his daughter Sarah. (Getty)

Margaret Truman at state dinner for British Prime Minister Winston Churchill also seen here with his daughter Sarah. (Getty)

Like Margaret Truman, Susan Ford, Lynda Bird Johnson, and Chelsea Clinton made foreign visits with their parents and were thus included in the list of guests at the formal state dinners that foreign leaders hosted for the U.S. President.

Strictly speaking a state dinner is an official event hosted by a U.S. President honoring an incumbent head of state of a sovereign nation, but it is a term that has long been used in reference to any formal dinner entertaining, even if it was to honor an American official.

First Daughters assumed the highest visibility, of course, when they served as hostesses, substituting for their absent mothers or serving them as a social aide, a sort of second hostess.

Margaret Wilson. (NFLL)

Margaret Wilson. (NFLL)

In the 20th century, this included the prominent presence of Susan Ford, Anna Roosevelt Dall Halstead and Margaret Wilson, during periods when they were each in residence. In the 19th century it was more common, some six daughters and two daughters-in-law assuming that role, and about five First Sons, who lived in the White House and worked as their father’s private secretaries, came as guests.

Chelsea Clinton served as host of the Millennium state dinner along with her parents. (Getty)

Chelsea Clinton served as host of the Millennium state dinner along with her parents. (Getty)

Other First Daughters assumed unique roles at these dinners. For example, Chelsea Clinton served as a co-hostess with her mother, alongside her father, at the large tented Millennium State Dinner, held on December 31, 1999, and stood with them at the foot of the Grand Staircase to receive incoming dinner guests.

Tricia Nixon, Julie Nixon Eisenhower and David Eisenhower hosted a state dinner for Prince Charles and Princess Anne of England. (RNPL)

Tricia Nixon, Julie Nixon Eisenhower and David Eisenhower hosted a state dinner for Prince Charles and Princess Anne of England. (RNPL)

During an official visit to the U.S. by England’s Prince Charles and his sister Princess Anne, it was not the President and Mrs. Nixon who served as hosts for a dinner held in their honor, but rather their daughters Tricia Nixon and Julie Nixon Eisenhower, and son-in-law, David Eisenhower.

During the official visit to the United States by German Prince Henry in 1903,  First Lady Edith Roosevelt gladly acquiesced the center of attention to her popular stepdaughter Alice Roosevelt, who relished publicity.

Alice Roosevelt speaks with her father, her stepmother between them, at the ship dedication. (LC)

Alice Roosevelt speaks with her father, her stepmother between them, at the ship dedication. (LC)

The First Daughter was given the honor of christening the Prince’s yacht, Meteor, in a ceremony heavily covered by the global media of the day, and earning her the nickname of “Princess Alice.”

Unfortunately for her, President Theodore Roosevelt decided to host that evening’s White House state dinner for the Prince as a stag event, meaning only men were invited. “Princess Alice,” alas, did not get to preside alongside Prince Henry.

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Presidential Daughters Attending State Dinners, Part 1

Malia Obama, far left, followed by her sister Sasha and mother, First Lady Michelle Obama as formal guests at the state dinner for the Canadian Prime Minister.

Malia Obama (left foreground), followed by her sister Sasha and mother, First Lady Michelle Obama, and behind them Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as formal guests at the state dinner for the Canadian Prime Minister. (amazingstoriesaroundtheworld.blogspot.com)

Over the last seven years, the White House press corps has become accustomed to being able to closely observe the First Daughters Malia Obama, 17, and Sasha Obama, 14, only during their rare appearances.

The President and his daughters during the 2015 ceremony accepting a Thanksgiving turkey.

The President and his daughters during the 2015 ceremony accepting a Thanksgiving turkey.

The two presidential daughters have been front and center at larger public events like their father’s two presidential inaugurations, the annual children’s festival that is the Easter Egg Roll on the White House South Lawn and ceremonies like the annual acceptance (and pardon) of a Thanksgiving turkey on the North Portico.

