Who Are The First Ladies In The United States: Full List and Little-Known Facts
|Who Are The First Ladies In The United States? Photo AP
Almost 50 women have held the role of First Lady as of 2021. However, not all those who have served as a first lady were spouses to the presidents. If the president was a bachelor or widower, or if his wife was unable or unwilling to perform the role, other female relatives or friends were called upon to carry out the first lady's official duties; thus, there have been more first ladies than presidents.
Martha Washington set many standards for American First Ladies, but from Abigail Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt to Hillary Clinton and Melania Trump, each has left her mark on the office.
Check out the full list of American First Ladies in the history
|Photo White House
Wife to President George Washington
2.Abigail AdamsAbigail Adams
Wife to President John Adams
3.Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Randolph
Daughter to President Thomas Jefferson
Wife to President James Madison
Wife to President James Monroe
Wife to President John Quincy Adams
Niece to President Andrew Jackson
Daughter-in-law to President Andrew Jackson
9.Angelica Van Buren
Daughter-in-law to President Martin Van Buren
Wife to President William Henry Harrison
Wife to President John Tyler
Second wife to President John Tyler
Wife to President James Polk
Wife to President Zachary Taylor
15.Abigail FillmoreAbigail Fillmore
Wife to President Millard Fillmore
Wife to President Franklin Pierce
Niece to President James Buchanan
Wife to President Abraham Lincoln
Wife to President Andrew Johnson
20.Julia Dent Grant
Wife to President Ulysses S. Grant
Wife to President Rutherford B. Hayes
Wife to President James A. Garfield
Wife to President Chester Arthur
Sister to President Grover Cleveland
Wife to President Grover Cleveland
Wife to President Benjamin Harrison
Wife to President William McKinley
28.Edith RooseveltEdith Roosevelt
Wife to President Theodore Roosevelt
Wife to President William Howard Taft
Wife to President Woodrow Wilson
Second wife to President Woodrow Wilson
Wife to Warren G. Harding
Wife to President Calvin Coolidge
Wife to President Herbert Hoover
Wife to President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Wife to President Harry S. Truman
Wife to President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Wife to President John F. Kennedy
39.Lady Bird Johnson
Wife to President Lyndon B. Johnson
Wife to President Richard Nixon
Wife to President Gerald Ford
Wife to President Jimmy Carter
Wife to President Ronald Reagan
Wife to President George H.W. Bush
Wife to President Bill Clinton
Wife to President George W. Bush
Wife to President Barack Obama
Wife to President Donald Trump
Wife to President Joe Biden
Martha Washington, 1731-1802
George Washington’s wife was the first to be given the title “lady” by the press, as in “Lady Washington,” and the first wife of a president to appear on U.S. postage stamp.
|Martha Washington’s faced graced our currency
Mrs. Washington may have been the first First Lady, but she was also the last woman to appear on paper currency in the United States—that is, at least until Harriet Tubman shows up on the $20 bill in 2020. Her face can be found on the $1 banknote in 1886 and 1891, and alongside her husband’s in 1896. Here are some mind-blowing facts about George Washington.
Abigail Adams, 1744-1818
John Adams’ wife urged her husband to “remember the ladies” when he was writing the nation’s Declaration of Independence in 1776. She also was the first woman to be both a president’s wife and the mother of a president, and the first to live in the White House.
|Abigail Adams was a trusted adviser to her husband
Turns out, President John Adams may have had some competition for his job. His wife, Abigail Adams, rarely went by the traditional “Lady Adams;” instead, due to her sharp tongue and vast political knowledge, many referred to her as “Mrs. President.” For more presidential trivia, don’t miss these delightful little-known talents of U.S. Presidents.
Martha Jefferson, 1748-1782
No known portrait exists of Thomas Jefferson’s wife, who died 18 years before her husband was elected president. Their daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph served as White House hostess, and was the first to give birth in the presidential mansion in Washington, D.C.
|Martha Jefferson could play it by ear
Upon their marriage, President Thomas Jefferson bought his new bride a piano for their home, Monticello. One of the couple’s favorite pastimes included playing duets in their parlor, with President Jefferson accompanying his wife on the violin. Can you guess which state has produced the most First Ladies?
