Lucy Hayes Juvenile/Educational Biography
Lucy Webb Hayes
(August 28, 1831 – June 25, 1889)
The baby born to Dr. and Mrs. James Webb on August 28, 1831, was a daughter. She joined two older brothers in her parents’ home in Chillicothe, Ohio. Her name, Lucy Ware, was a tribute to her grandmother, her father’s mother. Life was busy in the Webb household. Joseph was 4 and James was 3. Dr. Webb had a sizable medical practice and was a well-respected member of the community.
During the summer of 1833, when Lucy was 2, her father returned to his family home in Kentucky on business and to visit his elderly father who was ill. This was the height of the cholera season, and while in Kentucky, Dr. Webb contracted the disease and died before his wife, Lucy’s mother, could reach his bedside. In addition, Dr. Webb’s father, mother, and brother died of cholera that same summer.
Mrs. Webb and her three children remained in Chillicothe where Mrs. Webb’s family still lived. She relied heavily on her father, Isaac Cook, for advice and help with her family. Lucy adored her grandfather. His farm, named Willow Branch, was where Lucy learned to ride her spirited pony through the fields and over the low hills. She and her brothers loved to play and climb trees with their cousins. Grandpa Cook was deeply religious and belonged to the Methodist Church. It is believed that Lucy learned her temperance attitudes from him.
Lucy attended a variety of local schools, including the Chillicothe Female School. This was an elementary school for girls. Lucy liked her teachers, but she found multiplication tables and division difficult to understand. But the school that left the most lasting impression was Miss Baskerville’s. The headmistress considered recess a waste of time. The students were in class until noon each day and then returned for a three-hour session in the afternoon after lunch!
In 1844, Mrs. Webb moved her family to Delaware, Ohio, so that Joseph and James could be enrolled in the newly established Methodist school, Ohio Wesleyan University. Like many colleges and universities during this time, Ohio Wesleyan had a preparatory department. This department was similar to the modern high school, but it was part of a college. Lucy did well in school, and, although women were not enrolled officially in the college department of Ohio Wesleyan, Lucy earned a few credits there. She was a good student, respected by her teachers, and considered a “young lady.” We know that she studies French; one of her mother’s friends complimented her for her determination in studying a foreign language.
Young Adulthood (1847-1868)
In the autumn of 1847, Mrs. Webb helped Lucy prepare for the trip to Cincinnati. Wesleyan Female College, originally a Methodist school for young women with both a preparatory department and a collegiate department, had re-opened in February 1846. The religious atmosphere of the school, as well as its low cost, attracted Mrs. Webb’s attention. Lucy was one of 400 young women to enroll in the school that fall. Only about a fourth of them were in the collegiate department with Lucy.
She was homesick. She missed living at home; she missed her brothers. But she did well in her courses in spite of that. Her teachers remembered her as “ever diligent” and “anxious to excel” in all her classes. She probably studied rhetoric, geometry, geology, astronomy, perhaps trigonometry, and mental and moral science. Long essays were written every two weeks on some important topic. She became an excellent debater.
Lucy especially enjoyed her final year in college (1849-1850). Her mother had moved to Cincinnati and was serving as housemother for the boarding students. With her mother as chaperone, Lucy was able to move about the city during the winter evenings, attending the theater and going out to dinner.
Despite the social activities of the winter season, Lucy continued to study hard. On January 5, 1850, the secretary of the Young Ladies Lyceum (an academic honors society) notified Lucy of her election to the Lyceum. That same evening, young Rutherford Hayes renewed his acquaintance with Lucy.
Hayes was a young lawyer living in Lower Sandusky, now the town of Fremont, in northern Ohio. He was a graduate of Kenyon College and his family lived in Delaware where he had first met Lucy during the summer of 1847. By late 1849, Rutherford had moved his law practice to Cincinnati, the “Queen City.” And he began to attend the Friday Night Receptions at Cincinnati Wesleyan Female College with great regularity.
By the time of Lucy’s graduation in the spring of 1850, Rutherford was clearly in love. When Lucy complained in a letter, written while she and her mother were visiting relatives in south-central Ohio, that she had little to do in the country on quiet Sunday afternoons, he sent her five pieces of sheet music for her twentieth birthday.
But Lucy hated to write letters! And Rutherford loved to write letters! So she suggested that he send her two letters for every one she wrote him. When Rutherford’s sister Fanny realized how serious he was about Lucy, she began a correspondence with her, too. A deep friendship between the two women developed.
When Rutherford proposed, Lucy accepted, agreeing to live in Cincinnati instead of her bellowed Chillicothe. The wedding took place on December 30, 1852, in the parlor of the Webb home in Cincinnati at two o’clock in the afternoon. Early in the evening the newlyweds boarded the five o’clock train for Columbus where Rutherford hoped to combine appearances before the Ohio Supreme Court with a pleasant honeymoon trip with his bride.
The next few years were active ones for the Hayes family. In early November 1853, the Hayes’ first baby was born. Lucy and Rutherford had trouble deciding on a name, and for weeks their son’s name was Pud. Finally they decided on Birchard Austin. Birchard was Rutherford’s middle name.
