The White House Hostesses

Not every White House hostess has been a First Lady. For the widower and the bachelor, sisters, daughters and friends were essential in helping out. These women hosted parties, socialised with the important people and acted as the lady of the house. They are the women who weren’t married to Presidents, yet got the unofficial role of First Lady.

Martha ‘Patsy’ Jefferson Randolph

  • DOB: 27th September 1772, Monticello
  • DOD: 10th October 1836, Albermarle County, Virginia (Aged 64, Natural Causes)
  • Burial Place: Monticello Cemetery, Virginia
  • Parents: Thomas Jefferson & Martha Wayles Skelton
  • Husband: Thomas Manns Randolph Jr (m 1790-1828)
  • Children: Anne, Thomas Jefferson, Ellen Wayles (died in infancy), Ellen Wayles the Younger, Cornelia, Virginia, Mary, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Meriwether Lewis, Septimia Anne and George Wythe 
  • Relation to The President: Daughter 
  • Tenure: Intermittently between 1802 and 1806

The eldest child of Thomas Jefferson and the only one to make it past 25, Martha Jefferson Randolph was very close to her father. She and her younger sister Mary ‘Polly’ accompanied her father to Paris, where she was educated. When Patsy expressed interest in converting to Catholicism and becoming a nun, her father pulled the girls out of their convent school. 

She married her third cousin, Thomas Manns Randolph Jr., soon after she arrived home from Paris. In the years preceding her father’s presidency, she took care of the Jefferson home of Monticello, her husband’s family home, and their large brood of children. Randolph was an alcoholic and the pair eventually separated, though divorce never happened.

A visit to the White House in 1802, a year into her father’s presidency, led Patsy to become an unofficial hostess. Her closeness to Jefferson allowed her to become a confidant, but she was not political. Patsy was widely praised for her smarts, social skills and good manners. She sometimes shared this role with her sister Polly until Polly’s death from childbirth complications. Dolley Madison, who we’ll discuss a little further down, was the main hostess. Her husband was also a congressman at the time. 

Patsy lived with her father in Monticello for the rest of his life. His death, along with the passing of her father-in-law and husband, left her with a mountain of debts. She was forced to sell Monticello, slaves and ask for help from others. Patsy lived with her married children until her death. 

Dolley Payne Todd Madison

  • DOB: 20th May 1768, Guilford County, North Carolina
  • DOD: 12th July 1841, Washington DC (Aged 81, Old Age)
  • Burial Place: Montpelier Estate, Virginia 
  • Parents: John Payne Jr & Mary Coles
  • Husbands: John Todd (m. 1790-1793) and James Madison (m. 1794-1836)
  • Children: John Payne and William (died in infancy) 
  • Relation to The President: Family Friend
  • Tenure: 1801-1809 (as Jefferson’s hostess) and 1809-1817 (as First Lady)

We know her as the official First Lady during her husband’s administration, but Dolley Madison was also the hostess during the time of Jefferson. Born to a Quaker family, Dolley lost her first husband, one of her sons, and other family members during the Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic. She was forced to sue her brother-in-law for her meagre inheritance, as she lacked monetary rights as a woman. 

Dolley was introduced to the older James Madison by Aaron Burr. Despite the age gap and quick courtship, the marriage was happy. Dolley had needed to marry for security, but did care for her husband. In 1801, family friend Thomas Jefferson was elected president. 

Jefferson asked her to fill in as hostess occasionally, which she did. One can assume that she was popular, as she was known as a stellar social hostess in her time as First Lady later on. She continued the role when her husband was elected after Jefferson, becoming a hugely celebrated society lady. Dolley is often remembered for apparently saving the famous image of George Washington from the White House before it was burned, though there’s conflicting evidence whether it was her, she ordered a slave to do it or the slave did it himself.

Dolley enjoyed life with her husband for twenty years, until his 1836 death. After this, she returned to Washington DC and became a noted society matron. One such contribution was introducing Abraham Van Buren (son of the future president) to her relation Angelica Singleton. Angelica became an unofficial hostess, as we’ll discuss later on. Dolley was present at the USS Princeton explosion, an event which killed the Secretaries of the Navy and State, but luckily survived.

She was forced to sell Montpelier, her husband’s documents, and letters to pay debts. Congress bought some of the remaining papers in order to save Dolley from the dire poverty she was in. Dolley died in 1849 and is interred next to her husband at Montpelier. 