Malia Obama at the Canadian state dinner.

Malia Obama at the Canadian state dinner.

The media and, through them, the American public were thus startled to see the two young women dressed in formal gowns and attending a White House state dinner as official guests, on Thursday, March 10, 2016.

The reason for this comparatively rare form of presidential entertaining, under the direction of the First Lady, was to honor another world leader’s child, Justin Trudeau, who followed his father’s path and went on to win his nation’s election as Prime Minister of Canada.

Sasha Obama speaks with Canadian native, actor Ryan Reynolds as her sister Malia gives a thumbs-up sign in her direction.

Sasha Obama speaks with Canadian native, actor Ryan Reynolds as her sister Malia gives a thumbs-up sign in her direction.

It was a school night to be sure, both girls being students at the local private institution Sidwell Friends School, but it was literally a matter of seconds for the Obama sisters to arrive on time for the event – and return home, upstairs to their rooms.

In fact, it was merely a matter of taking the elevator down from the family living quarters on the second floor to the state rooms on the first floor, and then back again.

They made a bit of entertainment news too. Among the guests were the Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds, a native of Canada, and his wife Blake Lively, and Sasha Obama was snapped gleefully interacting with him while her older sister gave her a thumbs up on the sidelines.

The tweet questioning the cost of the First Daughter's state dinner gown. (Twitter)

The tweet questioning the cost of the First Daughter’s state dinner gown. (Twitter)

As might be expected, their appearance did not go without media commentary intended to generate a provocative public response. After San Francisco news anchor Kristen Sze of ABC posted a Tweet suggesting that the alleged cost of Sasha Obama’s gown was nearly twenty-thousand dollars, was too costly for a teenager to be wearing, she was inundated with critical opposition to the point of removing her original comment.

The First Lady and her daughters.

It seemed consistent with the only aspect of the Obama daughters that the national media could use as news: their clothes.

Starting with their father’s first Inauguration in 2009, what they were photographed wearing proved to be enough material to generate popular online articles, second only to similar coverage about their mother.

History proves, however, that the appearance of Malia Obama and Sasha Obama as White House state dinner guests is part of a long tradition.

First Daughter Jenna Bush with her future husband Henry Hager at a 2005 state dinner. (Getty)

First Daughter Jenna Bush with her future husband Henry Hager at a 2005 state dinner. (Getty)

In the case of the sisterly duo immediately preceding the Obama daughters, the twins Jenna Bush and Barbara Bush lived much as they did in terms of practically an absolute blackout on media coverage about them.

Thus, when the college grad twins each appeared at a state dinner hosted by their parents, there was great speculation about the true nature of their relationships with the men they chose to escort them.

Most recently was the May 7, 2007 state dinner for Queen Elizabeth hosted by their parents, which Barbara Bush attended.

Barbara Bush at the 2007 state dinner where her choice of an escort (far left) led to press speculation about the nature of their relationship. (Washington Post)

Barbara Bush at the 2007 state dinner where her choice of an escort (far left) led to press speculation about the nature of their relationship. (Washington Post)

In the next morning’s news, there was considerable speculation about the nature of her relationship with her escort, an old boyfriend and whether their joint appearance was intended to signal an imminent White House wedding. It wasn’t.

There was good reason for this. At the November 2, 2005 state dinner for British Prince Charles, Jenna Bush appeared with John Hager, who did end up becoming her husband.

Doro Bush with her father President George Bush: they were especially close. (GBPL)

Doro Bush with her father President George Bush: they were especially close. (GBPL)

Along with former First Lady Nancy Reagan, not only was the president’s daughter a guest, but so was the president’s sister, Doro Bush. She, of course, had also been a presidents daughter, the only one of George Bush. I was also the third time she attended a state dinner. Previously she had been to the state dinner honoring the King of Morocco, on September 26, 1991 as a First Daughter.

