*Includes pictures of the First Ladies and important people, places, and events in their lives.
*Includes bibliographies for further reading.
Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton may have been the most politically active First Ladies in American history, but Abigail Adams was the first to act as political advisor for her husband and the first to be dubbed “Mrs. President”. Indeed, Abigail was politically inclined to degree highly unusual among women of the 18th and 19th century, and she had originally impressed her future husband John because she was so well versed in poetry, philosophy and politics. Abigail was also very progressive, championing women’s rights and abolition long before they became widely held views even in traditionally liberal Massachusetts.
After the Constitution was ratified, George Washington went about setting all the precedents for the role of the presidency, establishing traditions like the Cabinet. But the role of being the First Lady of the United States was defined by the wife of the 4th president. James Madison may have been the Father of the Constitution, but his wife Dolley all but defined the responsibilities and customs of being the president’s wife. Dolley had served as an informal First Lady for the widowed Thomas Jefferson, but when her husband entered the White House in 1809, Dolley went about furnishing the White House to such an extent that much of the style and items she chose were still in place when Mary Todd Lincoln became the First Lady in 1861. Dolley also became a folk hero of sorts and the center of a colorful legend that had her saving Gilbert Stuart’s priceless painting of George Washington just ahead of the British while her husband was denigrated for fleeing as Washington D.C. was burned.
It’s possible that the world would have remembered Mary Todd Lincoln (1818-1882) if only because she was the wife of one of America’s greatest presidents and present for his shocking assassination, but Mary was one of the most unique women to ever be First Lady, and she was in the White House during the country’s most trying time. But history hasn’t exactly been kind.
Mary was dealt a tough hand that might have made it impossible for her to ever be popular. The Civil War erupted a month after President Lincoln took office, and Mary was a native Southerner who had relatives fighting for the Confederacy. Making matters worse, Mary seemed out of touch with the times, organizing lavish balls at a time when the country was literally coming apart at the seams. As if the external pressure wasn’t trying enough, young Willie Lincoln died in the White House in 1862, sending Mary into such fits of grief that she might have never fully recovered from even before her husband’s assassination and the death of Tad in 1881.
First Ladies of the 19th Century looks at the lives, legends, and legacies left by the three influential First Ladies. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events in their lives, you will learn about Abigail, Dolley and Mary like you never have before, in no time at all.
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