The First Ladies of the United States have long taken a back seat to the presidency for obvious reasons. but these women were no “trophy wives”. Each woman has served an important and vital role. I think these women are just as important as the men they stood next to. Let’s meet them.

Martha Washington

Born: June 13, 1731

From: Chestnut Grove, Virginia

Died: May 22, 1801

Married to George Washington

Served as First Lady from 1789-1797

Fun fact: Martha Washington freed her husband’s slaves.

Abigail Adams

Born: November 22, 1744

From: Weymouth, Massachusetts 

Died: October 28, 1818

Married to John Adams

Served as First Lady from 1797-1801 

Fun fact: She was the first First Lady to live in the White House.

Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph 

Born: September 27, 1772

From: Monticello, Virginia

Died: October 10, 1836

Daughter of Thomas Jefferson

Served as Acting First Lady for her father from 1801-1809

Fun fact: Patsy was one of her father’s closest companions. 

Dolley Madison

Born: May 20, 1768

From: Guilford County, North Carolina

Died: July 12, 1849

Wife of James Madison

Served as First Lady from 1809-1817

Fun fact: Dolley Madison was given an honorary seat in Congress.

Elizabeth Monroe

Born: June 30, 1768

From: New York City, New York

Died: September 23, 1820

Wife of James Monroe

Served as First Lady from 1817-1825

Fun fact: Elizabeth Monroe was known for her avoidance of social situations with people she found unsophisticated and refusing to play the role of a hostess at the White House.

Louisa Adams

Born: February 12, 1775

From: London, England

Died: May 15, 1852

Wife of John Quincy Adams

Served as First Lady from 1825-1829

Fun fact: Though she was one of the first First Lady’s to attend congressional hearings, she felt that she should never be involved in the discussions and decisions made by elected officials.

Emily Donelson

Born: June 1, 1807

From: Donelson, Tennessee

Died: December 19, 1836

Niece of Rachel Donelson Jackson who was wife of Andrew Jackson

Served as Acting First Lady from 1829-1834

Fun fact: She was only 21 when she served as the hostess for the White House.

Sarah Yorke Jackson

Born: July 16, 1803

From: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Died: August 23, 1887

Daughter-in-law of Andrew Jackson

Served as Acting First Lady from 1834-1837

Fun fact: Sarah Jackson served alongside Emily Donelson until Emily Donelson died which is when Sarah took over.

Sarah Angelica Van Buren

Born: February 13, 1818

From: Wedgefield, South Carolina

Died: December 29, 1877

Daughter-in-law of Martin Van Buren

Served as Acting First Lady from 1838-1841

Fun fact: She is the youngest woman ever to serve as the White House hostess.

Anna Tuthill Harrison

Born: July 25, 1775

From: Morristown, New Jersey

Died: February 25, 1864

Wife of William Henry Harrison

Served as First Lady from March 4, 1841 – April 4, 1841

Fun fact: Anna Harrison has the unfortunate legacy of serving as First Lady for the least amount of time.

Letitia Christian Tyler

Born: November 12, 1790

From: Cedar Grove, Virginia

Died: September 10, 1842

First Wife of John Tyler

Served as First Lady from 1841-1842

Fun fact: Letitia Tyler was the first First Lady to die in the White House.

Sarah Polk

Born: September 4, 1803

From: Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Died: August 14, 1891

Wife of James K. Polk

Served as First Lady from 1845-1849

Fun fact: Sarah Polk would not allow any business to be conducted on Sunday’s as she was a strict Sabbatarian. 

Margaret Taylor

Born: September 21, 1788

From: Calvert County, Maryland

Died: August 14, 1852

Wife of Zachary Taylor

Served as First Lady from 1849-1850

Fun fact: The election, the birth of her children, and travels from her husband’s visits to many forts took their toll and she remained semi-invalid. She left the hostess duties to her daughter, Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Bliss. 

Abigail Fillmore

Born: March 13, 1798

From: Stillwater, New York

Died: March 30, 1853

Wife of Millard Fillmore

Served as First Lady from 1850-1853

Fun fact: Abigail Fillmore is the reason that the White House has a library. She was surprised that there wasn’t one when she moved in. 

Jane Means Pierce

Born: March 12, 1806

From: Hampton, New Hampshire

Died: December 2, 1863

Wife of Franklin Pierce 

Served as First Lady from 1853-1857

Fun fact: Jane did not believe that Franklin Pierce should’ve ran for president and was not happy when he won. She didn’t attend his inauguration and didn’t start performing hostess duties until 1855. 