Rented rooms and portions of rented houses were no longer appropriate living quarters for a successful young lawyer with a growing family. So, in 1854, Lucy and Rutherford moved into their own home. Lucy forgot to pack silverware, so they used little Birch’s child-sized knife and fork for their first meals.
In March of 1856, James Webb Hayes was born. His parents later changed his name to Webb Cook Hayes. Lucy and Rutherford were grateful for the joy of their son’s birth because in mid-summer Rutherford’s sister Fanny Hayes Platt had died a month after giving birth to twin daughters who also died. Fanny and Lucy had developed a close friendship, and Rutherford considered his sister Fanny “the dearest friend of my childhood.” His sorrow was difficulty to see.
The summer of 1858 saw the birth of the Hayes’ third son. Eventually, the couple named him Rutherford Platt in honor of both his father and Fanny. By now, the first house was much too small, so Lucy and Rutherford enlarged it to include a larger kitchen and extra bedrooms for the paid servants.
Rutherford and Lucy were loving but strict parents. In a letter to a family member, Rutherford said that he put in his time reading, working, playing with and scolding the children. “Except for Webb, him I whip, scolding doesn’t meet his case.”
Despite the happiness at home in Cincinnati, Lucy and Rutherford were both aware of the growing tension between free and slave-holding states. After the events at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, Rutherford tried to concentrate on his law practice, but by the end of May 1861, he decided to enlist in the Union Army. He was offered the rank of major of the newly formed Twenty-third Ohio Volunteer Infantry, a commission he accepted. For the remainder of the Civil War, Lucy and the three boys attempted to visit Rutherford wherever he was encamped as frequently as was possible.
Lucy was able to endure the long separations from her husband because of her firm religious belief that slavery was wrong and that Rutherford, as a devout Christian, was doing the right thing to oppose slavery, even if it meant going to war. And it was this same deep commitment that saw her through the birth of her fourth son in December 1861 while Rutherford was stationed in Clarksburg, Virginia. This part of the state separated in 1863 to become West Virginia. The baby was quickly named Joseph Thompson after Lucy’s beloved brother, but the older boys affectionately called him “little Joseph.” The child lived for only eighteen months. In fact, he died while the family was visiting Rutherford in Camp White, West Virginia.
It was during this time of personal fear for her children’s health and her husband’s safety that Lucy showed the concern for others for which she was famous. After visiting with Rutherford and seeing to his needs, she would visit the other soldiers in the temporary hospitals or being cared for in private homes in the area. Her concern for the men in her husband’s regiment earned her the name, “Mother Lucy.”
In August of 1864, Rutherford’s political supporters in Cincinnati nominated him for Congress. He refused to leave his men to campaign for office. In fact, he wrote, “An officer fit for duty who at this crisis would abandon his post to electioneer for a seat in Congress ought to be scalped.” He won the election without ever campaigning. He had stepped into national government without ever leaving his beloved Twenty-third Ohio.
Rutherford and Lucy’s fifth son was born on September 29, 1864. As had happened before, they had trouble deciding on a name. After Lucy hinted that she was going to name the child after one of her ancestors, Captain Bilious Cook, Rutherford suggested they name him George Crook after his favorite Commander. Young George lived only twenty months and died in May 1866 of scarlet fever.
Rutherford resigned from the Army, having attained the rank of brigadier-general, after the surrender of the Confederacy at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. In the middle of May, Lucy accompanied Rutherford to Washington, D.C., to witness the Grand Review of the army. Lucy stood proudly beside him in the Congressional reviewing stand as Union legions marched along Pennsylvania Avenue.
During Rutherford’s two terms in the House of Representatives, Lucy divided her time between their home in Cincinnati and rooms in Washington, D.C. Rutherford enjoyed her company during the evenings of the Washington social season, and she enjoyed discussing politics with him. But she was always concerned about her sons’ welfare even thought they lived with family members when she was out of town. In June 1867, Rutherford’s political friends secured the Republican nomination for governor of Ohio for Rutherford. When Congress adjourned in late July, Rutherford resigned his office and returned to Ohio to begin the campaign, which ended with his election as Governor.
During the summer of the campaign, Lucy moved out of Cincinnati to the suburban town of Walnut Hills to escape the heat of the city. There she gave birth to their only daughter on September 2, 1867. This time, there was no hesitation in naming the new baby. Her name was Fanny, after Rutherford’s beloved sister.
First Lady of Ohio and the Nation (1868-1881)
Inauguration day, January 13, 1868, was so cold the ceremonies had to be moved into the rotunda of the capitol building in Columbus. Rutherford became the twenty-ninth governor of the state. With no veto power and unable to influence legislation because the legislature was controlled by the Democrats, Rutherford and Lucy turned their attention to the reform of many institutions, especially prisons and jails, hospitals for the mentally ill, homes for soldiers’ orphans, and veterans’ health care. Lucy worked tirelessly for the establishment of a state-funded orphanage in Xenia. Her volunteer work with young boys at the Reform School at Lancaster or with the students at the state’s school for the hearing impaired was well known. However, Lucy did not take a stand on the growing concern for women’s suffrage.
