Friday, January 18, 2013

The Names of the First Ladies

First Ladies gathered in 1994 via Wikipedia

The United States inaugurates a President on Monday. One of my favorite things about the Inauguration is seeing the President's spouse holding the Bible for him as he declares his oath. The First Lady is a kind of royalty in the US, with her wardrobe, parenting, and policies under the microscope. So, to honor this special occasion, and since I've already written a post about Presidential names, here are the lovely First Ladies (and their birth year):

  • Martha Dandridge Custis Washington 1731
  • Abigail Smith Adams 1744
  • Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson 1748 (died before Thomas Jefferson entered the White House; his daughter Martha Washington Jefferson Randolph acted as hostess)
  • Dolley Payne Todd Madison 1768
  • Elizabeth Kortright Monroe 1768
  • Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams 1775
  • Rachel Donelson Robards Jackson 1767 (died before Andrew Jackson was inaugurated; his neice Emily Donelson and then his daughter-in-law Sarah York Jackson acted as hostesses)
  • Hannah Hoes Van Buren 1783 (died before Martin Van Buren took office; his daughter-in-law Angelica Singleton Van Buren acted as hostess)
  • Anna Tuthill Symmes Harrison 1775
  • Letitia Christian Tyler 1790 (died while John Tyler was in office; his daughter-in-law Priscilla Cooper Tyler took over as hostess)
  • Julia Gardiner Tyler 1820 (married John Tyler during his Presidency)
  • Sarah Childress Polk 1803
  • Margaret "Peggy" Mackall Smith Taylor 1788
  • Abigail Powers Fillmore 1798
  • Jane Means Appleton Pierce 1806
  • Harriet "Hal" Rebecca Lane Johnston 1830 (was hostess for her uncle, the only President never to have married James Buchanan)
  • Mary Ann Todd Lincoln 1818
  • Eliza McCardle Johnson 1810
  • Julia Boggs Dent Grant 1826
  • Lucy Ware Webb Hayes 1831
  • Lucretia "Crete" Rudolph Garfield 1832
  • Ellen "Nell" Lewis Herndon Arthur 1837 (died before Chester Arthur took office; his sister Mary Arthur McElroy acted as hostess)
  • Frances Clara Folsom Cleveland Preston 1864 (married Grover Cleveland while he was President; his sister Mary Elizabeth Cleveland acted as hostess prior to the marriage)
  • Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison 1832 (died while Benjamin Harrison was President; his daughter Mary "Mamie" Scott Harrison McKee took over as hostess)
  • Ida Saxton McKinley 1847 
  • Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt 1861
  • Helen "Nellie" Louise Herron Taft 1861
  • Ellen Louise Axson Wilson 1860 (died while Woodrow Wilson was President; his daughter Margaret Woodrow Wilson took over as hostess)
  • Edith White Bolling Galt Wilson 1872 (married Woodrow Wilson while he was President)
  • Florence "Flossie" Mabel Kling DeWolfe Harding 1860
  • Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge 1879
  • Lou Henry Hoover 1874
  • Anna Eleanor Roosevelt 1884
  • Elizabeth "Bess" Virginia Wallace Truman 1885
  • Mamie Geneva Doud Eisenhower 1896
  • Jacqueline "Jackie" Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis 1929
  • Claudia "Lady Bird" Alta Taylor Johnson 1912
  • Thelma "Pat" Catherine Ryan Nixon 1912
  • Elizabeth "Betty" Ann Bloomer Warren Ford 1918
  • Eleanor Rosalynn Smith Carter 1927
  • Nancy Davis Reagan (born Anne "Nancy" Frances Robbins) 1921
  • Barbara Pierce Bush 1925
  • Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton 1947
  • Laura Lane Welch Bush 1946
  • Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama 1964

Just a few observations from this research...

  • If you consider the given names only, the most popular First Lady name is Elizabeth/Eliza (4). 
  • Contrary to what some may think, Pat Nixon's given name was not Patricia. It was Thelma; she was nicknamed "Pat" by her father who was going off of the fact she was born around St. Patrick's Day. 
  • There is speculation about how Dolley Madison spelled her name - historians have settled on Dolley, but Dolly is what newspapers used and Dollie may have been the spelling at birth. Her name was not Dorothy or Dorothea. 
  • Frances Cleveland was originally named Frank after an uncle, but it was soon changed to the feminine variant. 
  • Edith Kermit Roosevelt had a brother die in infancy a year before she was born - his name was Kermit. 
  • Lady Bird Johnson was named after her uncle Claud, but her nurse commented that she was a pretty "as a ladybird" and the name stuck. She was called Lady by her family, and her husband called her Bird. Bird is the name listed on her marriage license.

Any observations I missed? What are your favorite First Lady names?

Thanks to and Wikipedia for the info.


1 comment:

  1. My birthname was the same as a former First Lady, but I never liked it so I changed it in 1981.


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