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Sarah Angelica Singleton, better known as Angelica, was born in Wedgefield, South Carolina, on February 13, 1816, to mother Rebecca Travis Coles and father Richard Singleton.1 She grew up on their South Carolina plantation. As a young woman, she received a robust education, studying at Madame Grelaud’s Seminary in Philadelphia.2

While staying in Washington, D.C., her relative by marriage, Dolley Madison, introduced her to President Martin Van Buren’s son, Abraham.3 On November 27, 1838, Abraham Van Buren married Angelica at her father’s plantation in Sumter County.

Because Martin Van Buren never remarried after his wife, Hannah, died on February 5, 1819, Angelica filled the role of first lady in Van Buren’s White House. She presided over the annual New Year’s Day reception and many other social gatherings at the Executive Mansion during her father-in-law’s presidency.4 Unfortunately, while in the White House the Van Burens lost their first child, Rebecca.5

In later years, though they spent time traveling and managing her father’s South Carolina plantation, Angelica and her husband made their home in New York City. They also welcomed three sons to their family after leaving the White House: Singleton, Martin, and Travis Coles.6

Angelica died on December 29, 1877, and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.7

Footnotes & Resources

  1. Some sources list 1818 as Angelica’s year of birth, but census data, as well as her gravestone, indicate that 1816 is the correct year. “Angelica Singleton Van Buren Collection,” South Carolina Digital Library,; 1860 Federal Census, The National Archives in Washington D.C.; Record Group: Records of the Bureau of the Census; Record Group Number: 29; Series Number: M653; Residence Date: 1860; Home in 1860: New York Ward 18 District 3, New York, New York; Roll: M653_813; Page: 850; Family History Library Film: 803813.
  2. Katherine A. S. Sibley, A Companion to First Ladies (West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2016), 131.
  3. Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, First Ladies of the United States (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, 2020), 70.
  4. “New Years Day in Washington,” Litchfield Inquirer, January 10, 1839, pg. 2,
  5. “Abraham Van Buren,” NPS,
  6. Ibid.
  7. “Angelica Singleton Van Buren,” Find a Grave,