First Ladies: Julia Dent Grant

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Julia Grant was the wife of President Ulysses S. Grant. She often spent time with him on the battle field as he lead troops during the Civil War.

young Julia Grant

Julia Boggs Dent was born on January 26, 1826 in St. Louis, Missouri. She was the fifth of eight children born to of Frederick and Ellen Wrenshaw Dent.

She was born with an eye condition known as strabismus or today better known as crossed eyes. She never had surgery to correct the condition and most portraits show her in profile for this reason.

As a young girl she attended a one room schoolhouse before enrolling at boarding school when she was ten. She would remain there until she was seventeen.

As a young woman, Julia was a skilled pianist, an expert horsewoman, and a voracious reader of novels.

In 1844, Ulysses S. Grant accompanied a fellow classmate, Fred Dent, from West Point Academy home. There he met his classmates sister, Julia. The two became engaged during the Mexican War. They were apart for the four years of the war.

They were married on August 22, 1848 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Grant’s would have four children, Frederick in 1850, Ulysses in 1852, Ellen “Nellie” in 1855 and Jesse in 1858.

Ulysses and Julia Grant

During the Civil War, Ulysses missed his wife and sent for her to join him. She left the children with relatives and stayed with him throughout the war. When President Lincoln appointed Major General Grant commander of the Union armies in 1864, he sent for Julia who “had a positive effect on him”.

Tension rose between Julia Grant and Mary Lincoln throughout their association. The Grant’s turned down an invitation to Ford’s Theatre with the Lincoln’s, so that they could see their children.

Julia is said to be more excited than her husband of his presidential nomination in 1868. She campaigned for him and immersed herself into his campaign. She felt that her husband was destined to be president.

Julia Grant was a popular hostess as First Lady. She worked to improve the stature of the wives of those in Congress, in the Cabinet and the First Lady. She felt the First Lady should have the prestige that was due such a position.

Julia Grant’s aging father lived with the First Family in the White House.

On May 21, 1874 their daughter was married in the White House, making it the first really grand wedding in the presidential mansion.

Julia Grant became the first First Lady that turned her time in the White House into that of a national figure.

Julia Grant

Julia Grant was the first First Lady to send out Christmas cards to their friends and associates on their last Christmas in the White House.

Julia Grant was disappointed her husband did not run for a third term and was sad to leave the White House.

Upon leaving the White House the Grants took a two-year world tour. Upon their return, back investment reduced them to poverty.

The Grant’s donated some of President Grant’s Civil War memorabilia to the Smithsonian.

President Grant died on July 23, 1885. Julia was able to publish the president’s memoirs and write her own. She was the first First Lady to write a memoir. Sadly, her memoirs were not published until 1975.

At the dedication of Grant’s Tomb in 1897, Julia was captured on film. She became the first First Lady ever recorded on film.

Julia Grant was close with the First Ladies of her widowhood, unlike any first lady since Dolley Madison.

She died on December 14, 1902 and is buried beside her husband in Grant’s Tomb in New York City. She was 74 years old.

Julia Grant was undeniably devoted of her husband and his greatest supporter and cheerleader. By all accounts he also seems to have been just as devoted to her.


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