Dolley Madison, 1768-1849
James Madison’s wife is the only first lady given an honorary seat on the floor of Congress, and was the first American to respond to telegraph message—sent by inventor Samuel Morse.
|Dolley Madison rescued one of our nation’s cultural icons
An adored socialite, Dolley was the first to make ice cream a regular feature at the end of White House dinners. But Mrs. James Madison proved to be as noble as she was nice. Many remember this first lady for saving a rare painting of George Washington before British troops torched the White House in 1814. Find out more incredible facts about the White House.
Elizabeth Monroe, 1768-1830
James Monroe's wife ended the custom of a president's wife making the first social call on the wives of other officials in Washington - and the insulted women boycotted her White House receptions.
Before becoming first lady in 1817, Elizabeth Monroe followed her husband — the country's future fifth president — to France, where he was appointed United States Minister under George Washington.
The Monroes lived in France during the height of the French Revolution, and Elizabeth is credited with saving the Marquis de Lafayette's wife from execution at the guillotine.
Louisa Adams, 1775-1852
The first foreign-born first lady was, perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the most well traveled.
Louisa Adams was born to a British mother and an American father in London, where she later met her future husband, John Quincy Adams. She didn't move to America until four years after their marriage.
Louisa spent much of her union following John around to his different diplomatic postings, from Berlin to Russia — but always felt most at home in her husband's native New England.
Rachel Jackson, 1767-1828
Andrew Jackson’s wife was a bigamist, having married Jackson before she was divorced from her first husband. She died after Jackson was elected president but before his inauguration. Her niece Emily Donelson served as White House hostess during most of the Jackson administration.
Hannah Van Buren, 1783-1819
Martin Van Buren’s wife—his second cousin—died 18 years before her husband was elected president. Their daughter-in-law Angelica Van Buren served as White House hostess during the last two years of the Van Buren administration.
Anna Harrison, 1775-1864
William Henry Harrison’s wife is the only spouse of a president and grandmother of another. She never lived in the White House because her husband died a month after his inauguration. Their daughter-in-law Jane Harrison served as White House hostess for the shortest time—30 days.
Letitia Tyler, 1790-1842
Letitia Tyler was the first first lady to die while her husband was in office, at the age of 51 in 1842. Her death also made her the youngest first lady to ever die.
John Tyler’s first wife was a stroke victim and the first president’s wife to die in the White House. Their daughter Letty Tyler Semple and daughter-in-law Priscilla Cooper Tyler served as White House hostesses until Tyler eloped with his second wife, Julia (1820-1889), who became the first photographed first lady.
Sarah Polk, 1803-1891
After her husband President James K. Polk's four years in office, the couple retired to their home, "Polk Place," in Nashville, where he died in 1849.
Sarah lived at the home for the rest of her life, standing her ground even when the Civil War broke out in 1861, and fighting came to Tennessee. Polk Place was considered neutral ground by both armies, and the former first lady is said to have entertained both Union and Confederate leaders at her house during this period. She too lived to age 88.
Margaret “Peggy” Taylor, 1788-1852
Zachary Taylor’s wife learned to shoot a gun when she lived with her husband on the Western frontier. When she lived in the White House, she refused to serve as hostess, giving that role to their daughter Betty Taylor Bliss.
Abigail Fillmore, 1798-1853
Millard Fillmore’s wife was the first presidential spouse to work and earn a salary before marriage—as a schoolteacher. She died three weeks after leaving the White House, and her husband later married Caroline Fillmore, a widower who was wealthier than he was.
Jane Pierce, 1806-1863
Franklin Pierce’s wife discouraged her husband’s interest in politics. Two months before his inauguration, Mrs. Pierce was overtaken with grief and depression when she witnessed the gruesome death of their only living son in a train accident. She never completely recovered from the trauma.
Like many other first ladies, Jane Pierce was not exactly excited to fill the position. When her husband was nominated as the Democratic party candidate in 1852, she is said to have fainted hearing the news.
