Lucretia Garfield

Lucretia Garfield

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Lucretia Rudolph Garfield (April 19, 1832 – March 14, 1918), wife of James A. Garfield, was First Lady of the United States
First Lady of the United States
First Lady of the United States is the title of the hostess of the White House. Because this position is traditionally filled by the wife of the president of the United States, the title is most often applied to the wife of a sitting president. The current first lady is Michelle Obama.-Current:The...

 in 1881.

Early life

Born in Hiram, Ohio
Hiram, Ohio
Hiram is a village in Portage County, Ohio, United States. It was formed from portions of Hiram Township in the Connecticut Western Reserve. The population was 1,242 at the 2000 census...

, the daughter of Zebulon Rudolph, a farmer and co-founder of the Eclectic Institute at Hiram, and Arabella
Arabella is a lyric comedy or opera in 3 acts by Richard Strauss to a German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, their sixth and last operatic collaboration. It was first performed on 1 July 1933, at the Dresden Sächsisches Staatstheater....

 Mason-Rudolph, Lucretia "Crete" Rudolph was a devout member of the Churches of Christ.

Romance and Marriage

She first met James Garfield in 1849 when they were classmates at Geauga Seminary in Chester, Ohio
Chester, Ohio
Chester is an unincorporated community in central Chester Township, Meigs County, Ohio, United States. It lies along the Shade River at the intersection of State Routes 7 and 248. Although it is unincorporated, it has a post office, with the ZIP code of 45720.-History:Chester is one the oldest...

, and followed him to the Eclectic Institute, where they began dating. She was somewhat plain in appearance, but Garfield was attracted to her keen intellect and appetite for knowledge. While Garfield went on to Williams College
Williams College
Williams College is a private liberal arts college located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States. It was established in 1793 with funds from the estate of Ephraim Williams. Originally a men's college, Williams became co-educational in 1970. Fraternities were also phased out during this...

, she taught school in Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and is the county seat of Cuyahoga County, the most populous county in the state. The city is located in northeastern Ohio on the southern shore of Lake Erie, approximately west of the Pennsylvania border...

 and Bayou, Ohio. They had planned to marry on his graduation in 1856, but decided to postpone the wedding for a couple of years until he was earning more money.

Both James and Crete were 26-years when they married on November 11, 1858 at the home of the bride's parents in Hiram. Although both were members of the churches of Christ, the nuptials were performed by Henry Hitchcock, a Presbyterian minister. The newlyweds did not take a honeymoon but instead set up housekeeping immediately in Hiram.

His service in the Union Army
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

 from 1861 to 1863 kept them apart. But after his first winter in Washington as a freshman Representative, the family remained together. With a home in the capital as well as one (Lawnfield
James A. Garfield National Historic Site
James A. Garfield National Historic Site is a United States National Historic Site located in Mentor, Ohio. The site preserves the property associated with the 20th President of the United States, James Abram Garfield.-History:...

) in Mentor, Ohio
Mentor, Ohio
As of the census of 2000, there were 50,278 people, 18,797 households, and 14,229 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,878.2 people per square mile . There were 19,301 housing units at an average density of 721.0 per square mile...

, they enjoyed a happy domestic life.

In Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 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.


The Garfields had four sons and a daughter to live to maturity:
  • Harry Augustus Garfield
    Harry Augustus Garfield
    Harry Augustus "Hal" Garfield was an American lawyer, academic and public official. He was president of Williams College and supervised the Federal Fuel Administration during World War I.-Biography:He was the son of U.S. President James A...

    (1863–1942) - lawyer, educator, public official.
  • James Rudolph Garfield
    James Rudolph Garfield
    James Rudolph Garfield was an American politician, lawyer and son of President James Abram Garfield and First Lady Lucretia Garfield. He was Secretary of the Interior during Theodore Roosevelt's administration....

