First Ladies – Rachel Jackson


Rachael Donelson Robards Jackson


  • Born in Virginia, June 15, 1767
  • Married Colonel Lewis Robards in 1785 but they separated in 1790
  • He told her that he had filed for divorce in 1790
  • Married Andrew Jackson in August 1791, however, this marriage was ruled invalid because the divorce had not been filed. They remarried in 1794, although the charge of adultery would follow her for the rest of her life.
  • In 1804, they built their home the Hermitage in Nashville Tennessee
  • Adopted two children
    • Andrew Jackson Jr. December 04, 1808 – April 17, 1865, a nephew of Rachel Jackson
      Lyncoya Jackson, about 1811 – July 1828, an American Indian child that Andrew Jackson found on a battlefield and raised by the Jacksons from age two
      Legal guardians for six boys and two girls, who were nieces and nephews of Rachel Jackson
  • In 1828, Andrew Jackson is elected President
  • She died on December 22, 1828, before Andrew Jackson was inaugurated as President.
  • Interesting facts
    The charge of adultery was used against Andrew Jackson during the campaign for President. It was said she was an adulteress, a bigamist and a divorcee by the factor supporting John Quincy Adams. The shame of this led to a stress on a bad heart. In addition, the death of her son, Lyncoya, in July 1828 added to her stress. She had a heart attack in the fall of 1828, from which she seemed to recover, however she died in December 1828.

    Focus while in the White House
    Andrew Jackson designated Emily Donelson, Rachel Jackson’s niece, to be the official hostess in the White House. The first time a relative of the president was given a formal status in the White House.


    First Ladies – Louisa Adams


    Louisa Johnson Adams


  • Born in London, England, February 12, 1775, she is the only first lady who was not born in the United States.
  • Married John Quincy Adams, July 26, 1797
  • Had four children
    • George Washington Adams (1801-1829), John Adams, II (1803-1834), Charles Francis Adams (1807-1886), Louisa Catherine Adams (1811-1812)
  • At the time of their marriage, his father was President of the United States, he was named the Minister of Prussia.
  • In 1800, he was called back to America because his father did not want to give Thomas Jefferson the opportunity to make it a political issue.
  • In 1802, he was elected by the state senate to the U.S. Senate.
  • In 1807, he broke with the Federalist party and resigned the next year.
  • President Madison named him the Minister to Russia, with Louisa Adams eventually following him to St. Petersburg.
  • In 1812, he left her in St. Petersburg when he was assigned to Ghent Belgium to negotiate the treaty to end the naval war with Great Britain. She undertook a six week trip from Russia to France in the middle of winter and war with her youngest son and her sister.
  • When John Quincy Adams was appointed James Monroe’s Secretary of State in 1817 she moved to Washington DC.
  • During this time she developed the reputation of being a great hostess for entertaining the diplomatic corps and other notables.
  • First Lady from March 4, 1825 to March 3, 1829
  • When they left the White House she thought she would remain in Massachusetts however, John Quincy Adams returned to Washington DC for seventeen years of service in the House of Representatives. She remained in Washington DC until her death.
  • She died on May 15, 1852
  • Interesting facts
    From the National First Ladies Library

    She and Adams bought the former home of James and Dolley Madison on the city’s then-fashionable F Street of rowhouses and she had it enlarged with the specific purpose of constant and large entertainments, again to give a sense of national prominence to her husband. Her most famous effort was a January 8, 1824 ball honoring General Andrew Jackson on the 10th anniversary of his successful defeat of the British at the Battle of New Orleans. It was the Adams’ camp’s recognition that he and Jackson were the leading contenders in the presidential election ten months later. Jackson and Louisa Adams spent most of the party on each other’s arms as hostess and her guest, and the general was as solicitous of her as she was of him. It was also an unsubtle (and unsuccessful) attempt by John Quincy and Louisa Adams to manipulate Jackson into either throwing his support to Adams or considering running as his vice presidential candidate. About one thousand guests attended and the Washington Republican newspaper even memorialized the event in seven stanzas the morning before the ball actually took place. Louisa Adams continued to canvas for her husband using the social parlor as Dolley Madison had done.

