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(Note: This is a republishing of an article posted last Valentine's Day)

A few years ago, potus_geeks polled its members about which first couples loved each other most. Here are the top five in reverse order:

5. Rutherford Hayes and "Lemonade Lucy" Hayes:

These two lovebirds first met in 1847 when both lived in Delaware, Ohio. His mother had encouraged him to get to know Lucy years earlier, but Hayes had believed that since she was 9 years younger than him, she was too young and he decided to date other women. But in 1850 when the two of them were in Cincinnati, Hayes began to spend more time with Lucy. They became engaged in 1851 and got married on December 30, 1852, at the house of Lucy's mother. Lucy was a Methodist, a teetotaler, and an abolitionist. It is believed that she was a strong influence on her husband. Lucy was a vigorous opponent of slavery, and she is said to have contributed to her husband’s decision to abandon the Whig Party in favor of the antislavery Republican Party. When the Civil War began, Hayes joined the 23rd Regiment of Ohio Volunteer Infantry where he was promoted to the rank of Major. Hayes was wounded five times, most seriously at the Battle of South Mountain. During the war Lucy often traveled to visit her husband and would care for wounded soldiers.

rutherford-b-hayes-lucy

As first lady, As First Lady, Hayes brought her zeal and energy to the White House. She was known as "Lemonade Lucy" because of a ban on serving alcohol at the White House. Many blamed her for that, but it was actually her husband who banned the serving of alcoholic beverages at state functions. Lucy Hayes also began the custom of conducting an Easter egg roll on the White House lawn. The social highlight of the Hayes's years was their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary celebration, at which the President and the First Lady repeated their vows at a White House ceremony before many of the same guests who had attended the original wedding ceremony in Cincinnati.

When Lucy died of a stroke on June 25, 1889, Rutherford Hayes was greatly saddened by his wife's death. He wrote in his diary that "the soul had left [Spiegel Grove]". When Rutherford Hayes died of complications of a heart attack at his home on January 17, 1893, the last words he uttered were "I know that I'm going where Lucy is."

4. James and Sarah Polk:

This one might sound surprising, since James K. Polk wasn't much of a romantic. But the man really loved his wife. The former Sarah Childress met James K. Polk, who had been a former schoolmate of her brother. Her first impression of him was that he was ambitious, earnest, and a rather silent young man. According to some sources, their mutual mentor Andrew Jackson urged Polk to marry Miss Childress, telling him that she was "wealthy, pretty, ambitious and intelligent." It was Sarah encouraged James Polk to run for the state legislature and soon after his election, on January 1, 1824, they were married in her home in Murfreesboro.

ph_06

Her personality was similar to her husband's in that both were serious, religious, and had a love of politics. Sarah was known to remain behind with the men to talk, rather than retire to the parlor with the ladies. It is said that humor was never a strong point with her (or with her husband). She loved to read and she regularly read the newspapers. She eventually took on the duties of an unpaid secretary to her husband. The Polks had no children, likely due to his problems from the urinary tract operation he had as a teenager. His career became like a surrogate child for Sarah.

From the time he was a Congressman, through to his Presidency, Sarah Polk joined her husband in Washington. She was always at her husband’s side, as his secretary, his confidante, and his unofficial chief of staff. As evidenced by her diary and her letters, she expressed herself freely on all issues, personalities and topics.

When James Polk died on June 15, 1849, his last thoughts were of his wife. Author Walter Borneman wrote of his subject, in his 2008 biography Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency:

"At twenty minutes before five on the afternoon of June 15, 1849, James Knox Polk breathed his last. Reportedly, his final words were 'I love you Sarah, for all eternity, I love you.' Even if this utterance was embellished, there was nothing in Polk's life to suggest that the sentiment behind it was not true."

3. Barack and Michelle Obama:

Michelle Robinson first met Barack Obama when he came to work as a summer associate in June of 1989 at Sidley & Austin. When he returned to Cambridge, Massachusetts to complete Harvard Law School, they continue to correspond and date. They became engaged in 1991 and were married on October 3, 1992 at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. He was 31 and she was 28. Their first home was an apartment in the Hyde Park section of Chicago. Barack Obama taught at the University of Chicago law school and worked at a small civil rights law firm.

first-couple-wedding-pic

Michelle Obama is said to have been leery of her husband’s ambition to enter politics because of its instability, but she campaigned for him during his failed 2000 race for U.S. Congress and his successful one for the U.S. Senate in 2004. When Barack Obama was elected president in November of 2008, he thanked his wife for her sacrifices to his career and his reliance on her support. Through the campaign, he frequently referred to her as “the rock” which grounded him and their family.

2. Andrew and Rachel Jackson:

Rachel Jackson (born Rachel Donelson) had been in an unhappy marriage with Captain Lewis Robards, and the couple separated in 1790. Andrew Jackson arrived in Nashville in 1788 and lived as a boarder with Rachel's mother, Rachel Stockley Donelson. In 1791 Jackson and Rachel exchanged marriage vows in a ceremony after believing that Robards had obtained a divorce. However, the divorce had never been completed, making Rachel's marriage to Jackson technically bigamous and therefore invalid. After Rachel's divorce (the first in Kentucky history) was officially completed, Rachel and Jackson remarried in 1794. The two were quite passionate for one another. In 1813 when Andy was off fighting the British en route to becoming the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, Rachel wrote to him, "Do not my Beloved Husband let the love of Country, fame and honor let you forgit you have me Without you I would think them all empty shadows You will say this is not the Language of a Patriot but it is the language of a Faithful wife..."



