The White House has not only seen its fair share of great men walk its hallways, but also great women. We thought we might pay tribute to some of the leading First Ladies, highlighting some of their social and political contributions, as well as giving fun trivial tidbits. In addition to the sites listed below on individual First Ladies, you may also want to visit EdSitement’s “Remembering the Ladies” and the New York Times’ Leading Ladies lesson plans for supplementary material in the classroom. Additionally, White House 101 offers fun activities for students of all ages, covering topics from presidential facts to White House pets.
Martha Dandridge Custis Washington
Born: June 2, 1731
Passed Away: May 22, 1802
Married to George Washington, 1st President
First Lady from 1789 through 1797
Fun Factoid: Mrs. Washington supported the enlistment of colonial women to volunteer in the Continental Army, earning her the nickname Lady Washington.
- The White House
- National First Ladies’ Library
- Miller Center of Public Affairs
- The Washington Post
- History of American Women
Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams
Born: February 12, 1775
Passed Away: May 15, 1852
Married to John Quincy Adams, 6th President
First Lady from 1825 through 1829
Fun Factoid: Born in London, Mrs. Adams was the only First Lady born on foreign soil.
Ida Saxton McKinley
Born: June 8, 1847
Passed Away: May 26, 1907
Married to William McKinley, 25th President
First Lady from 1897 through1901
Fun Factoid: Because of her poor health, Mrs. McKinley would often knit bedroom slippers to raise money for local and national charities.
Helen Louise Herron Taft
Born: June 2, 1861
Passed Away: May 22, 1943
Married to William Howard Taft, 27th President
First Lady from 1909 through 1913
Fun Factoid: Upon arriving at the White House and assuming her new role as First Lady, Mrs. Taft replaced all of the ushers, who were all white men, with black men, a fairly brazen move at the time.
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis
Born: July 28, 1929
Passed Away: May 19, 1994
Married to John F. Kennedy, 35th President
First Lady from 1961 through 1963
Fun Factoid: A staunch preservationist, Mrs. Kennedy’s efforts contributed to saving historic homes in and around Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., as well as stopping Grand Central Station from being destroyed.