    Focus while in the White House
    The politics of the campaign for his election to the White House left her in a deep depression. In addition, she was not in good health. She continued to her weekly drawing room entertainment, but preferred quiet evenings. Their relationship suffered while they were in the White House. John Quincy Adams is said to have made a back room deal to be named President. She was quite disappointed in his decision to make this deal. During this time she became interested in women’s rights and equality. She was not treated well by the press, and was the first First Lady to be attacked by the press. She is also the first First Lady who responded by writing articles to defend herself.

    First Ladies Elizabeth Monroe


    Elizabeth Kortright Monroe


  • Born at New York City, 1768
  • Married James Monroe, February 1786
  • Had three children
    • Eliza Kortright Monroe-Hay (1787 – ?), James Spence Monroe, died at age 2, Maria Hester Monroe-Gouverneur (1803 – 1850)
  • First Lady from March 4, 1817 to March 3, 1825
  • She died on September 23, 1830
  • Interesting facts
    While her husband was a patriot veteran, her father had been a loyalist during the Revolutionary War.

    They were posted in Paris during the French Revolutionary War. During that time she is credited with the release of Adrienne de Noiolles de Lafayette from jail. Per the biography at National First Ladies Library

    During the last days of the French Revolution, Elizabeth Monroe made a name for herself by her courageous visit to Adrienne de Noiolles de Lafayette, the imprisoned wife of the Marquis de Lafayette – the great personal friend of George Washington and many other revolutionary era patriots and France’s most prominent supporter of American independence. Elizabeth Monroe, in the American Embassy’s carriage, made it a point to visit the woman in prison; it was as clear a message as could be made unofficially by the U.S. government. Not wishing to offend their ally, the French government used Elizabeth Monroe’s “unofficial” interest in Adrienne de Lafayette to release her on January 22, 1795 without any official provocation and thus maintain their alliance with the U.S. yet save face for the imprisonment.

    Focus while in the White House
    She was in ill health for many years. Thus, she paid no social calls. Also, she changed the white house customs to be like the formal atmosphere of the European courts. It has been reported that she was snubbed because of this and the comparisons made to Dolley Madison, who set the standard for future First Ladies.

    First Ladies – Dolley Madison


    Dolley Payne Todd Madison


  • Born at Guilford County, North Carolina, May 20, 1768
  • Married John Todd, January 7, 1790
  • Had two son, John Payne Todd, (1792-1852), William Isaac Todd, (1793)
  • John Todd died on October 14, 1793 in a yellow fever epidemic. Their son died on the same day.
  • Married James Madison on September 15, 1794
  • They lived in Washington DC 1801-1809 when James Madison was Secretary of State under Thomas Jefferson
  • During this time Thomas Jefferson asked her to aide him by being the hostess at dinners and receptions.
  • First Lady from March 4, 1809 to March 3, 1817
  • She aided James Madison in organizing his papers that he used while creating the US Constitution for public release.
  • In 1844 she moved to Washington DC to live in a home across from the White House. First Ladies, Julia Tyler and Sarah Polk, as well as the hostess for the invalid first Mrs. Tyler, her daughter-in-law Priscilla Cooper Tyler all sought her advice on their role as a First Lady.
  • Her last public appearance was at James K Polk’s last White House reception.
  • She died on July 12, 1849
  • Interesting facts
    She took a public role in fundraising for the exploration of the Louisiana Purchase by Lewis and Clark.
    Her popularity from being hostess during Jefferson’s presidency added to the recognition of her husband by members of Congress whose elector votes selected the president.

    Focus while in the White House
    She saw that the public was her constituency as much as they were to her husband. She is the first First Lady to take a role in public projects. She was a supporter and helped to found a home for orphaned girls.

    First Ladies – Martha Jefferson

    Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson

    Born at Charles City County, Virginia, October 18, 1748
    Married Bathurst Skelton
    Had one child, John Wayles Skelton (1767-1771)
    Married Thomas Jefferson, January 1, 1772
    Had six children with Thomas Jefferson

      Martha Jefferson Randolph (1772-1836)
      Jane Randolph (1774-1775)
      unnamed son (b./d. 1777)
      Mary “Polly” Jefferson Eppes (1778-1804)
      Lucy Elizabeth (1780-1781)
      Lucy Elizabeth (1782-1785)

    She died on September 6, 1782.