Harriet Lane

Born: May 9, 1830

From: Franklin County, Pennsylvania

Died: July 3, 1903

Niece of James Buchanan 

Served as Acting First Lady from 1857-1861

Fun fact: Harriet Lane was known for being a wonderful hostess and her level of popularity is compared to Jackie Kennedy in the 1960’s. 

Mary Todd Lincoln

Born: December 13, 1818

From: Lexington, Kentucky

Died: July 16, 1882

Wife of Abraham Lincoln

Served as First Lady from 1861-1865

Fun fact: Mary Todd Lincoln was a “spender”. She went over budget to redecorate the White House and was in debt for a jeweler for a while before the debts were waived and some jewelry returned.

Eliza Johnson

Born: October 4, 1810

From: Telford, Tennessee

Died: January 15, 1876 

Wife of Andrew Johnson

Served as First Lady from 1865-1869

Fun fact: Eliza Johnson only appeared as First Lady in public two times, the rest of the times were left to her daughter, Martha Johnson Patterson. She didn’t perform these duties due to poor health.

Julia Grant

Born: January 26, 1826

From: St. Louis, Missouri

Died: December 14, 1902

Wife of Ulysses S. Grant

Served as First Lady from 1869-1877

Fun fact: Julia was born with strabismus, also known as cross eyes. 

Lucy Hayes

Born: August 28, 1831

From: Chillicothe, Ohio

Died: June 25, 1889 

Wife of Rutherford B. Hayes

Served as First Lady from 1877-1881

Fun fact: Lucy was the first First Lady to have her college degree.

Lucretia Garfield

Born: April 19, 1832

From: Garrettsville, Ohio

Died: March 13, 1918

Wife of James A. Garfield 

Served as First Lady from March 4, 1881 – September 19, 1881

Fun fact: Lucretia did a lot of research on the history of the White House and she was convinced that the White House was haunted from all the history.

Mary Arthur McElroy

Born: July 5, 1841

From: Greenwich, New York

Died: January 8, 1917

Sister of Chester B. Arthur

Served as Acting First Lady from 1881-1885

Fun fact: She only lived in Washington D.C. when it was the social season and returned back to her home in Albany when she could. 

Rose Elisabeth “Libby” Cleveland

Born: June 13, 1846

From: Buffalo, New York

Died: November 22, 1918

Sister of Grover Cleveland

Served as Acting First Lady from 1885-1886

Fun fact: Libby was very much an intellectual and was featured in the New York Times for her outfit choices at a reception for her brother. 

Frances Cleveland

Born: July 21, 1864

From: Buffalo, New York

Died: October 29, 1947

Wife of Grover Cleveland 

Served as First Lady from 1886-1889, 1893-1897

Fun fact: She was the youngest wife of a sitting president. 

Caroline Harrison

Born: October 1, 1832

From: Oxford, Ohio

Died: October 25, 1892

Wife of Benjamin Harrison

Served as First Lady from 1889-1892

Fun fact: Caroline helped found the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Ida Saxton McKinley

Born: June 8, 1847

From Canton, Ohio

Died: May 26, 1907

Wife of William McKinley

Served as First Lady from 1897-1901

Fun fact: William McKinley’s love for his wife was evident as she suffered from seizures. During state dinners, he insisted that she sit next to him (normal protocol has the wife on the other end of the table) and when she suffered from seizures at the dinner, he would cover her with a napkin and tend to her until she was better. 

Edith Roosevelt

Born: August 6, 1861

From: Norwich, Connecticut

Died: September 30, 1948

Wife of Theodore Roosevelt

Served as First Lady from 1901-1909

Fun fact: Edith was the first First Lady to have a social secretary and also First Lady Edith and President Theodore Roosevelt were the first First Lady and first President to travel abroad while in office. 

Helen Herron Taft

Born: June 2, 1861

From: Cincinnati, Ohio

Died: May 22, 1943

Wife of Howard Taft

Served as First Lady from 1909-1913

Fun fact: Helen was the first First Lady to ride in her husband’s inauguration parade.

Ellen Axson Wilson

Born: May 15, 1860

From: Savannah, Georgia

Died: August 6, 1914 

First Wife of Woodrow Wilson

Served as First Lady from 1913-1914

Fun fact: As First Lady, she dedicated a lot of her efforts towards better housing in the slums of Washington D.C. 

Edith Wilson

Born: October 15, 1872

From: Wytheville, Virginia

Died: December 28, 1961

Second Wife of Woodrow Wilson

Served as Acting First Lady from 1915-1921

Fun fact: Edith could trace her ancestry back to Pocahontas. ‘

Florence Harding

Born: August 15, 1860

From: Marion, Ohio

Died: November 21, 1924

Wife of William G. Harding

Served as First Lady from 1921-1923

Fun fact: Florence held garden parties at the White House for veterans.