Elizabeth ‘Eliza’ Kortright Monroe Hay

  • DOB: December 1786, Fredericksburg, Virginia 
  • DOD: 27th January 1840, Paris, France (Aged 53, Unknown)
  • Burial Place: Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
  • Parents: James Monroe and Elizabeth ‘Eliza’ Kortright Monroe
  • Husband: George Hay (m. 1808-1830)
  • Children: Hortensia 
  • Relation to The President: Daughter 
  • Tenure: 1817-1825

The eldest child of James and Eliza Monroe, named for her mother, Eliza Kortright Monroe Hay spent much of her early life in France. She became a close friend of Hortense de Beauharnais, stepdaughter of Napoleon, mother of Napoleon III and later Queen of Holland. 

Eliza returned to America aged 17. Five years later, she married George Hay. Hay, twenty years her senior, was a prominent lawyer who’d been a prosecutor in the Aaron Burr (sir) treason case. Her daughter Hortensia was born the next year, goddaughter of Horrense de Beauharnais.

In 1817, her father was elected president. Whilst her mother was capable of some social interaction, she was often ill or surrounded by a posse of female protectors. Eliza took on hosting duties but was unpopular due to her difficult nature, snobbery and self-importance. 

Her husband died in 1830, her mother dying two weeks later. The following year, her father also died. Eliza returned to France and joined a convent, having converted to Catholicism. She died in Paris and is buried there. 

Emily Donelson 

  • DOB: 1st June 1807, Donelson, Tennessee 
  • DOD: 19th December 1836, Nashville, Tennessee (Aged 29, Tuberculosis)
  • Burial Place: Hermitage Cemetery, Tennessee 
  • Parents: John Donelson & Mary Purnell
  • Husband: Andrew Jackson Donelson 
  • Children: Andrew Jackson Jr, Mary Emily, Samuel and Rachel Jackson
  • Relation to the President: Niece 
  • Tenure: 1829-1834

Emily Donelson was the niece of Rachel Donelson, wife of Andrew Jackson. Unlike many girls, she had a formal education but she was similar to them in that she married at a young age. Aged 17, she married her first cousin Andrew Jackson Donelson, named for the future President. 

The death of her Aunt Rachel just days after Jackson’s election forced the President-Elect to ask Emily to become the hostess of the White House. Even though she was married with a young child and pregnant with her second, Emily agreed to the move. She was only 21 and despite few social engagements due to the mourning period for her aunt, Emily proved popular. 

Emily was an instrumental part of the Petticoat Affair. For those who don’t know, this scandal occurred when Secretary of War John Eaton wed the younger Peggy O’Neill very soon after she was widowed. Rumours spread that they’d been having an affair for some time and that her husband killed himself out of shame. The Cabinet wives and other society women refused to call upon Peggy or invite her to events, a huge mark of shame. President Jackson was sympathetic to the Eatons as it reminded him of the treatment of his beloved wife.

His own niece, however, sided with Floride Calhoun (wife of the VP) and her gang against Peggy. Jackson was angry and asked for the resignation of nearly the entire cabinet for this slight. Martin Van Buren offered to resign to give Jackson ammunition, whilst Postmaster William T. Barry was the lone incumbent, having sided with the Eatons. Calhoun blocked Martin Van Buren’s nomination as Minister to Great Britain, but this backfired when it impressed Jackson. Jackson then chose Van Buren as his VP. 

Emily did get an angry letter from Secretary Calhoun, who pointed out she was hypocritical for getting angry about Peggy but not about her bigamist aunt. She fired a letter back, defending the late Rachel. 

Soon enough, Emily was asked to leave and was replaced by Sarah Yorke Jackson, the President’s daughter-in-law who sometimes helped out. She returned briefly after the Eatons left the country, but illness forced her to pull out after only a few months. At only 29, Emily died in Tennessee of TB. 

Sarah Yorke Jackson

  • DOB: 16th July 1803, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 
  • DOD: 23rd August 1887, The Hermitage, Nashville, Tennessee (Aged 84, Old Age)
  • Burial Place: Jackson Family Cemetery, The Hermitage, Tennessee 
  • Parents: Peter York & Mary Haines
  • Husband: Andrew Jackson Jr
  • Children: Rachel, Andrew, Samuel, Thomas Jefferson (died in infancy) and Robert Armstrong (died in infancy)
  • Relation to the President: Daughter-in-Law
  • Tenure: 1834-1837

The heiress of a wealthy Philadelphia family, little is known of Sarah Yorke Jackson’s childhood beyond her being orphaned and raised by aunts. Two years into Jackson’s first term, Sarah married his son, Andrew Jackson Jr. Though the President did not attend the wedding, he greeted her warmly and with familiarity when they first met.

