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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



LUCRETIA RUDOLPH GARFIELD
b.1832 -- d.1918

In the fond eyes of her husband, President James A. Garfield, Lucretia "grows up to every new emergency with fine tact and faultless taste." She proved this in the eyes of the nation, though she was always a reserved, self-contained woman. She flatly refused to pose for a campaign photograph, and much preferred a literary circle or informal party to a state reception.

Her love of learning she acquired from her father, Zeb Rudolph, a leading citizen of Hiram, Ohio, and devout member of the Disciples of Christ. She first met "Jim" Garfield when both attended a nearby school, and they renewed their friendship in 1851 as students at the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, founded by the Disciples.

But "Crete" did not attract his special attention until December 1853, when he began a rather cautious courtship, and they did not marry until November 1858, when he was well launched on his career as a teacher. His service in the Union Army from 1861 to 1863 kept them apart; their first child, a daughter, died in 1863. But after his first lonely winter in Washington as a freshman Representative, the family remained together. With a home in the capital as well as one in Ohio they enjoyed a happy domestic life. A two-year-old son died in 1876, but five children grew up healthy and promising; with the passage of time, Lucretia became more and more her husband's companion.

In Washington they shared intellectual interests with congenial friends; she went with him to meetings of a locally celebrated literary society. They read together, made social calls together, dined with each other and traveled in company until by 1880 they were as nearly inseparable as his career permitted.

Garfield's election to the Presidency brought a cheerful family to the White House in 1881. Though Mrs. Garfield was not particularly interested in a First Lady's social duties, she was deeply conscientious and her genuine hospitality made her dinners and twice-weekly receptions enjoyable. At the age of 49 she was still a slender, graceful little woman with clear dark eyes, her brown hair beginning to show traces of silver.

In May she fell gravely ill, apparently from malaria and nervous exhaustion, to her husband's profound distress. "When you are sick," he had written her seven years earlier, "I am like the inhabitants of countries visited by earthquakes." She was still a convalescent, at a seaside resort in New Jersey, when he was shot by a demented assassin on July 2. She returned to Washington by special train--"frail, fatigued, desperate," reported an eyewitness at the White House, "but firm and quiet and full of purpose to save."

During the three months her husband fought for his life, her grief, devotion, and fortitude won the respect and sympathy of the country. In September, after his death, the bereaved family went home to their farm in Ohio. For another 36 years she led a strictly private but busy and comfortable life, active in preserving the records of her husband's career. She died on March 14, 1918.


Click about_presidents_jamesgarfield here to read the biography of President James A. Garfield.

MD5: 6bb74f5f6b1644fc97297c6b253ef5fb
Original URL: http://whitehouse.gov/about/first_ladies/lucretiagarfield/

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