Hannah Van Buren was the wife of Martin Van Buren who became the eighth United States President eighteen yeas after her death.
Both Martin and Hannah were residents of the closely knit Dutch community of Kinderhook, New York, a small town near Albany, New York. The Van Burens were members of the Dutch Reformed Church and the first language of both was Dutch, although they spoke English with strangers. Their twelve year marriage was a very fertile one, that produced five boys; unfortunately their only daughter was a stillborn.
Mrs. Van Buren was an obscure politician’s wife. Little is known about her other than she moved to Albany, the New York State capital where her husband became increasingly prominent in New York State politics. Hannah became very active in charitable efforts at her local church. A political associate of her husband described Hannah as “a woman of sweet nature but few intellectual gifts” with “no love of show …no ambitious desires, no pride of ostentation.”
Martin Van Buren spoke about her almost never after her death at thirty-six in 1819. Their oldest son was even unsure about her first name – “Was it Hannah of Anna”, he queried his father. Mrs. Van Buren died from tuberculosis; her long illness debilitated her; a relative was required to assume the family’s daily chores.
As President with no spouse to run the White House, or to act as his official hostess at formal dinners and receptions, Van Buren asked his daughter-in-law, Angelica Singleton Van Buren to assume these responsibilities. On January 1, 1839, Angelica undertook the duties of White House hostess; she was twenty-one, the same age as Emily Donelson, Andrew Jackson’s niece, when she became a surrogate first lady. Angelica was universally admired by the public crowds that met her, and her White House teas and balls quickly became popular with the ladies of Washington.