20 Fascinating Facts About U.S. First Ladies
Sure, the American President is the Commander-in-Chief, the most powerful man in the world, and everyone's so hyped about who's going to become the 44th White House occupant next month. But we all know who really wields power inside the presidential household, don't we?
The fact is, while most presidents have led quite noteworthy lives, their First Ladies are just as interesting. Here are some fascinating facts about U.S. First Ladies.
1. While Martha Washington is technically the first U.S. First Lady, the first presidential wife to bear the title to widespread recognition was Lucy Ware Webb Hayes, wife of Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th president. It was given to her when Mary Clemmer Ames called Hayes the "First Lady" in her column “Woman’s Letter from Washington” for the New York City Independent.
2. Abigail Adams may be the 2nd First Lady of the United States, but she was the first First Lady to live in the White House, although it was still unfinished by the time she and President John Adams moved in.
3. Frances Folsom Cleveland was the youngest First Lady. She was 21 when she married the 49-year-old President Grover Cleveland on June 2, 1886 in a wedding ceremony that also subsequently became the first ever Presidential wedding in the White House. She was also the first First Lady to give birth in the White House.
4. Edith Wilson, second wife of Woodrow Wilson, was a direct descendant of Pocahontas.
5. Louisa Adams, wife of President John Quincy Adams, was the only foreign-born first lady. She was born in London, England in 1775.
6. Ironically, Julia Grant, wife of top Union general and 18th U.S. president Ulysses Grant, continued to own slaves while her husband was in service during the Civil War. She was also cross-eyed.
7. Abigail Adams and Barbara Bush are the only first ladies to be both a president’s wife and the mother of a president. Adams was the wife of 2nd president John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams, while Bush is wife and mother to George H.W. Bush and current U.S. president George W. Bush, respectively.
8. Lou Hoover, wife of 31st president Herbert Hoover, was said to have continued playing solitaire even after a shell blew out her door during the Boxer Rebellion in China, where her husband was then working as an engineer for a private corporation.
9. Eleven women who were not married to a sitting president have been considered as First Ladies and dutifully performed the functions of one. They are: Martha Jefferson Randolph, Dolley Madison, Emily Donelson, Sarah Yorke Jackson, Angelica Singleton Van Buren, Jane Irwin Harrison, Priscilla Cooper Tyler, Harriet Lane, Mary Arthur McElroy, Rose Cleveland and Mary Harrison McKee.
10. Julia Tyler, President John Tyler's wife, was the one who first requested that "Hail to the Chief", now the official anthem of the President of the United States, be played whenever a president made an appearance.
11. Anna Harrison never got to live in the White House because her husband, President William Henry Harrison, died before she could move in. An illness detained her at their home in North Bend, Ohio, and caused her to miss her husband's inauguration. When she was finally well and was packing for her move to the White House, the president died, exactly a month after his inauguration.
12. Florence Harding and Betty Ford were both divorcees when they married Warren Harding and Gerald Ford respectively.
13. Jane Pierce was known for wearing only black clothes, a practice she began when she and President Franklin Pierce lost their son two months before the latter's inauguration, and did so every day for the rest of her life.
14. Eleanor Roosevelt was actually related to her husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Her father was FDR's fifth cousin, and President Thedore Roosevelt, another fifth cousin of FDR's, was also Eleanor's uncle.
15. Jacqueline Kennedy is the only First Lady to win an Emmy award, snagging one for her television tour of the White House in 1962.
16. Bess Truman, Lady Bird Johnson and Betty Ford are the only former First Ladies to reach the age of 90. Truman was 97 when she died in 1982, while Johnson was 94 when she passed on in 2007. Ninety-year-old Ford, on the other hand, is currently the oldest surviving former White House occupant.
17. Pat Nixon was the first U.S. First Lady to wear pants in public.
18. Just like her husband, Nancy Reagan was an actor, and appeared in eight films before marrying then-Screen Actors Guild president Ronald Reagan in 1952. She subsequently appeared in three more movies before retiring from show business for good.
19. As far as U.S. First Ladies go, Hillary Rodham Clinton is perhaps the one with the most number of individual accomplishments tucked under her belt. She is the only First Lady to earn a law degree, win a Grammy Award, become a senator, and come close to becoming the first ever woman nominated by a major party for President of the United States.
20. Laura Bush is the only First Lady to give birth to twins. She also has the distinction of being the first person other than a president to deliver the weekly presidential radio address, a feat she accomplished in November 2001.
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