Presidential Hostess: Emily Donelson

posted in: First Ladies, First Lady | 0

Emily Donelson was the niece of Rachel Donelson Jackson. Upon her aunt’s death, Emily stepped up to serve as hostess for her uncle, President Andrew Jackson.

Emily’s father, John, was the brother of Rachel Jackson.

Emily Tennessee Donelson was born on June 1, 1807 on her father’s farm in Donelson, Tennessee.

Emily Donelson

Emily received a formal education at the Nashville Female Academy.

At the age of 17, Emily married her first cousin, A.J. Donelson on September 16, 1824.

The couple eventually purchased a plantation adjacent to The Hermitage.

Emily often stayed at The Hermitage to assist Rachel Jackson with hosting duties. It’s believed this arrangement may have also been made before Rachel’s death. After Rachel died, President Jackson asked Emily to serve as hostess.

Emily arrived with her husband, who served as President Jackson’s private secretary, at the tender age of 21. Her niece, Mary Ann Eastin, also accompanied her to help as.

In 1829, rumors began to circulate that the Secretary of War John Henry Eaton began a relationship with his wife, Peggy, as an extramarital affair. They then claimed that this led Peggy’s first husband to commit suicide.

The scandal grew and became known as the Petticoat affair. President Jackson compared the treatment of Peggy Eaton to his late wife’s and stood up for the couple.

Emily sided with those wanting to outcast the Eaton’s and eventually the situation came to a head with President Jackson.

The rift grew so great that Emily would not stay at The Hermitage with her uncle or return with him to Washington, D.C.

Sarah Yorke Jackson began serving as First Lady.

Emily did eventually return and the two women served as co-hosts.

Emily’s health began to deteriorate in 1836. It is believed that she had tuberculosis. She died in December 1836 at the age of 29. It is said that she “died looking out the window waiting for her husband to come home”.


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