Sarah often helped Emily Donelson in hosting duties, the first time there were co-hostesses at the White House. There was tension, but nothing too bad. After Emily left the White House, Sarah took over full time. Little is known about her.

She lived with her family at The Hermitage, becoming the mistress of that house. Sarah remained close to her father-in-law until his death. She left for Mississippi just before The Civil War, but returned to Tennessee and was permitted to continue living at The Hermitage even after it was bought by the state. Sarah died there at the good age of 84. 

Sarah Angelica Singleton Van Buren

  • DOB: 13th February 1818, Wedgefield, South Carolina 
  • DOD: 29th December 1877, NYC (Aged 58, Unknown) 
  • Burial Place: Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, NY
  • Parents: Richard Singleton & Rebecca Travis Coles
  • Husband: Abraham Van Buren II (m. 1838-1873)
  • Children: Rebecca (died in infancy), Singleton, Martin and Travis Coles
  • Relationship to The President: Daughter-in-Law 
  • Tenure: 1838-1841

Angelica Singleton Van Buren was born into privilege. Educated at the extremely prestigious Madame Grelaud’s Seminary for Young Ladies, which boasted students that included daughters of Presidential families, Angelica was popular, intelligent and vicarious. 

She arrived in DC upon graduation, her relatives including Dolley Madison as well as several members of the Senate and Congress. Dolley brought Angelica and her sister Marion to an 1838 dinner with President Van Buren and his four unwed sons. Angelica caught the eye of Abraham, the eldest boy. After eight months, they wed.

Angelica immediately became hostess, on account of her mother-in-law Hannah dying years earlier. Initially popular, things soon changed when she took a trip to Europe. After being received by Queen Victoria and other royals, Angelica got a taste of the high life. Upon her return to DC, she changed things. She imposed royal etiquette upon the social scene and acted snobbishly, which made her deeply unpopular. This coincided with an anger at the old, wealthy families, in a belief that they could not live safely within democratic ideals.

This was a contributing factor to her father-in-law’s defeat for re-election. After they left DC, Angelica helped manage the new family household in New York. They then moved to their own home.

After another trip to Europe, Angelica had a political transformation. She discovered the labour movement and became deeply involved in charity work upon her return to America. Angelica also discovered that her sister Marion was refused a divorce due her gender, despite her husband being unspeakably cruel and abusive.

Angelica outlived most of her family and died aged 58. 

Jane Irwin Harrison

  • DOB: 23rd July 1804, Mercersburg, Pennsylvania 
  • DOD: 11th May 1846, Cincinnati, Ohio (Aged 41, Tuberculosis) 
  • Burial Place: Assumed Ohio 
  • Parents: Archibald Irwin & Mary Ramsey
  • Husbands: William Henry Harrison Jr (m. 1821-1838) and Lewis Whitman (m. 1842- 1846)
  • Children: Ashton, Harry and Lauren
  • Relation to The President: Daughter-in-Law
  • Tenure: 1841

Born in Pennsylvania, her family owned a lucrative mill. When visiting her aunt in Ohio, Jane met William Henry Harrison Jr. The two married and had children, but Jr struggled with alcoholism. He died of the disease in 1838.

Her father-in-law William Henry Harrison was elected president in 1840. His wife Anna was far too ill to leave Ohio for the inauguration, so Jane went instead, bringing along her 73 year old aunt. After only a month, the President died. 

Jane died five years later at the age of 41. She’d married again after leaving DC. 

Note: Harrison Sr’s daughter Anna Tuthill Taylor is sometimes listed as a co-hostess.

Elizabeth Priscilla Cooper Tyler

  • DOB: 14th June 1816, NYC
  • DOD: 29th December 1889, Montgomery, Alabama (Aged 73, Presumed Old Age) 
  • Burial Place: Oakwood Cemetery, Montgomery, Alabama
  • Parents: Thomas Abthorpe Cooper & Mary Fairlie Cooper
  • Husband: Robert Tyler (m. 1839-1877)
  • Children: None
  • Relation to The President: Daughter-in-Law
  • Tenure: 1842-1844

Born to an actor father and socialite mother in NYC, Priscilla Cooper Tyler entered the stage as a teenager. Unfortunately, their family fortunes changed in the Panic of 1837 and they were forced to live on meagre rations after losing their house.