    (1865–1950) - lawyer, public official.
  • Mary "Mollie" Garfield Stanley-Brown (1867–1947). Educated at private schools in Cleveland and Connecticut, she in 1888 married Joseph Stanley-Brown, presidential secretary during Garfield's term, later an investment banker. She lived in New York and Pasadena, CA.
  • Irvin McDowell Garfield (1870–1951) - lawyer. He followed his older brothers to Williams College and Columbia Law School
    Columbia Law School
    Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, is one of the oldest and most prestigious law schools in the United States. A member of the Ivy League, Columbia Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Columbia University in New York City. It offers the J.D., LL.M., and J.S.D. degrees in...

    . He settled in Boston, where he prospered as partner in the firm of Warren & Garfield and served on the boards of directors of several corporations.
  • Abram Garfield (1872–1958) - architect. A graduate of Williams College and Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT has five schools and one college, containing a total of 32 academic departments, with a strong emphasis on scientific and technological education and research.Founded in 1861 in...

    , he settled in Cleveland, where he worked as an architect from offices in the James A. Garfield Building. He served as chairman of the Cleveland Planning Commission 1929-1942 and was active in the American Institute of Architects
    American Institute of Architects
    The American Institute of Architects is a professional organization for architects in the United States. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the AIA offers education, government advocacy, community redevelopment, and public outreach to support the architecture profession and improve its public image...


First Lady of the United States

Garfield's election to the presidency brought a cheerful family to the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 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.

As First Lady, Mrs. Garfield researched the history of the White House furnishings with a view to restoring it to its former glory, but she contracted malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

 and was unable to pursue the project.

She was still a convalescent, at Elberon
Long Branch, New Jersey
Long Branch is a city in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city population was 30,719.Long Branch was formed on April 11, 1867, as the Long Branch Commission, from portions of Ocean Township...

, a seaside resort in New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

, when her husband was shot by Charles Guiteau on July 2 at a railway station in Washington. The President was actually planning to take a train north to New Jersey that same day in order to meet his wife, before continuing on to a function at his former college in Massachusetts. The First Lady hurriedly 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." As her train raced south, it was speeding so fast that the engine broke a piston in Bowie, Maryland
Bowie, Maryland
Bowie is a city in Prince George's County, Maryland, United States. The population was 54,727 at the 2010 census. Bowie has grown from a small railroad stop to the largest municipality in Prince George's County, and the fifth most populous city and third largest city by area in the state of...

 and nearly derailed. Mrs. Garfield was thrown from her seat, but not injured. After an anxious delay, she reached the White House and immediately went to her husband's bedside.

During the three months that the President fought for his life, her grief and devotion won the respect and sympathy of the country. On the night of Garfield's death, according to the doctor, she exclaimed, "Oh, why am I made to suffer this cruel wrong?" After his death and funeral, the bereaved family went home to their farm in northern 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 created a wing to the home that became a presidential library of his papers.

Later Life and Death

She lived comfortably on a $350,000 trust fund raised for her and the Garfield children by financier Cyrus W. Field. She spent winters in South Pasadena, where she built a home designed by the celebrated architects Greene and Greene
Greene and Greene
Greene and Greene was an architectural firm established by brothers Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene , influential early 20th Century American architects...

 to whom she was distantly related. She died at her home in South Pasadena, California
South Pasadena, California
South Pasadena is a city in Los Angeles County, California, United States. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 25,619, up from 24,292 at the 2000 census. It is located in in the West San Gabriel Valley...

 on March 14, 1918. Her casket was placed above ground beside the coffin of her husband in the lower level crypt of the presidential tomb at Lake View Cemetery
Lake View Cemetery
Lake View Cemetery is located on the east side of the City of Cleveland, Ohio, along the East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights borders. There are over 104,000 people buried at Lake View, with more than 700 burials each year. There are remaining for future development. Known locally as "Cleveland's...

 in Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and is the county seat of Cuyahoga County, the most populous county in the state. The city is located in northeastern Ohio on the southern shore of Lake Erie, approximately west of the Pennsylvania border...


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