During our last conversation, we talked about some little known facts about U.S. presidents. So in this day of political correctness and fair play, we'll take a look at the presidents' better halves ... for some little known facts about the First Ladies.
Did you know that Martha Washington was the last woman to appear on paper currency ... until later this decade when Harriet Tubman is placed on the $20 bill. The Tubman $20 design was originally planned for release this year, but was delayed by the Treasury Department. Mrs. Washington's likeness was on the $1 bill in 1886 and 1891. She and her president husband posed together on the "single" in 1896.
President John Adams wife reportedly had a razor tongue and didn't shy away from letting her opinions be known about politics of the day. In fact, it was said that she was referred to as "Mrs. President" because of her wide-ranging political acumen.
Louisa Adams was the First Lady to John Quincy Adams and was one of the first First Ladies born outside the U.S. As a child, she was raised in London. She also had some unusual hobbies that included playing the harp, writing satirical plays and raising silkworms. A little quirky, I must admit.
If you recall, last week we learned about how President Andrew Jackson survived a near fatal wound suffered in a duel ... and how he carried a bullet in his midsection for the 40 years he lived after the duel. Apparently, his First Lady, Rachel Jackson, had some sort of hold over her husband where she could control his impulsive behavior with a kind or soothing word. Maybe she used that power to avoid further near-death encounters.
President Martin Van Buren's wife Hannah never made it to the White House. She died in 1819, about 20 years before her husband was elected. Had she been alive she would have been the first First Lady born a U.S. Citizen.
You may recall that during last week's conversation, we found out that President William Henry Harrison died after serving only a month in office ... and became the first president to die in office. His wife, Anna, was ill herself after her husband's election and never got to make the trip to Washington.
One of the better known First Ladies was Mary Todd Lincoln ... wife of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the U.S. Historians agree that the two were polar opposites in many ways ... most noticeably in their stature. Honest Abe was a lanky 6 feet 4 inches tall while his mate stood a mere 5 feet 2 inches. Mrs. Lincoln suffered from depression for most of her adult life. Some historians believe she may have had bipolar disorder.
Talk about strange sights at the White House. Eliza Johnson, whose husband became president after Mr. Lincoln was assassinated, wanted to maintain her southern heritage (she was from Tennessee). So, she had cows brought to the White House. Passersby could see the cows out grazing on the front lawn. My, how things have changed. Now, you'd have to get a security clearance and a background check on the grazers.
By far the youngest First Lady was President Grover Cleveland's wife, Frances, who moved into the White House at the tender age of 21 ... and she gave birth there! She was also the first woman to marry an incumbent president at the White House.
President Warren G. Harding was president during the Prohibition. But that didn't stop him from hosting poker parties where alcohol was served. And the president didn't have to look too far for a bartender to serve the cocktails. He turned to First Lady Florence Harding. Apparently she made a mean drink. A person with close ties to the U.S. Attorney General's office reportedly said the president's well-stocked bar came from confiscated alcohol. (wink-wink)
And finally, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy won an Emmy back in 1962. Can you guess why? It was for her televised tour of the White House. It was reported that she spent $50,000 on renovations (about $400,000 in today's funds) to get everything spic and span for the TV cameras.
Until next time.