    Interesting fact
    She was in frail health during her marriage to Thomas Jefferson. It is reported that he was grief-stricken when she died. She is the first of five wives who died prior to their husbands becoming president.

    Focus while in the White House
    Her daughters Polly Jefferson Eppes and Martha Jefferson Randolph were hostesses for Thomas Jefferson during his presidency.

    First Ladies – Abigail Adams

    Abigail Adams


    Born at Weymouth, Massachusetts, November 11, 1744
    While not formally educated, her mother taught her and her sisters to read, write and cipher along with a family library that enabled them to study English and French literature.
    Married John Adams, October 25, 1764
    Had six children

      Abigail (1765-1813)
      John Quincy Adams (1767-1848)
      Susanna Boylston (1768-1770)
      Charles (1770-1800)
      Thomas Boylston Adams (1772-1832)
      A sixth child, Elizabeth, was stillborn in 1777

    In 1784, joined John Adams at his diplomatic post in Paris
    The following year she was the wife of the first United States Minister to the Kingdom of Great Britain
    From May 16, 1789 – March 4, 1797 she was the first wife of the Vice President of the United States
    From March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801 she was the First Lady of the United States
    In 1800, Washington DC became the capital of the United States, and she began to serve as the First Lady of the White House, or President’s House as it was known at that time. It was in the wilderness and was considered to be very primitive conditions.
    In 1801, they returned to Quincy, Massachusetts following her husband’s defeat to Thomas Jefferson
    She died on October 28, 1818 from typhoid fever.

    Interesting fact
    From the site National First Ladies Library

    As the colonial fight for independence from the mother country ensued, Abigail Adams was appointed by the Massachusetts Colony General Court in 1775, along with Mercy Warren and the governor’s wife Hannah Winthrop to question their fellow Massachusetts women who were charged by their word or action of remaining loyal to the British crown and working against the independence movement. “…you are now a politician and now elected into an important office, that of judges of Tory ladies, which will give you, naturally, an influence with your sex,” her husband wrote her in response to the appointment. This was the first instance of a First Lady who held any quasi-official government position.

    Focus while in the White House
    She had an active role in politics and policy to the point where she was called “Mrs. President.” She was very vocal about women’s rights and opportunities for women, especially in the field of education. Also, she fought for equal protection under the law for women.

    Interesting site that has some of her letters

    First Ladies – Martha Washington

    Martha Dandridge Custis Washington

    Born at Chestnut Grove in New Kent County, Virginia, June 2, 1731
    Married Colonel Daniel Parke Custis in 1750
    Four children with Daniel Custis

      Daniel born in 1751, died at age of three
      Frances born in 1753, died at age of four
      John born in 1755, died November 5, 1781
      Martha born in 1756 or 1757, died June 19, 1773

    Daniel Custis died in 1757
    Married George Washington on January 6, 1759 and her family moved to Mount Vernon
    Her son John married Eleanor Calvert in 1774

      Raised her grandchildren, Eleanor Parke Custis and George Washington Parke Custis at Mount Vernon. Her niece, Frances Basset, who came to live with them when she was 15, married George Washington’s nephew, Major George Augustine Washington, in 1785

    American Revolution War 1775-1783

      Martha Washington is given the title “Lady Washington” by the soldiers during the American Revolution War and one which was used when George Washington was President.

    George Washington was inaugurated president on April 30, 1789
    Returned to Mount Vernon after his presidency on March 15, 1797
    George Washington died on December 14, 1799
    Martha Washington died on May 22, 1802

    Interesting fact
    From the Official site of Historic Williamsburg, I found this interesting fact about Martha Washington. Official site of Colonial Williamsburg

    Although Martha remained at Mount Vernon when George went to Philadelphia as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, she often accompanied him to his headquarters during the war years. She spent the winter of 1775 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in the spring of 1776, she followed him to New York. In the spring of 1777, she arrived at his headquarters in Morristown, New Jersey, but she returned to Mount Vernon for the summer. The next winter she joined her husband at Valley Forge, and later she stayed with him during campaigns in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

    Focus while in the White House
    She saw that her duty was to her husband and her country. Her focus while she was in the White House was to be hostess. She had a formal dinner on Thursdays and a public reception on Fridays. They lived in a series of mansions in New York before moving to Philadelphia as the building that became known as the White House was being built.