President George Bush and Queen Margrethe of Denmark at the state dinner he hosted in her honor. (Getty)

President George Bush and Queen Margrethe of Denmark at the state dinner he hosted in her honor. (Getty)

The first time she was invited along with a First Son, her brother Marvin, attending a February 20, 1991 state dinner honoring the Queen of Denmark.

Doro Bush’s presence there that night actually helped her father make a deft strategic move.

With his having just recently ordered U.S. military forces into Kuwait to battle Iraq, setting the Gulf War into motion, the President was besieged by reporters who had access to him before and after the meal.

Not wanting to discuss a military action then underway, he spotted Doro among the circulating guests, beckoning her to him. Then the President deftly slipped away, leaving her with the reporters fir an admittedly rare opportunity to interact with her. And he was able to avoid the questions at the time a military action was underway.

 

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The recently widowed Jacqueline Kennedy arrives with her daughter Caroline from the White House to their new temporary Washington home, December 6, 1963. (AP)

The recently widowed Jacqueline Kennedy arrives with her daughter Caroline from the White House to their new temporary Washington home, December 6, 1963. (AP)

Overlapping the years that her predecessors Harriet Lane and Julia Grant were living in Washington, the widowed Lucretia Garfield spent many years during the winter social season in Washington, having retained ownership of the home she and her husband had purchased there when he was first elected to Congress.

The widowed Lucretia Garfield, who returned to live in Washington during the winter social seasons. (NFLL)

The widowed Lucretia Garfield, who returned to live in Washington during the winter social seasons. (NFLL)

She had not done so, however, immediately after the assassination of her husband. Following the funeral of the late President James Garfield his widow and their five children returned to their rambling farmhouse in Mentor, Ohio. It was not until about a decade later that she apparently felt comfortable enough to return to the city she had last lived in when her husband was alive.

Mrs. Garfield lived in the Washington home at 13th and I Streets that the family had owned since her husband's congressional years. (Garfield National Historic Site/NPS)

Mrs. Garfield lived in the Washington home at 13th and I Streets that the family had owned since her husband’s congressional years. (Garfield National Historic Site/NPS)

Mrs. Garfield was also a frequent guest of her successors Frances Cleveland and Ida McKinley, sometimes sharing honors with Harriet Lane and Julia Grant. Still, it may be speculated that she was never entirely happy being back in Washington.

Less than ten years after she had initially returned there in the wintertime, Mrs. Garfield had a winter home built for herself in Pasadena, California and it was there that she lived out the larger part of each year remaining until her death in 1918.

Not until the 1970s did another presidential widow decide to leave the retirement home she had shared with her husband and move back to Washington, D.C.

Following the death of former President Dwight Eisenhower in 1969, his widow Mamie Eisenhower initially visited her son in Belgium for several months, where he was serving as U.S. Ambassador. She then spent the winter months in Palm Springs, California.

The Wardman Park where Mrs. Eisenhower lived for a time as a widow, (jbg.com)

The Wardman Park where Mrs. Eisenhower lived for a time as a widow, (jbg.com)

When it came time to finally facing her life alone in the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania home she’d shared with her husband, however, Mamie Eisenhower decided to instead move for long periods of time into a private suite in a building of exclusive residences at the Sheraton-Park, which was connected by a long solarium to a building that functioned as a traditional hotel.

President Nixon escorts his wife Pat and former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower. (Life)

President Nixon escorts his wife Pat and former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower. (Life)

It was the same building she had lived in during World War II, while her husband was Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces.

At other times, she actually returned for long stays at her more famous former Washington home, the White House.

With her grandson David being married to the daughter of President Nixon, Mamie Eisenhower became something of an “honorary grandmother” to the First Family and shared their holidays and weekends, always occupying the Queen’s Suite on the second floor of the executive mansion.

