This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post on Famous NotMoms who’ve written some of the world’s most endearing children’s books. Today’s category? the White House! America has elected seven Presidents without children. But, that stat represents just three childless First Ladies.
President James Buchanan never married. Presidents George Washington and James Madison never had children, either, though Martha Dandridge Custis Washington, the first First Lady, and Dolley Madison, had several from previous marriages. Rachel and President Andrew Jackson adopted a nephew years before she died just days before his inauguration.
The most recent First Lady NotMom was Florence Harding (above left), wife of President Warren G., in office 1921-1923. Could a child-free family meet approval with today’s voters? It’d have to be a heck of a candidate.
The three First Ladies without children share more than just an empty cradle. They rock.
From Ms. Harding’s White House biography:
“She herself suffered from a chronic kidney ailment, but she threw herself into the job of First Lady with energy and willpower… The President and his wife relaxed at poker parties in the White House library, where liquor was available although the Eighteenth Amendment made it illegal.”
Did you catch that? HER parties had alcohol when the rest of the country couldn’t. Party girl.
The other First Ladies without children are:
Sarah Polk, wife of President James K. (in office 1845 to 1849). From her White House biography:
“In an age when motherhood gave a woman her only acknowledged career, Sarah Polk had to resign herself to childlessness. Moreover, no lady would admit to a political role of her own, but Mrs. Polk found scope for her astute mind as well as her social skills. She accompanied her husband to Washington whenever she could, and they soon won a place in its most select social circles. Constantly–but privately–Sarah was helping him with his speeches, copying his correspondence, giving him advice.”
Edith Wilson, second wife of President Woodrow (in office 1913 to 1921). From her White House biography:
“Secret President,” “first woman to run the government” — so legend has labeled a First Lady whose role gained unusual significance when her husband suffered prolonged and disabling illness. A happy, protected childhood and first marriage had prepared Edith Wilson for the duties of helpmate and hostess; widowhood had taught her something of business matters.