First Ladies: Lucretia Rudolph Garfield

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Lucretia Garfield rushed to her husband’s side when she discovered he’d been wounded in an assassination attempt. Mary Lincoln was the only other first lady to have

Lucretia Rudolph Garfield

lost her husband in a such a tragic manner at this point.

Lucretia Garfield was born on april 19, 1832 in Hiram, Ohio. She was the daughter of Zeb and Arabella Mason Rudolph.

She met James Garfield when they were both classmates at Geauga Seminary. She later followed him to Eclectic Institute where they began courting in December 1853.

The couple postponed marrying until James Garfield was able to finish school and provide for a family.

The couple was married on November 11, 1858 at her parents home.

Their first child, Eliza “Trot”, was born in 1860. From 1861-1863, the couple were often apart while James Garfield served in the Union Army.

A second child, Harry was born in October 1863. Eliza Garfield died of diphtheria in early December 1863. She was only three years old.

Lucretia and the children joined her husband in Washington, D.C. which helped strengthen their marriage after years apart. More children followed with James in 1865, Mary “Mollie” in 1867, Irvin in 1870, Abram in 1872 and Edward in 1874. Edward died in 1876.

Lucretia Rudolph Garfield

James Garfield brought a young family that is described as “cheerful” to the White House.

Lucretia Garfield is described as “still a slender, graceful little woman with clear dark eyes, her brown hair beginning to show traces of silver” when she entered the White House.

Lucretia Garfield was interesting in restoring the White House to its former glory. She began researching the history of the White House. Before she was able to continue the project she contracted malaria. She then went to the New Jersey seaside to convalesce.

She was in New Jersey, when she received word her husband had been shot by an assassin. She hurriedly returned to Washington, DC. The following account is provided, ” 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 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.”

Lucretia Rudolph Garfield

She stayed with her husband for the remainder of his life. “During the three months that the President fought for his life, her grief and devotion won the respect and sympathy of the country”.

After the death of President Garfield, his widow took their family to their Ohio farm where she lived in private for the remainder of her life. She lived on a trust fund that was raised for her and the children. She often spent her winters in a home in South Pasadena, California.

Lucretia remodeled their home and rearranged her husband’s books and papers, eventually setting up a presidential library.

During the Spanish-American War and World War I, she rolled bandages.

She was the honored guest at the first Rose Bowl parade in 1890.

Lucretia Garfield died on March 14, 1918. She was buried beside her husband in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio.

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