By Mark K. Updegrove
being a gracious hostess.
Abigail Adams, who followed Martha Washington into the role, became the first first lady to reside in the White House (1797–1801). An intellectual peer to her brooding husband, the two exchanged myriad letters during their long separations, in which she often appealed to his conscience and took care to remind him of the importance of recognizing the contributions of women to the nation’s cause.
James Madison, the fourth president, was described as a “withered little applejohn.” His wife, the charming Dolley Madison (1809–1817), compensated for her husband’s shortcomings, making their home the center of Washington social activity not only during her husband’s time in the White House but during the administration of widower Thomas Jefferson, for whom her husband served as secretary of state.
Mary Todd Lincoln (1861– 1865), in many ways a tragic figure, embodied the country’s divisions during the Civil War. She actively supported Union troops, some of which were quartered in the White House East Room for a time. But the Kentucky native was considered a traitor by members of her family who fought on the side of the
After the death of her son
Willie in 1862, likely from typhoid fever, Mrs. Lincoln’s activity in the White House as first lady diminished significantly.
Widowed in 1914, shortly into his first term in office, Woodrow Wilson married
Edith Wilson the following year. In
1919, after her husband suffered a stroke that rendered