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EMILY DONELSON I. THE THIRD SURROGATE FIRST LADY ANDREW JACKSON'S NIECE, A SIGNIFICANT PARTICIPANT IN A MAJOR WASHINGTON SCANDAL  President Andrew Jackson was America's second president who was a widower. Rachel Jackson, his revered wife of many decades, died from a myocardial infarct (heart attack) during the interval between his election to the presidency...

FDR's Gatekeeper: The President's Most Significant Surrogate First Lady Previous posts on the site have demonstrated that Eleanor Roosevelt was matrimonially estranged from Franklin, her husband. The breach occurred in 1918 when Eleanor accidently discovered his ongoing affair with Lucy Mercer, her social secretary. Consequently, during his 1920s convalescence for disabling...

Helen (Nellie) Taft was the wife of President William Howard Taft, the 27th President of the United States (1909-1913). While a teenager Nellie and her family were White House guests of President Rutherford and First Lady Lucy Hayes during the Christmas/New Year celebrations of 1877-8. John Herron, Helen Taft's father,...

Grover Cleveland is the only United States President to serve two non-consecutive terms (1885-9; 1893-7).  Cleveland, when elected the first time, was and still remains the nation's only second bachelor president. However, in contrast with his predecessor James Buchanan, he married during his time in office. Rose successfully fulfilled the social,...

Grover Cleveland is the only United States President to serve non-consecutive terms (1881-5; 1893-7). As a consequence his presidencies are counted twice, he is both our 22nd and 24th presidents. Cleveland, when elected the first time, was and still remains the nation's only second bachelor president. However, in contrast with his...

  Chester Alan Arthur became America's twenty-first president (1881-1885) after the assassination of President James Garfield. Arthur's wife, Ellen, had recently died from pneumonia. Chester Arthur was the fourth U.S. President who entered the White House as a widower. Initially, he decided against the appointment of a permanent surrogate to fulfill the...

Eliza Johnson, Martha's mother, was the wife of Andrew Johnson, America's 17th president (1865-1869), who achieved the presidency upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Mrs. Johnson was enfeebled by tuberculosis, and as first lady, according to one report, "spent most of he time in her room, where she read, embroidered,...

HARRIET LANE II WHAT'S A SURROGATE FIRST LADY TO DO AFTER THE WHITE HOUSE? The Surrogate Harriet Lane did plenty and accomplished much. Initially she cared and supported her bachelor uncle, ex-president James Buchanan, at his Wheatland estate, nearby Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Buchanan died in 1868; his will generously acknowledged his niece. His...

James Buchanan (1857-1861) was the fifteenth United States president and its only lifetime bachelor. Moreover, it was often suggested, but never documented, that he also was America's only homosexual president. (1) Bereft of a wife and daughters, Buchanan selected as his White House "first lady" Harriet Lane, his beloved niece...

First Lady Jane Pierce was the wife of President Franklin Pierce (1853-7). Mrs. Pierce was a sad, tubercular, and unhappy denizen of the White House during the first two years of her husband's failed presidency. The traumatic death of the Pierces' third and sole surviving child shortly before Pierce's 1853...

First Lady Abigail Fillmore, the wife of President Millard Fillmore (1850-1853), delegated most of her routine social duties to her only daughter Mary Abigail (Abbie). Both physical limitations and intellectual reasons ordained the elder Abigail's decision. The president's wife was partially lame as a result of a previous accident. Six...

Mary Elizabeth Taylor, affectionately called "Miss Betty," was the youngest daughter of Zachary and Margaret Taylor. Her father was United States President from March, 1849 until his death from a virulent gastrointestinal illness in July, 1850. Her mother, Margaret Taylor, was a military wife, who dutifully followed Zachary Taylor to his...

One of the most interesting and successful first lady surrogates was Priscilla Cooper Tyler, the daughter in law of President John Tyler, the tenth United States president (1841-1845). Letitia Tyler, his wife, was severely disabled, and ultimately died (September, 1842) from cerebrovascular disease. Tyler, still president, remarried two years later. Until...

DAUGHTER AND SURROGATE, 'ASSISTANT FIRST LADY,' and SOCIAL RENEGADE [caption id="attachment_638" align="alignleft" width="300"] Eliza Monroe Hay[/caption] Elizabeth Monroe, the wife of two term president James Monroe (1817-1825), is generally considered an ineffective first lady. The brilliant success of Dolley Madison as a White House social paragon would have dimmed the brightness of...

Martin Van Buren was the eighth president of the United States (1837-1841). He had been Andrew Jackson's vice president, and like Jackson, was a widower. Unlike his predecessor, Van Buren's wife perished many years before he entered the White House. This president was the father of four sons, all of whom...

EMILY DONELSON, HIS NIECE, WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED MANAGER OF THE WHITE HOUSE Regular readers of this blog will recognize the narrative below as the fourth entry in a series that features Surrogate First Ladies, those women, non-spouses of an incumbent president, who performed the social, ceremonial, and household managerial functions of...

[caption id="attachment_317" align="alignleft" width="272"] Dolley Madison[/caption] Dolley Madison was a Surrogate First Lady before she entered the White House as First Lady in her own right, as the wife of James Madison, the fourth United States President. During her husband's presidency (1809-1817) Mrs. Madison became the admired prototype for future first ladies....

There have been more than a few instances when a substitute carried out the responsibilities of a First Lady when the First Lady could not. These surrogates, always female, usually succeeded in meeting their responsibilities, but faded into obscurity with the passage of time. [caption id="attachment_508" align="alignleft" width="300"] Nellie Taft[/caption] First Ladies...

Harriet Lane, orphaned at a young age, was raised by her uncle James Buchanan. Buchanan, a bachelor of uncertain sexual orientation, became the fifteenth, and, according to presidential scholars, one of the worst, presidents of the United States. Harriet, described as: "Tall, blonde (almost ash colored), with violet-blue eyes, a full...