First Ladies: Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison

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Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison died while her husband was still serving as president.

Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison

Caroline Lavinia Scott was born on October 1, 1832. She was one of five children born to John Witherspoon and Mary Potts Neal Scott.

She grew up surrounded by art, music, the teachings of the Bible and books.

Her father took a teaching job at Farmer’s College near Cincinnati, Ohio in 1848. A short time later she began a courtship with one of her father’s students, Benjamin Harrison.

In 1852, Caroline graduated with a degree in music. She became an Assistant teacher of Piano Music at the college. She also had a bout of pneumonia that would cause health issues on and off for the remainder of her life.

On October 20, 1853, Caroline married Benjamin Harrison. The couple often spent time apart while her husband worked to establish his law practice in the early days of their marriage. In 1854, their son, Russell was born. A daughter, Mary Scott, followed in 1858.

During the Civil War, Caroline was a member of several local groups, cared for wounded soldiers and helped raise money for supplies for the soldiers.

By the time her husband became a U.S. Senator, Caroline refrained from most social events due to the poor health that lingered after her bout with pneumonia.

In 1888, her husband was elected as President. Her great love of history, led to an extensive renovation project of the White House. She took a special interest in the history of the White House. In 1891, she had new plumbing and electricity installed in the White House. However, she was too afraid to touch the switches.

In 1889, she raised the first Christmas tree in the White House. She introduced the use of orchids as the official floral decoration at state receptions. A talented artist, she conducted china-painting classes in the White House for other women. She was noted for her elegant White House receptions and dinners.

She also helped raise money for the Johns Hopkins University Medical School and founded the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) and served as its first President General.

In later 1891, she began a battle with tuberculosis, which had no treatment at the time. She died on October 25, 1892 in the White House.

She is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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