Priscilla was playing Desdemona in Othello when wealthy audience member Robert Tyler became enamoured with her and rushed backstage to make her acquaintance. Their union did not seem destined. Robert Tyler was the son of a Senator and came from a distinguished background. Priscilla’s acting profession was akin to prostitution in some circles, as women were only just allowed on stage. They married months after meeting.

She became close to her father and mother-in-law, which was unusual, as Letitia Tyler came from the aristocracy. John Tyler asked her to be White House hostess, possibly to prevent having to choose between his daughters. Letitia, who would die in the White House, was too ill to carry out any duties. Priscilla was extremely popular, as she was witty, charismatic and charming- probably due to her theatre background. She was the first female family member of a president to be officially designated in the Presidential travelling party on a trip. A parade in New York was held in her honour and she was excitedly received in other major cities. 

After Robert managed to get a legal job in Philadelphia, the pair moved away from DC. They were loyal to the Confederacy. Priscilla died twelve years after her husband in Montgomery, Alabama. 

Letitia ‘Letty’ Christian Tyler Semple

  • DOB: 11th May 1821, Charles City County, Virginia
  • DOD: 28th December 1907, Baltimore, Maryland (Aged 86, Presumed Old Age) 
  • Burial Place: Bruton Parish Episcopal Church Cemetery, Williamsburg, Virginia 
  • Parents: John Tyler & Letitia Christian
  • Husband: James A. Semple (m. 1839-1907)
  • Children: None
  • Relation to The President: Daughter
  • Tenure: 1844

Letitia Christian Tyler Semple was the fourth of John Tyler’s eight children with his first wife, and of his fifteen children overall. She married at the age of 17 to James Semple. They were extremely unhappy- he could be an angry drinker who constantly attempted to woo his wife. In return, she treated him with a cold abandon. He may have been suffering from a mental illness.

After Robert and Priscilla moved away, Letty took over as the only adult woman left in the White House. Her father sent her husband away on a three year voyage, likely to avoid his daughter being embarrassed and the possibility of a scandalous divorce. Letty took the advice of Dolley Madison, as had Priscilla, and proved adept at social situations. She was very close to her father and was angry when he married his second wife, Julia.

Julia was three years younger than Letty and the two had a terrible relationship. Letty was the only child of John and Letitia to refuse any courtesy to Julia. In response, Julia supported Letty’s estranged husband James. Letty was so furious that she never spoke to either of them again, though she and her husband never divorced.

Letty also supported the Confederacy during the war. With no support or money, she unsuccessfully tried to become a teacher before she was given a place at a charitable home for impoverished patrician ladies. It was there that Letty was brought back into the fold. She was invited to social events and became close to both Lucy Hayes and Ida McKinley. 

Letty died in Baltimore aged 86, completely blind. 

Harriet Lane Johnston

  • DOB: 9th May 1830, Franklin County, Pennsylvania 
  • DOD: 3rd July 1908, Newport, Rhode Island (Aged 73, Cancer) 
  • Burial Place: Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland 
  • Parents: Elliot Tole Lane & Jane Ann Buchanan 
  • Husband: Henry Johnston (m. 1866- 1884)
  • Children: James Buchanan (died in childhood) and Henry Elliot (died in childhood)
  • Relation to The President: Niece
  • Tenure: 1857-1861

Harriet Lane was born in Pennsylvania, the youngest of six children. She was orphaned at the age of 11 and requested her favourite uncle James Buchanan be her legal guardian. Harriet was educated at a girls’ school, including a Catholic institution. She was known for her progressive views on religion, unusual for the time in that she didn’t discriminate against Catholics. Harriet joined her uncle in London and was extremely popular. Queen Victoria gave her the rank of Ambassador’s wife and hoped she’d agree to an English politician’s proposal so she might stay in the U.K. Said politician, Sir Fitzroy Kelly was forty years her senior and she considered the match, but her uncle refused to bless the union. 

Harriet joined her uncle when he arrived in DC for his inauguration. She was exceedingly popular, known for her social graces and beauty. Songs were written about her, and her style, which included a lower neckline, was widely copied. Harriet was also a fan of arts and social causes As tensions brewed between the North and South, Harriet tried to ease things at dinners. She tried to give equal precedence and sit enemies away from one another, but this failed.

