Letitia Tyler had been confined to an invalid's chair for two years when her husband unexpectedly became president. After taking the oath of office as vice president in 1841, John had planned to fill his duties from his home in Williamsburg where Letitia was most comfortable, her Bible, prayer book, and knitting at her side.
Born on a Tidewater Virginia plantation in 1790, Letitia received no formal education, but she learned all the skills of managing a plantation, rearing a family, and presiding over a home that would be John Tyler's refuge during an active political life. They were married on March 29, 1813. Thereafter, whether he served in Congress or as governor of Virginia, she attended to domestic duties. Only once did she join him for the winter social season in Washington. Of the eight children she bore, seven survived; but after 1839 she was a cripple, though "still beautiful now in her declining years."
Her daughter-in-law, Pricilla, described her as, "the most entirely unselfish person you can imagine.... Notwithstanding her very delicate health, mother attends to and regulates all the household affairs and all so quietly that you can't tell when she does it."
In a second-floor room at the White House, Letitia Tyler kept her quiet but pivotal role in family activities. She did not take part in the social affairs of the administration. Priscilla, at age 24, assumed the position of White House hostess. She met its demands with spirit and success, and enjoyed it. Daughter of a well-known tragedian, Priscilla Cooper had won the interest of Robert Tyler, whom she married in 1839. Intelligent and beautiful, with dark brown hair, she charmed the president's guests. Pricilla enjoyed the expert advice of Dolley Madison, and the companionship of her young sister-in-law Elizabeth.
You Might Also Like
Collection Animal Ambassadors
Animals, whether pampered household pets, working livestock, birds, squirrels, or strays, have long been a major part of White House...
Collection The First Ladies
Biographies & Portraits
Collection Cherry Blossoms
Since the first cherry blossom planting in 1912 by First Lady Helen Herron Taft, Washingtonians have celebrated the scenic beauty and...
Collection The Presidents
Biographies & Portraits
Bio Julia Grant
Quite naturally, shy Lieutenant Grant lost his heart to friendly Julia Dent, and made his love known, as he later...
Bio Julia Tyler
Born in 1820, Julia Gardiner by the age of 20 was already famous as the "Rose of Long Island." Descended from prominent...
Bio Claudia Johnson
Christened Claudia Alta Taylor when she was born in near Karnack, Texas, in 1912, she received her nickname as a small...
Bio Hannah Van Buren
Cousins in a close-knit Dutch community, Hannah Hoes and Martin Van Buren grew up together in Kinderhook, New York. They...
Bio Angelica Van Buren
Martin Van Buren never remarried after his wife, Hannah, died on February 5, 1819. He entered the White House in 1837 as a...
Bio Abigail Powers Fillmore
First of the first ladies to hold a job after marriage, Abigail Fillmore was helping her husband's career. She was...
Bio Patricia Nixon
Born Thelma Catherine Ryan on March 16, 1912, in Ely, Nevada, "Pat" Nixon acquired her nickname within hours. Her father called her...
Bio Nancy Reagan
"My life really began when I married my husband," says Nancy Reagan, who happily left an acting career for a...