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ABOUT THE WHITE HOUSE * FIRST LADIES



OUR FIRST LADIES:
18th Century
about_first_ladies_marthawashington Martha Washington
about_first_ladies_abigailadams Abigail Adams

19th Century
about_first_ladies_marthajefferson Martha Jefferson
about_first_ladies_dolleymadison Dolley Madison
about_first_ladies_elizabethmonroe Elizabeth Monroe
about_first_ladies_louisaadams Louisa Adams
about_first_ladies_racheljackson Rachel Jackson
about_first_ladies_hannahvanburen Hannah Van Buren
about_first_ladies_annaharrison Anna Harrison
about_first_ladies_letitiatyler Letitia Tyler
about_first_ladies_juliatyler Julia Tyler
about_first_ladies_sarahpolk Sarah Polk
about_first_ladies_margarettaylor Margaret Taylor
about_first_ladies_abigailfillmore Abigail Fillmore
about_first_ladies_janepierce Jane Pierce
about_first_ladies_harrietlane Harriet Lane
about_first_ladies_marylincoln Mary Lincoln
about_first_ladies_elizajohnson Eliza Johnson
about_first_ladies_juliagrant Julia Grant
about_first_ladies_lucyhayes Lucy Hayes
about_first_ladies_lucretiagarfield Lucretia Garfield
about_first_ladies_ellenarthur Ellen Arthur
about_first_ladies_francescleveland Frances Cleveland
about_first_ladies_carolineharrison Caroline Harrison
about_first_ladies_francescleveland Frances Cleveland
about_first_ladies_idamckinley Ida McKinley


20th Century
about_first_ladies_edithroosevelt Edith Roosevelt
about_first_ladies_helentaft Helen Taft
about_first_ladies_ellenwilson Ellen Wilson
about_first_ladies_edithwilson Edith Wilson
about_first_ladies_florenceharding Florence Harding
about_first_ladies_gracecoolidge Grace Coolidge
about_first_ladies_louhoover Lou Hoover
about_first_ladies_eleanorroosevelt Eleanor Roosevelt
about_first_ladies_besstruman Elizabeth Truman
about_first_ladies_mamieeisenhower Mamie Eisenhower
about_first_ladies_jacquelinekennedy Jacqueline Kennedy
about_first_ladies_ladybirdjohnson Claudia Johnson
about_first_ladies_patnixon Patricia Nixon
about_first_ladies_bettyford Elizabeth Ford
about_first_ladies_rosalynncarter Rosalynn Carter
about_first_ladies_nancyreagan Nancy Reagan
about_first_ladies_barbarabush Barbara Bush
about_first_ladies_hillaryclinton Hillary Clinton

21st Century
about_first_ladies_laurabush Laura Bush
administration_michelle_obama Michelle Obama



ELLEN LEWIS HERNDON ARTHUR
b.1837 -- d.1880

Chester Alan Arthur's beloved "Nell" died of pneumonia on January 12, 1880. That November, when he was elected Vice President, he was still mourning her bitterly. In his own words: "Honors to me now are not what they once were." His grief was the more poignant because she was only 42 and her death sudden. Just two days earlier she had attended a benefit concert in New York City--while he was busy with politics in Albany--and she caught cold that night while waiting for her carriage. She was already unconscious when he reached her side.

Her family connections among distinguished Virginians had shaped her life. She was born at Culpeper Court House, only child of Elizabeth Hansbrough and William Lewis Herndon, U.S.N. They moved to Washington, D.C., when he was assigned to help his brother-in-law Lt. Matthew Fontaine Maury establish the Naval Observatory. While Ellen was still just a girl her beautiful contralto voice attracted attention; she joined the choir at St. John's Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square.

Then her father assumed command of a mail steamer operating from New York; and in 1856 a cousin introduced her to "Chet" Arthur, who was establishing a law practice in the city. By 1857 they were engaged. In a birthday letter that year he reminded her of "the soft, moonlight nights of June, a year ago...happy, happy days at Saratoga--the golden, fleeting hours at Lake George." He wished he could hear her singing.

That same year her father died a hero's death at sea, going down with his ship in a gale off Cape Hatteras. The marriage did not take place until October 1859; and a son named for Commander Herndon died when only two. But another boy was born in 1864 and a girl, named for her mother, in 1871. Arthur's career brought the family an increasing prosperity; they decorated their home in the latest fashion and entertained prominent friends with elegance. At Christmas there were jewels from Tiffany for Nell, the finest toys for the children.

At the White House, Arthur would not give anyone the place that would have been his wife's. He asked his sister Mary (Mrs. John E. McElroy) to assume certain social duties and help care for his daughter. He presented a stained-glass window to St. John's Church in his wife's memory; it depicted angels of the Resurrection, and at his special request it was placed in the south transept so that he could see it at night from the White House with the lights of the church shining through.


Click about_presidents_chesterarthur here to read the biography of President Chester A. Arthur.

MD5: ce723f926d41b45c9fb042f5f5eb53fd
Original URL: http://whitehouse.gov/about/first_ladies/ellenarthur/

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