Having been warned by her uncle to be careful regarding marriage, she married at the age of 36- very old for the times. She’d met her husband Henry nearly twenty years before, but her uncle had banned correspondence between the two. Both of their sons died as teens. In her later years, Harriet was an advocate for ill and disabled children as well as an art collector.. She founded the nation’s first pediatric centre, located at Johns Hopkins. This centre, after her death, would pioneer key studies, cures and treatments.

Harriet died in 1903. Tragically, she never got to see the cure that would have saved her sons. 

Martha Johnson Patterson

  • DOB: 25th October 1828, Greeneville, Tennessee 
  • DOD: 10th July 1901, Greeneville, Tennessee (Aged 72, Presumed Old Age)
  • Burial Place: Andrew Johnson National Cemetery, Greeneville, Tennessee 
  • Parents: Andrew Johnson and Eliza McCardle 
  • Husband: David T. Patterson (m. 1855-1891)
  • Children: Andrew Johnson and Mary Belle
  • Relation to The President: Daughter 
  • Tenure: 1865-1869

The eldest of five children, Martha Johnson Patterson was her father’s favourite and a great influence on him. Martha was known for being unpretentious, staid, brilliant at maths and level-headed. She chose to stay in DC during school holidays as the guest of the Polks, the White House residents at the time. It was then that Martha decided she’d need to marry a man as great as her father. 

She met David Patterson, a law clerk ten years her senior, when in DC. The two were well-matched due to their political interests, but she refused to marry him until he’d made something of himself. Four years after they met, they married in a small ceremony. She lived in both Greeneville and Nashville during the Civil War, her house ransacked in her absence.  

Martha joined her family in DC upon her father’s ascension to the Presidency. Her mother was bedridden, leaving Martha to act as hostess. She funded and decorated much of the White House herself, helped guide lost tourists back to their intended destination and had portraits of former Presidents and First Ladies made. Martha also partook in manual labour, most notably milking the cows that were kept at the house. She stayed calm during the Impeachment crisis, yet was horrified at the insults slung at her beloved father.

When the family moved out, Martha insisted they only took purchased items and state gifts from foreign dignitaries with them. She was so popular with the staff that they requested photos of her for them to keep. Martha cared for her parents until their deaths, was a staunch defender of their legacy and fought for their home to be given historical recognition.

She died a recluse in 1901, survived by one son. 

Mary Arthur McElroy 

  • DOB: 5th July 1841, Greenwich, NY
  • DOD: 8th January 1917, Albany, NY (Aged 75, Presumed Old Age)
  • Burial Place: Albany Rural Cemetery, NY
  • Parents: William Arthur & Malvina Stone
  • Husband: John Edward McElroy (m. 1861-1915)
  • Children: Mary, William, Jessie and Charles 
  • Relation to The President: Sister
  • Tenure: 1881-1885

The youngest of nine children, Mary Arthur McElroy was twelve years younger than her brother, future president Chester A. Arthur. She was educated in New York and at the age of 19, she married an insurance salesman. 

President Arthur’s wife Ellen had died two years before he ascended to the presidency. He refused to remarry and continued his devotion to the late Ellen. Arthur was suddenly thrust into the presidency upon the death of his predecessor James A. Garfield, so asked Mary to play hostess.

Mary was not a full time hostess as she had her own family to attend to, so only stayed in DC during the social season. Her brother did not give her official recognition out of deference to his late wife, but she proved popular and competent. She invited former hostesses and First Ladies over to honour them and ignored temperance advocates by serving alcohol. Her eldest daughter, Mary, often helped her at social occasions. 

At home in New York, she served as Albany Association Opposed to Women’s Suffrage. She outlived her brother by over thirty years and died in 1917. 

Rose Cleveland

  • DOB: 13th June 1846, Buffalo, NY
  • DOD: 22nd November 1918, Bagni di Lucca, Italy (Aged 72, Spanish Flu)
  • Burial Place: English Cemetery, Bagni di Lucca, Italy
  • Parents: Richard Cleveland & Ann Neal
  • Husband: None
  • Children: None
  • Relation to The President: Sister
  • Tenure: 1885-1886

The youngest of the nine Cleveland children, Rose Cleveland developed a passion for literature during her education. She made her living as a teacher to support her widowed mother, passing her time reading books under a tree. After her mother’s death, Rose started teaching Sunday School.

Upon her brother’s entry to the White House, Rose became hostess as a favour to him. While she was much more interested in literature and lectures, Rose received positive attention for her social duties. 