Of the eight women whose husbands died while they were president, only two of them moved from the White House to live in another location in Washington, both intending to make the capital their permanent home – yet neither of them deciding to stay on there longer than a year.

The Willard Hotel, where Florence Harding took a suite. (LC)

The Willard Hotel, where Florence Harding took a suite. (LC)

Following the funeral of her husband, who had died suddenly in August of 1923,  Florence Harding immediately returned to the White House where she began the task of packing all of their possessions and the late president’s personal papers.

She then proceeded directly to Washington estate of her confidante Evalyn Walsh McLean on Wisconsin Avenue, a vast property that was dubbed “Friendship.”

It was there, through the waning weeks of summer, that Mrs. Harding began culling papers she deemed to be contradictory to the best presentation of the Harding legacy. “We must be loyal to Warren’s memory,” she told an aide who helped her with the daily burning of private papers. She then returned for a period of several months to her hometown of Marion, Ohio with the remaining papers which were then organized and stored.

In the new year of 1924, Florence Harding returned to live in Washington, D.C., leasing n a suite at the Willard Hotel, not far from the White House.

The widowed Florence Harding returned to Washington, taking a suite at the Willard Hotel. (NFLL)

The widowed Florence Harding returned to Washington, taking a suite at the Willard Hotel. (NFLL)

The presidential widow attended a congressional tribute to her husband in February but soon had to endure the shocking revelations emerging from the daily congressional investigations then being conducted, looking into scandals caused by former Harding Administration officials who had been close friends to her and the late president.

It was not these embarrassing and infuriating realizations, however, which had her leaving the capital city in July of that year.

When the homeopathic physician she had come to believe was the only person who could keep her alive, Charles Sawyer, was forced to resign his position as Brigadier-General of the Army Medical Corps, a job she had secured for him three years earlier, he returned to Marion, where he ran a sanitarium. Believing she had no other choice, Florence Harding reluctantly left Washington at his insistence. Sawyer died two months later, Mrs., Harding two months after that, in November of 1924.

Jacqueline Kennedy exiting the private Georgetown home on N Street that she purchased by lived in for only four months in 1964. (Pinterest)

Jacqueline Kennedy exiting the private Georgetown home on N Street that she purchased by lived in for only four months in 1964. (Pinterest)

Following the horrific trauma of having her husband assassination in the car seat right beside her, Jacqueline Kennedy steeled herself to nonetheless manage the packing of all of her family’s items from the White House family quarters while friends hastily sought some immediate housing solution for her and her two young children.

One of the Democratic Party’s leading figures and a former ambassador, Averell Harriman arranged to vacate the home where he and his wife Marie lived, in the Georgetown section of the city, to permit Mrs. Kennedy occupancy of it, while she searched for a permanent home.

Although she did purchase one several blocks away and relocated there, before the summer of 1964 had begun it was already clear to her that trying to continue living in the same area of the city where she and the late president had resided in a series of homes before his 1960 election would be a constant reminder of their years together.

Jacqueline Kennedy with her visiting sister Lee Radziwill, Secret Service agent and decorator Billy Baldwin leaving her home, where photographers remained on duty across the street at all hours. (Corbis)

Jacqueline Kennedy with her visiting sister Lee Radziwill, Secret Service agent and decorator Billy Baldwin leaving her home, where photographers remained on duty across the street at all hours. (Corbis)

Even the larger context of remaining in the city would be problematic she realized, her home becoming the object of curiosity to tourists, dozens of whom who would for hours outside the house waiting for a glimpse of her or her children.

She abandoned Washington, and in the later fall of 1964 moved to New York City, where she would remain for thirty years, until her death in 1994. While family events and then professional work as an editor would take her back to Washington on occasion, she usually left before the night fell.

