First Ladies: Lucy Ware Webb Hayes

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Lucy Webb Hayes is often referred to as Lemonade Lucy because of her temperance beliefs.

Lucy Hayes with her children

Lucy Webb was born on August 28, 1831 in Chillicothe, Ohio. She and her two older brothers were the children of Dr. James and Maria Cook Webb. Her father died from cholera in 1833.

In 1850, she graduated from Cincinnati Wesleyan Female College. She was well educated for the women of her day.

Lucy met Rutherford B. Hayes while her brothers were at Ohio Wesleyan University. She was only fourteen at the time and Rutherford Hayes was not interested. They met again in 1850 and love began to bloom. They were married on December 30, 1852.

The couple would have eight children together. Three of their seven sons died in childhood and their only daughter was named after Fanny Hayes Platt, the President’s older sister.

During the Civil War, Lucy would visit her husband in the field and help her brother {who was a doctor} care for the sick.

When her husband went to Washington, DC and congress she joined him for the social season. “She often wore a checkered shawl so her husband could spot her.”

As first lady of Ohio, she took up visiting prisons, hospitals, orphanages and homes for the deaf and mute.

Lucy Hayes was the first wife of the President to be widely referred to as First Lady by the press.

Lucy Hayes

She accompanied her husband on tours around the country and was the first spouse to visit the West Coast with her husband. She opened up the White House lawn for the first Easter egg hunt and she advocated for the Washington Monument to be completed.

Lucy became known as Lemonade Lucy for refusing to allow alcohol to be served in the White House. {But this terminology does not seem to have originated until over a decade after her death.} She was a known teetotaler, having signed a pledge to abstain from alcohol at a young age. However, the decision to ban alcohol was left up to her husband. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union paid for a portrait of Lucy by Daniel Huntington before she left the White House.

On his 48th birthday, Rutherford wrote to Lucy, “My life with you has been so happy–so successful–so beyond reasonable anticipations, that I think of you with a loving gratitude that I do not know how to express.”

When Rutherford commission portraits of past presidents were commissioned for the White House, Lucy insisted that paintings of both Martha Washington and Dolley Madison also grace the walls of the presidential mansion.

She stayed busy serving various groups and interest upon leaving the White House. She died at the age of 57 years on June 25, 1889. She is buried beside her husband at their estate, Spiegel Grove.



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