Grace Coolidge

Born: January 3, 1879

From: Burlington, Vermont

Died: July 8, 1957 

Wife of Calvin Coolidge

Served as First Lady from 1923-1929

Fun fact: She was the first First Lady to speak in sound newsreels. 

Lou Hoover

Born: March 29, 1874

From: Waterloo, Iowa

Died: January 7, 1944 

Wife of Herbert Hoover

Served as First Lady from 1929-1933

Fun fact: Lou was known for being the first First Lady to broadcast regularly. 

Eleanor Roosevelt

Born: October 11, 1884

From: New York City, New York

Died: November 7, 1962

Wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt

Served as First Lady from 1933-1945

Fun fact: Eleanor organized many women-only White House press conferences.

Bess Truman

Born: February 13, 1885

From: Independence, Missouri 

Died: October 18, 1982

Wife of Harry Truman

Served as First Lady from 1945-1953

Fun fact: Bess was a champion of just renovating the White House instead of tearing it down. She is why the White House stands as it does today in spite of those wanting it torn down because it was a cheaper option to rebuild than it would be to remodel.

Mamie Eisenhower

Born: November 14, 1896

From: Boone, Iowa

Died: November 1, 1979

Wife of Dwight D. Eisenhower 

Served as First Lady from 1953-1961 

Fun fact: Mamie was known as a penny pincher even clipping coupons for White House staff and was a big fan of the color pink. 

Jacqueline Kennedy

Born: July 28, 1929

From: Southampton, New York

Died: May 19, 1994 

Wife of Jack F. Kennedy

Served as First Lady from 1961-1963

Fun fact: A little known fact about Jackie Kennedy is that she spoke multiple languages. Aside from English, she also spoke Spanish, Italian, and French.

Lady Bird Johnson

Born: December 22, 1912

From: Karnack, Texas

Died: July 11, 2007

Wife of Lyndon B. Johnson

Served as First Lady from 1963-1969

Fun fact: She was the first First Lady to have a press secretary and she also started the beautification program for Washington D.C. 

Pat Nixon

Born: March 16, 1912

From: Ely, Nevada

Died: June 22, 1993

Wife of Richard Nixon

Served as First Lady from 1969-1974

Fun fact: Pat acquired more than 600 pieces of historical furnishings and art for the White House while First Lady.

Betty Ford

Born: April 8, 1918

From: Chicago, Illinois

Died: July 8, 2011

Wife of Gerald Ford

Served as First Lady from 1974-1977

Fun fact: Betty Ford was very passionate about recovery programs for substance abuse and addictions.

Rosalynn Carter

Born: August 18, 1927

From: Plains, Georgia

Wife of Jimmy Carter

Served as First Lady from 1977-1981

Fun fact: Rosalynn was an honorary chair for the President’s Commission on Mental Health, even testifying before a Senate Committee. 

Nancy Reagan

Born: July 6, 1921

From: New York City, New York

Died: March 6, 2016

Wife of Ronald Reagan

Served as First Lady from 1981-1989

Fun fact: Nancy Reagan was a spokesperson for the “Just Say No” program which was an advocacy group against drug and alcohol abuse by teens and young adults.

Barbara Bush

Born: June 8, 1925

From: Manhattan, New York

Died: April 17, 2018 

Wife of George H. W. Bush 

Served as First Lady from 1989-1993

Fun fact: Barbara Bush wrote two children’s books that were from the perspective of the family dogs. 

Hillary Clinton

Born: October 26, 1947

From: Chicago, Illinois

Wife of Bill Clinton

Served as First Lady from 1993-2000

Fun fact: Hillary Clinton was on the board for Wal-Mart from 1986-1992.

Laura Bush

Born: November 4, 1946

From: Midland, Texas

Wife of George W. Bush

Served as First Lady from 2000-2008

Fun fact: Laura has her Bachelor’s Degree in Education and her Masters of Library Sciences.

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Michelle Obama

Born: January 17, 1964

From: Chicago, Illinois

Wife of Barack Obama

Served as First Lady from 2008-2016

Fun fact: Michelle wouldn’t date Barack until he played a basketball game against her brother. 

Melania Trump

Born: April 26, 1970 

From: Novo Mesto, SR Slovenia, SFR Yugoslavia; Current day Slovenia

Wife of Donald Trump

Currently serving as First Lady since 2016

Fun fact: She is the only First Lady whose first language wasn’t English.

Caroline C.
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