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During her tenure as both a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, former First Lady Hillary Clinton called her Embassy Row house in Washington home. (AFP)

During her tenure as both a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, former First Lady Hillary Clinton called her Embassy Row house in Washington home. (AFP)

A record number of former First Ladies decided that they preferred living in the city where they had once held sway as the nation’s most famous woman. Whether they continued to live there or returned after the presidency with their husbands, or as widows, a total of twelve former First Ladies would chose to make Washington, D.C. their home.

The Washington residence of former President Bill Clinton and former First Lady-Senator-Secretary-of-State Hillary Clinton. (Washington Post)

The Washington residence of former President Bill Clinton and former First Lady-Senator-Secretary-of-State Hillary Clinton. (Washington Post)

One outgoing presidential couple were unique in their life right after the White House, with the former President going directly to their home in New York while the former First Lady moved into their new Washington home.

In 2001, Hillary Clinton began her term as U.S. Senator from New York and lived in a house she and her husband had recently purchased for the purpose of serving as her home base during the week. Even while traveling the world as Secretary of State from 2009 until 2013 it was her residence in the capital city. It remains so.

During the Victorian Age, there was a time when it seemed there was always at least one former First Lady assuming the “Queen Mother” type role, living in Washington and always an honored guest at the White House.

Widowed Julia Tyler. (VA Historical Society)

Widowed Julia Tyler. (VA Historical Society)

Widowed in 1862 during the Civil War when former president John Tyler died as a member of the Confederate Congress, Julia Tyler arrived back in Washington ten years later, resuming residency in the city where she had first met her husband and become his bride.

In January of 1872, she rented a narrow clapboard townhouse on what was then called Fayette Street, later simply renamed to the numerical 35th Street, in the Georgetown section.

Thirty-fifth Street in Georgetown, along which Julia Tyler rented a home in the 1870s. (willow.com)

Thirty-fifth Street in Georgetown, along which Julia Tyler rented a home in the 1870s. (willow.com)

Having converted to Catholicism, she was adamant about enrolling her youngest daughter, Julie, in the Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School for Girls.

Mrs. Tyler’s home was located within walking distance of the school, thus permitting her daughter to live with her.

Two months after returning to the capital, her visit there with successor Julia Grant received considerable publicity for her donation of her portrait to its collection and for display there.

Self-titling herself as “Mrs. Ex-President Tyler,” she would go on to help receive guests in a place of honor at receptions hosted by some of her successors including Lucy Hayes, Molly Arthur McElroy and Rose Cleveland, and maintained a correspondence with Lucretia Garfield.

Harriet Lane Johnston's Washington home on I and 17th streets. (first ladies.org)

Harriet Lane Johnston’s Washington home on I and 17th streets. (first ladies.org)

There was a similar pattern to the Washington life of another former First Lady, although she had never been married to the President she served as hostess for; he was James Buchanan, her uncle.

Harriet Lane Johnston, 1898, (Smithsonian)

Harriet Lane Johnston, 1898, (Smithsonian)

Seeking to move beyond his death and those of two children and husband, Harriet Lane Johnston sold the late president’s estate and her Baltimore home.

Harriet Lane then created a new life for herself by purchasing a Washington home in 1892, which became her primary residence for the rest of her life.

She was an honored guest at White House dinners and receptions hosted by the Clevelands, Harrisons, McKinleys and Roosevelts.

The widowed Mrs. Grant's first of two homes in Washington. (Google Maps)

The widowed Mrs. Grant’s first of two homes in Washington. (Google Maps)

When her daughter separated from her British husband and then permanently returned to the United States, Julia Grant went to live with her in Washington.

Elderly Julia Grant. (Pinterest)

Elderly Julia Grant. (Pinterest)

After a brief lease residency at 2018 R Street, NW, the former First Lady and her daughter bought a marble-front mansion at 2111 Massachusetts Avenue that had belonged to Senator George F. Edmunds, of Vermont.

With her independent wealth, Mrs. Grant was able to indulge her love of entertaining, hosting an open reception every Tuesday afternoon during the winter social season months.

She died in her Washington home in 1902.

 

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