Four of America’s First Ladies You Should Know About

The saying “Behind every great man, there’s a great woman holds true even for America’s greatest leaders. Although their husbands’ names and accomplishments are celebrated more openly in society, appreciation and recognition should also be given to these inspiring ladies.

1. Abigail Fillmore

Abigail Fillmore was wife to the 13th President of the United States, Millard Fillmore. Above all descriptions, she was a woman who treasured learning – she was a school teacher who collected books extensively, turning her husband’s collection of law books into a full-blown home library, with books of literature, poetry and the classics.

Her husband turned President upon Zachary Taylor’s death. She was under the public’s scrutinizing eyes as she came with her husband to public events; then, wives were only as domestic figures. Those who sought her help as the first lady were never disappointed.  

Although there was no formal proof, she was also attributed as one of the main reasons behind the development of the White House Library, as she earlier stated she was not comfortable in a house without the familiar air of books.

2. Lucretia Garfield

Wife of James Garfield, 20th President of the United States, was Lucretia Garfield – independent and willful. Crete, as she was called, was a skilled writer with a sense of humor. She even sent her husband an invite to his own wedding! She was an activist who wanted equality between the sexes.

When her husband passed away, and the Congress was delegating pay to his physicians: 1000$ for his male physician and 500$ for his female physician. Crete fought to have the female physician receive as much as the male, ultimately succeeding; a small step, but in essence, a huge leap towards equality.

3. Ida McKinley

Ida McKinley was the wife of the 25th President of America, William McKinley. Even before marrying William, she already received discrimination from her job at a bank, most of which related to her “over-education” in spite of her gender.

Upon the devastating deaths of her children, Ida McKinley’s condition worsened, resulting in her chronic immobility. She fought through with the help of neurologists, not accepting the “rest cure” which was said to relieve women from physical and emotional problems they acquire from doing jobs only men’s brains could perform.

She was successful in her fight against her disability. Ida supported her husband in his endeavors and helped in what ways she could; she even knitted slippers to donate to charities that she supported!

4. Margaret Taylor

For forty years, wife of Zachary Taylor, Margaret Taylor traveled wherever her soldier husband was deployed to. She was a brave woman who served with her husband on the front lines, the former president even taking pride in her capabilities, commenting that his wife was as much of a soldier as he was.

When Zachary became the 12th President of America, she refused to preside over as hostess, passing it on to her daughter, Betty. She instead worked on maintenance of the household, one of her tasks being to dress her husband up; Zachary having a reputation as a sloppy dresser.

She was a tough woman who could hold a gun and love her family at the same time – a true role model to look up to.

These women, with their unwavering support and love, were vital to the leaders that went down in history. Moreover, a great man would be even greater if a great woman was not behind him – but rather, beside him, holding his hand, saying “We can do this … together”.

 

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