Rutherford’s two terms as governor were happy ones for the family. On February 8, 1871, the couple’s sixth son was born. He was quickly named Scott Russell. Because New Year’s was so close to Scott’s birth, Rutherford and Lucy did not hold their traditional New Year’s Day reception that year. However, on January 1, 1872, over a hundred friends and acquaintances called with greetings for the new year.
Rutherford decided not to seek election to a third term as governor, and the family returned to private life at their home at Spiegel Grove near Fremont.
On August 1, 1873, the eighth and last of the Hayes children was born. It was Rutherford and Lucy’s seventh son. Four months later, tired to calling the baby “Neb,” the family named him Manning Force after Rutherford’s longtime friend. A sickly child, he died thirteen months later.
Unable to remain out of public life, Rutherford allowed his name to be entered in the governor’s campaign of 1875. He won by slightly more than 5,500 votes; he received 297,817 and his opponent 292,273. Once again Lucy and Rutherford with their family moved to Columbus. However, the campaign had drawn national interest and it was clear that Rutherford was being considered for the Presidency of the United States in 1876.
It was not customary for candidates to appear at their party’s nomination convention, a situation that is very different today. Therefore, Rutherford spent hours discussing his views with his many supporters and representatives who were delegates. When the balloting began on the third day of the convention, another candidate had the lead, but with each succeeding ballot, his strength dropped. Finally, the nomination went to Rutherford! He had been nominated to run on the Republican ticket for President!
After a quiet campaign during which Rutherford made few appearances (campaigning was done in newspapers), Election Day arrived. After voting, Rutherford returned home to await the results with Lucy. Friends joined them in the evening. By bedtime, the early results from New York State were not encouraging. And it appeared that the Democrats might take Ohio. Lucy and Rutherford retired for the evening convinced they had lost. Within forty-eight hours, it was apparent that the election was not over after all. There were close contests throughout the South. Ohio finally landed in Rutherford’s column. But he still did not have enough electoral votes to be elected—and neither did his opponent.
In states where election results are contested, commissions meet to recount the votes. The Republicans sent representatives to oversee the recount; the Democrats sent representatives to oversee the recount. And each group sent in different count totals! The Constitution provides that the electoral votes shall be opened by the president of the Senate in the presence of members of both the House and the Senate. But it does not say who shall count the votes! An electoral commission was formed: five Senators, five Representatives, and five justices from the Supreme Court. Eight of these men were Republicans and seven were Democrats. They counted (and voted to accept) the votes along party lines. Hayes and his running mate were elected by a margin of only one electoral vote.
Although Lucy attempted to maintain a normal life in Columbus, she was frightened. In all their years of public life, this was the first time their mail contained threats and warnings of disaster. Furthermore, a bullet was fired through a window of their home during the dinner hour. Twenty-one year old Webb began to accompany his father on the usual evening walk he took, armed with a pistol.
On March 1, 1877, even before the last electoral votes were counted, Lucy, Rutherford, their children, and a host of friends and supporters began the long train ride for Washington, D.C. Near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, they heard the news that Rutherford had indeed been elected President of the United States. When they arrived at the Washington train station, a cheering crowd of well-wishers awaited the President-Elect and his wife.
Simplicity marked the social events normally associated with the inauguration. There was no grand luncheon after the ceremony in front of the Capitol; Mrs. Grant, the former first lady, arranged a luncheon in the private dining room of the White House. There was no inaugural ball. Instead, there was a reception at the Willard Hotel followed by a torch light parade.
As wife of the President of the United States, Lucy continued to be active in those causes that had been important to her in Ohio. Former soldiers were trained for jobs as doorkeepers and ushers in the White House. Lucy again visited hospitals, orphanages, and hospital for the mentally ill. Her compassionate regard for the ill, the elderly, and children endeared her to many.
The White House staff knew that Rutherford and Lucy did not serve liquor in their home. But what would the new President and his wife do now that they needed to entertain visitors from abroad? At their first White House festivity, a dinner to honor a visiting Grand Duke from Russia, Rutherford authorized a full service of wine for the dinner. Temperance groups, people who wanted to remove alcohol in all forms from society, were indignant when they read reports of the dinner. Shortly after the event, Rutherford announced that no alcoholic drinks would be served at future dinners in the White House. Although the temperance groups were pleased with his decision, others were not. There was much ridicule. Despite the ridicule, it was not until after 1900 that the nickname “Lemonade Lucy” appears in history books.
Rutherford chose not to run for re-election in 1880. After the inauguration of James A. Garfield on March 4, 1881, Rutherford, Lucy, and their children, accompanied by a group of Ohio friends, returned to their beloved Spiegel Grove near Fremont.
During her last years, Lucy remained as active as her age and her health would permit. She enjoyed her gardens and working on the grounds of Spiegel Grove. She continued her various church activities and attended veterans’ reunions with Rutherford. She a voided participation in the temperance organization activities but would lead the local group in prayer. And she continued her role as national president of the Women’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. She died at home, June 25, 1889, surrounded by her beloved family.