During the election of 1828, Jackson's political opponents accused Rachel of being a bigamist. Despite the accusations, Jackson won by a margin of 178 to 83 in the electoral college. But the dirty campaign took a toll on poor Rachel. She had been having chest pains throughout the campaign, and she became aggravated by the personal attacks on her marriage. She became ill and died on December 22, 1828, just before the electoral ball for the new President. When Rachel died, Jackson was inconsolable. He refused to believe she was actually dead and insisted that blankets be laid on her body in case she woke up and needed warmth. He built a tomb for her in her flower garden. According to his granddaughter, Rachel Jackson Lawrence, Jackson visited Rachel's grave every night at sunset. He hung her portrait at the foot of his bed so she would be the first thing he saw in the morning and the last thing he saw at night, and he once said, "Heaven will be no heaven for me if she is not there."

Jackson blamed his opposition for her death. He accused the John Quincy Adams campaign, and Henry Clay even more so, of causing her death, saying, "I can and do forgive all my enemies. But those vile wretches who have slandered her must look to God for mercy.

Jackson wrote his wife's epitaph, which reads as follows: "Here lie the remains of Mrs. Rachel Jackson, wife of President Jackson, who died December 22nd 1828, aged 61. Her face was fair, her person pleasing, her temper amiable, and her heart kind. She delighted in relieving the wants of her fellow-creatures,and cultivated that divine pleasure by the most liberal and unpretending methods. To the poor she was a benefactress; to the rich she was an example; to the wretched a comforter; to the prosperous an ornament. Her pity went hand in hand with her benevolence; and she thanked her Creator for being able to do good. A being so gentle and so virtuous, slander might wound but could not dishonor. Even death, when he tore her from the arms of her husband, could but transplant her to the bosom of her God."

1. John and Abigail Adams:

John and Abigail usually win every poll about first couples, hands down. The relationship of this couple was a remarkable one, especially considering that, in an age when women were considered almost as chattels, John Adams treated his wife as an equal (at least as much as he was able to within the mores of the times). Abigail in turn was a strong, confident and intelligent adviser to her husband. They were spouses, partners and best friends, and in fact would address one another as "my dearest friend" or "dear partner" in some of their correspondence.



Abigail and John were third cousins and had known each other since they were children. In 1762, John accompanied his friend Richard Cranch to the home of Abigail's father, the Reverand William Smith. Cranch was engaged to Adams' older sister, Mary. According to his account, John was quickly attracted to the petite, shy, 17-year-old brunette Abigail. Cranch describes her as being "forever bent over some book" much to her father's consternation (who apparently considered this to be unladylike.) John Adams was pleasantly surprised to learn that Abigail knew so much about poetry, philosophy and politics, something unusual for a woman at the time.

When John asked William Smith for Abigail's hand in marriage, Smith approved of the match, but Abigail's mother didn't. She described the future second President as "a country lawyer whose manners still reeked of the farm." Abigail was strong-minded and eventually she got her mother to gave in. The couple were married on 25 October 1764, five days before John's 29th birthday, in the Smiths' home in Weymouth, Massachusetts. The bride's father performed the nuptials. After the reception, the couple drove off to a cottage that stood beside the one where John Adams had been born and raised. This became their first home. They moved to Boston in a series of rented homes before buying a large farm, "Peacefield," in 1787, while John Adams was Minister to Great Britain.

This marriage is well documented through the couple's correspondence and other writings. Letters exchanged throughout John's political career suggest that his trust in Abigail's judgement was sincere. In the words of Adams' biograopher David McCullogh "She could quote poetry more readily than could John Adams." Their correspondence is indicative of their mutual emotional and intellectual respect. Perhaps some of the reason for this is because, in the words of one member of this community direcorrector, "it helped that they spent half of their marriage apart!"

Their notion of equality and the forward thinking in their relationship is illustrated in one of the most famous of their letters, one written by Abigail to John when the Declaration of Independence was being composed. Centuries before such an idea would gain acceptance, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband proposing equality for women and perhaps even giving women the vote. She wrote to her husband:

"And by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, desire you will remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power in the hands of husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and we will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation."

Abigail would continue this theme in later correspondence to her husband. While some of this is written tongue-in-cheek, it is clear that this was an important issue to her. She later wrote:

"If we mean to have heroes, statesmen and philosophers, we should have learned women... The world perhaps would laugh at me, but you know I have a mind too enlarged and liberal to disregard the sentiment."

There are some other first couples who deserve honorable mention in a list like this. I would certainly send out props to Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Calvin and Grace Coolidge, James and Dolley Madison and Ulysses and Julia Grant. In such a difficult job, a strong, supportive and loving spouse may just be a President's best asset.

John Adams knew that his wife was not writing in jest. He would respond to her "your sentiments of the importance of education of women are exactly agreeable to my own."

The marriage lasted for 54 years. Abigail Adams died three days after their 54th wedding anniversary on October 28, 1818, of typhoid fever. She was two weeks shy of her 74th birthday. Her last words were said to be "Do not grieve, my friend, my dearest friend. I am ready to go. And John, it will not be long."

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