Harriet Lane, 1830-1903
James Buchanan’s niece was the White House hostess for the only president to remain a bachelor. An avid art collector, Lane upon her death bequeathed her collection to the Smithsonian Institution, which today includes the National Gallery of Art.
Mary Lincoln, 1818-1882
Abraham Lincoln’s wife was the first to hold séances in the White House, to be attacked in the press for lavish purchases during wartime and to fight for the abolition of slavery.
Eliza Johnson, 1810-1876
Andrew Johnson’s wife taught her husband how to spell and pronounce words properly, but Tuberculosis prevented her from performing her duties as first lady. Instead, their daughter Martha Patterson, served as White House hostess. Martha also milked cows at the White House every morning.
There's a local legend in Greeneville, North Carolina, that when Andrew Johnson first came to town in 1826, Eliza commented to a friend as he passed by, "There goes my beau!" and that they were married within a year.
Julia Grant, 1826-1902
Ulysses S. Grant’s wife was cross-eyed, and owned slaves during the Civil War while her husband served as general of the Union Army.
Lucy Hayes, 1831-1889
Rutherford B. Hayes’ wife was the first to ban all alcoholic beverages from the White House. She also hosted the first Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn.
Lucretia Garfield, 1832-1918
James A. Garfield’s wife began efforts to conduct historical research on the White House rooms and served as her husband’s primary caretaker for two months after an assassin shot him.
Ellen Arthur, 1837-1880
Chester A. Arthur’s wife was a contralto singer who developed pneumonia after a concert and died 20 months before her husband took office. Arthur’s sister Mary Arthur McElroy served as White House hostess and later joined the anti-suffrage movement.
Frances Cleveland, 1864-1947
Grover Cleveland’s wife was the youngest first lady—age 21—and the only bride of a president to marry—and give birth—in the White House. Before their marriage, Cleveland’s sister Rose Elizabeth Cleveland served as White House hostess for the bachelor president.
Caroline Harrison, 1832-1892
Benjamin Harrison’s wife was the first to use electricity and have a Christmas tree in the White House. She was the second first lady to die in the White House. After her death, her husband married her social secretary and niece Mary Dimmock Harrison.
Ida McKinley, 1847-1907
William McKinley’s wife was the only first lady to work as a bank teller and manager, and successfully urged her husband to retain the Philippines after the Spanish-American War.
Alice Roosevelt, 1861-1884
Theodore Roosevelt’s first wife died in 1884, 17 years before he was elected president. A year later, he remarried and Edith Roosevelt joined her husband in the White House upon the assassination of President McKinley.
Helen “Nellie” Taft, 1861-1943
When William Howard Taft became president in 1909, his wife broke tradition by walking with him in the inaugural parade, something modern first ladies have held up, according to the History Channel.
Helen Taft was also the first woman to be both the wife of a president and the wife of a chief justice of the Supreme Court, when he was nominated to the highest court in the country eight years after leaving the White House.
Ellen Wilson, 1860-1914
Woodrow Wilson’s first wife was the only professional artist to become first lady. After her death in the White House, her husband married Edith Wilson, a direct descendant of American Indian princess Pocahontas.
Florence Harding, 1860-1924
President Warren G. Harding was Florence Kling's second marriage, after her first husband — whom she married at 19 — left her after she gave birth to their son.
Though she was born into privilege as the daughter of the wealthiest man in Marion, Ohio, proud Florence refused to move back home and went to work to make rent.
Grace Coolidge, 1879-1957
First lady Grace Coolidge caused somewhat of a scene at the 1927 White House Easter Egg Roll, when she brought along the family's pet raccoon, Rebecca.
According to the History Channel, Rebecca clawed at the first lady and some children before she had to be taken back to to her quarters for safety.
The Coolidges adopted Rebecca when a Mississippi resident sent the animal to the White House as a Thanksgiving table offering. The president decided to pardon the raccoon instead of killing it for meat, and it quickly became one of his fondest companions.
Lou Hoover, 1874-1944
Herbert Hoover’s wife was the first woman to graduate from Stanford University with a geology degree. She also spoke Chinese fluently.
Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1962
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wife was the first first lady to hold regular press conferences, write a daily newspaper column and a monthly magazine column, and host a weekly radio show.
Bess Truman, 1885-1982
Harry S. Truman’s wife worked as her husband's salaried Senate aide and never gave an interview as first lady.
Mamie Eisenhower, 1896-1979
Dwight D. Eisenhower’s wife appeared in television commercials when her husband ran for president, and enjoyed watching TV soap operas in the White House.
Jacqueline Kennedy, 1929-1994
John F. Kennedy’s wife was the first first lady to hire a press secretary and a White House curator. She also won an Emmy Award for her television tour of the White House.
Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, 1912-2007
Nicknamed Lady Bird as a child, Lyndon B. Johnson’s wife conducted her own campaign for her husband's election and lobbied for environmental protection.
Pat Nixon, 1912-1993
Richard Nixon’s wife created White House tours for the blind and deaf, and was the first first lady to wear pants in public.
Betty Ford, 1918-2011
Gerald Ford’s wife once worked as a professional dancer with the Martha Graham Company. She also founded an alcohol and drug treatment center in California that bears her name.
Rosalynn Carter, 1927
Jimmy Carter’s wife was the first to have a VCR in the White House, and to keep her own office in the East Wing.
Nancy Reagan, 1921-2016
Ronald Reagan’s wife worked as a professional actress, appearing in movies and in a music video— to give an anti-drug abuse message.
Barbara Bush, 1989-1993
George H.W. Bush’s wife is the second first lady to be both the wife and mother of a president, and the only one to write a memoir from her dog's perspective.
Hillary Clinton, 1993-2001
Bill Clinton’s wife hosted the first White House webcast, and is the only first lady elected to public office—the U.S. Senate, and to seek the presidency.
Laura Bush, 2001-2009
George W. Bush’s wife is the only first lady to give birth to twins, to work as a librarian and to substitute for a president in his weekly radio address.
Michelle Obama, 2009-2017
|Photo White House
Barack Obama's wife is the first African American First lady. Her causes included Let's Move, Which targeted childhood obesity, and aid for military families.
Born in Slovenia, Melania Trump worked in Europe as a model and eventually wound up in New York, where she met real estate mogul Donald Trump. The couple married in 2005 and had a son, Barron, the following year. With Donald's election to the U.S. presidency in 2016, Melania became the first foreign-born U.S. first lady since Louisa Adams in the 1820s. She went on to champion the "Be Best" initiative, which promoted emotional and physical well-being for children.
|Photo White House
Jill Tracy Jacobs Biden was born on June 3, 1951, in Hammonton, New Jersey, to Bonny Jean Godfrey Jacobs and Donald Carl Jacobs. The oldest of five daughters, she grew up in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. She graduated from Upper Moreland High School in 1969, then graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1975.
|Interesting Facts about first ladies
The Fourth of July is a date on which three presidents died – John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (both in 1826) and James Monroe (1831). It is also the birthday of one president: Calvin Coolidge in 1872.
Nearly every president from Abraham Lincoln to William Howard Taft sported some form of facial hair. The exceptions to these were Andrew Johnson and William McKinley.
Mary Todd Lincoln held seances in the Red Room of the White House to communicate with the spirits of loved ones who had died.
Rutherford B. Hayes was the first president to have a telephone and a typewriter in the White House – the telephone was installed in May 1879 and the typewriter arrived in February 1880.
A White House staff member, Charles Reeder, once snuck Algonquin, a pony that belonged to Theodore Roosevelt’s children, up the White House elevator to visit Archie Roosevelt while he was sick in bed with the measles.
As a good will gesture toward the United States, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev gave First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy a dog named Pushinka, which means "fluffy" in Russian. She was the daughter of Strelka, a Russian dog sent to space by the soviets.
In 1973, President Richard Nixon and First Lady Thelma “Pat” Nixon, both avid bowlers, had a one-lane bowling alley built in an underground workspace below the North Portico driveway of the White House.
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