First Ladies: Lady Bird Johnson

Lead: Her time in the White House began with the tragic assassination of President Kennedy, but Lady Bird Johnson’s service as First Lady was many decades in the making.

 

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

 

Content: Few politicians of his generation could match the white, hot ambition of Lyndon Baines Johnson. He pursued power with a steady and furious determination and at times evidenced a stormy and occasionally abusive personality when dealing with enemies but also colleagues, subordinates, friends and even his family. In the middle of all that sound and fury resided his wife from 1934, Claudia Alta Taylor, whom he always called by her nickname from birth, Lady Bird.

 

First Ladies: Bess Truman

Lead: She didn’t like politics and thought of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as the “Great White Jail, but she loved Harry Truman and if he wanted to live there she would be his partner in life and service.

                Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

                Content: Harry Truman first met Elizabeth Virginia Wallace at the Sunday School of the Presbyterian Church in Independence, Missouri. He was six, she was five. Until his death in 1972 at eighty-nine she never was far from his thoughts. Pursuing Bess was not easy. He was from a family of dirt farmers, she from one of the wealthiest in town. It took a long time and a lot of work on his part for Madge Wallace to warm to Harry and for the balance of her life Mother Wallace was a member of the Truman household, part of the price he paid to win Bess.

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First Ladies: Anna Harrison

Lead: The wife of one President and grandmother of another, Anna Harrison never entered the White House as First Lady.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: When she was informed that her husband, William Henry Harrison had been elected President Anna Harrison was not particularly happy. "I wish that my husband's friends had left him where he is, happy and contented in retirement." Sick at the time of the inauguration, she declined the trip preferring to wait for the milder weather of the Washington springtime. Just after the President was sworn in he caught a respiratory infection and died of pneumonia. Until Ronald Reagan, Harrison at 68 was the oldest man to become President and his wife was the oldest First Lady. In many ways her life was similar to Rachel Jackson. Both of them shared their husbands with the nomadic life of the military, both aspired to national political office and both found comfort in their long stretches of loneliness in religious faith as devout Presbyterians.

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Abigail Fillmore

Lead:  Well-read and cultured, Abigail Fillmore maintained a well-tuned political sense in an otherwise lackluster administration.

                Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

                Content: When Abigail Power’s preacher father died in 1799, her mother migrated to Cayuga County, then on the New York frontier. Mrs. Powers took responsibility for the education of the children and so well did she did do her job that by the time she was nineteen Abigail was teaching in a country school near Sempronius, New York. In the winter of 1818, she looked up from her desk into the bright, inquiring eyes of a big farm boy who had appeared in her classroom with little notice. The eighteen-year-old was ambitious to become a lawyer and Abigail responded to his enthusiasm. His name was Millard Fillmore and after an eight-year courtship, much of the time spent apart as he was reading for the bar, they began a twenty-seven year marriage.

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First Ladies: Hannah Van Buren

Lead:  Like Jackson before him and Jefferson at the beginning of the century, in 1837 Martin Van Buren came to the White House a widower. Very little is known of Hannah Van Buren.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Born in 1783 she was the first President's wife to be born a United States citizen. They grew up together in Kinderhook, New York, attended the same school and were married in 1807. Martin read for the law and was county attorney, then they moved to Albany, the state capital where he served as state's attorney. The first year the family was in Albany was a very severe one and she developed tuberculosis, became an invalid and this mother of five sons died in 1819 at the age of thirty-six.

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First Ladies: Louisa Catherine Adams

Lead:  Mrs. John Quincy Adams hated the idea of living in the White House. She thought it would be a prison. It turned out to be a disaster.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: For most of their married life John Quincy and Louisa Adams did not get along. She was sensitive and impulsive, he was stern, dogmatic and demanding. It was an era in which New England wives were expected to be loyal, devoted homemakers living in the shadow of their husbands. He may have been from New England, she was not. Born in London in 1775 the daughter of a prosperous American overseas merchant, Louisa Johnson grew into an elegant and sophisticated young lady able to move in the highest circles of continental society. There she met the young American envoy to the Netherlands, John Quincy Adams, son of the second President of the United States.

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First Ladies: Elizabeth Monroe

Lead:  Mrs. James Monroe stepped out of her carriage into the streets of Revolutionary Paris. She approached the entrance of the prison and asked to see Madame Lafayette. Her visit probably saved the prisoner's life.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Elizabeth Kortright Monroe was the daughter of a prosperous New York merchant of Tory sympathies. She early acquired the poise and self-confidence of one who grows up with assured social prominence. When she met and married the ambitious young Virginia lawyer in 1786, some of her socialite friends gave her grief. They thought she could have done better. Actually, she did right well as the wife of a U.S. Senator, Governor of Virginia, Ambassador to France and England, and Secretary of State. By the time they moved into the White House in 1717, Mrs. Monroe had passed through the highest political and social circles on both continents.

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First Ladies: Dolley Madison II

Lead:  With the British Army at the gates of Washington, the President's wife refused to flee.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: From the time she married James Madison, Dolley Payne Todd was a major player in the social life of the nation and an important political asset to her husband. During the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson, she served as unofficial hostess to the widowed Chief Executive providing an elegant simplicity to White House functions consistent with Jefferson's ideas of republican equality.

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