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Say what you will about Andrew Jackson, the man loved his wife.  Rachel, unfortunately died unexpectedly two weeks after Jackson won the presidency and two months before he took office in 1829.  Sarah Yorke Jackson (July 16, 1803 – August 23, 1887), the daughter-in-law of Andrew Jackson, and Jackson’s niece, Emily Donelson (June 1, 1807 – December 19, 1836), served as co-hostesses and unofficial First Ladies of the White House during Jackson’s tenure. Sarah and her husband, Andrew Jackson, Jr., lived, with their two children, in the White house from 1834 to 1837.  Sarah’s wedding dress is pictured at left.  She wore this dress at a reception and dinner shortly after her arrival to the White House.

Emily served as hostess until her health declined and she ultimately died in 1836, but not before wreaking all manner of havoc in what became known as the Petticoat Affair.  Well!  Since you asked!  Emily refused to receive Peggy Eaton, new wife of Secretary of War, John Henry Eaton due to allegations that the two had had an extramarital affair that culminated in Peggy’s first husband’s suicide.  SCANDAL!  The snub split the cabinet (and their wives) and caused a rift between Emily and her uncle.

FUN FACT:  Jackson blamed John Quincy Adams for his beloved wife's death because of repeated episodes of ridicule targeted at Rachel.  You see, in 1791, Rachel thought she was divorced from her first husband and went ahead and married Mr. Jackson.  Turns out this was not the case.  The two married again legally in 1794.  Whether intentional or not, it was common knowledge among politicos that Rachel was a bigamist. 

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Louisa Adams was born in London, England - the only First Lady to hold the distinction of being born outside the U.S.  In fact, John Quincy Adams (my favorite Twitterbug), wooed and married Louisa in London in 1797.  John Adams (who was President at the time) wasn’t happy about his son marrying a non-American, but he eventually came around.

After continued stints in Europe, JQ moved his family to Washington to serve as Secretary of State under James Monroe.  Apparently Louisa’s drawing room became a hot gathering spot for diplomats and the politically elite.  

John and Louisa moved into the White House in 1825 in the midst of bitter political climate.  Louisa already suffered from depression and she became a bit of a recluse.  Despite all, she managed to pull off elegant events and act the gracious hostess when such duties were required.

"Our union has not been without its trials," John Quincy Adams wrote.  But, "she always has been a faithful and affectionate wife, and a careful, tender, indulgent, and watchful mother to our children."

FUN FACT:  If JQ’s diary is to be believed Louisa raised silkworms to collect the silk . . . in the White House.  Everyone needs a hobby!

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Well educated and from a wealthy Kentucky family, Mary Todd Lincoln met her future president in Springfield, IL.  Abraham was 10 years her senior.  The two married in 1842.  They had four children, only one of whom survived Mary.  

Mary was a staunch supporter of her husband's goals to save the Union.  Despite some of her family's Confederate leanings, she was exceedingly loyal to Abe and his political ideology. 

Lincoln was regarded as the first "western" president, and while they lived in the White House Mary's manners were often criticized as coarse and pretentious.  She did not have an easy time as First Lady.  It probably didn't help that (based on evidence of mood swings, outbursts, excessive spending, and migraines) Mary most likely suffered from bi-polar disorder.  

FUN FACT:  Mary Todd totally dated (or whatever they did in the 1840s) Stephen Douglas before she married Abraham Lincoln.  Stephen Douglas was Abe’s contentious and outspoken political presidential rival.

 


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