Just over a year into his first term, Cleveland married the young Frances Folsom. Rose left the White House but remained a frequent visitor. She continued teaching and even had books published. Later in life, she started a lesbian relationship with a wealthy widow. This relationship stopped when the widow, Evangeline, married a man. Once Evangeline was widowed again, the pair moved to Europe. They shared a home with a woman named Nelly. Rose fell ill after catching Spanish Flu while nursing Nelly. Both died.

Mary Harrison McKee

  • DOB: 3rd April 1858, Indianapolis, Indiana 
  • DOD: 28th October 1930, Greenwich, Connecticut (Aged 72, Presumed Old Age)
  • Burial Place: Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana 
  • Parents: Benjamin Harrison and Caroline Scott
  • Husband: James McKee (m. 1884-1930)
  • Children: Benjamin and Mary Lodge
  • Relation to The President: Daughter
  • Tenure: 1892-1893

The eldest of the three children born to Benjamin and Caroline Harrison, Mary Harrison McKee would later have a half sister too. She and her surviving sibling Russell went to public schools, unusual for further presidential children. In 1884, she married James McKee, one of the future founders of General Electric.

Mary was in her 30s when her father became president, she and her family lived in the presidential mansion. The death of her mother Caroline left an opening for White House hostess, which Mary took. She was only in office for a few months and was not a notable personality.

After her father left office, he married his late wife’s niece Mary Lord Dimmick, the children’s cousin who was also younger than them. This caused an estrangement between them and the children refused to attend the wedding. President Harrison never spoke to his children again. He had a child with Mary Lord Dimmick, a daughter named Elizabeth, who was forty years younger than her half-siblings.

Mary did travel to visit her father on his deathbed, but missed him by a few hours. She died in 1930 aged 72.

Esther Jane ‘Jennie’ Tuttle Hobart

  • DOB: 30th April 1849, Paterson, NJ
  • DOD: 8th January 1941, Haledon, NJ (Aged 91, Pneumonia)
  • Burial Place: Cedar Lawn Cemetery, Paterson, New Jersey
  • Parents: Socrates Tuttle and Jane Winters
  • Husband: Garret Hobart (m. 1869-1899)
  • Children: Fannie, Elizabeth (died in infancy), Catherine (died in infancy) and Garret
  • Relationship to The President: Second Lady
  • Tenure: 1897-1899

The daughter of prominent attorney Socrates Tuttle, Jennie Tuttle Hobart was one of four children, but only one other one survived childhood. She met her husband Garret when he was a student of her father’s and they soon wed. 

She became Second Lady after the 1896 election. Jennie took over hosting duties due to Ida McKinley’s seizures and mental breakdown rendering her an invalid. Towards the end of President McKinley’s first term, her husband died of a heart condition. McKinley wanted VP Hobart to resign when he was ill, but sent someone else to dispatch the news. Theodore Roosevelt joined the ticket for 1900.

Jennie was staunchly anti-suffrage and regularly held meetings against women voting. She died in 1941, having survived her husband by over forty years. 

Margaret Wilson

  • DOB: 16th April 1886, Gainesville, Georgia
  • DOD: 12th February 1944, Pondicherry, India (Aged 57, Uremia)
  • Burial Place: Cemetery at Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, India 
  • Parents: Woodrow Wilson and Ellen Axson
  • Husband: None
  • Children: None
  • Relation to The President: Daughter 
  • Tenure: 1914-1915

The eldest of the three Wilson daughters, Margaret was born in Georgia even though the family resided in Pennsylvania. This was due to her mother refusing to have her daughters be born Yankees, though youngest daughter Eleanor was born in Connecticut. Margaret was a singer who had a single released. 

Woodrow Wilson won the 1912 election. When Ellen Wilson died in 1914, Margaret was the only unmarried sister. She took over until the President married Edith Bolling. This wedding was controversial as it was quite soon after Ellen’s death and there were rumours an affair had happened.

Margaret received a large inheritance from her father’s estate so long as she remained unmarried, which she did. She moved to India in 1938 and decided to remain after becoming devoted to a spiritual community. Margaret changed her name and spent time translating texts. 

She died in India in 1944, she was survived by her sister Jessie. The youngest, Eleanor, died in 1933. 

Sarah Stook is a freelance writer with a great interest in US politics. Her area of interest is the Republican Party, presidential elections and how campaigns are conducted. You can follow her on Twitter at @sarah_stook.

Leave a Comment