There was no inaugural ball in 1877. When Rutherford B. Hayes and his wife left Ohio for Washington, the outcome of the election was still in doubt. When it was settled in his favor, Lucy Hayes watched her husband take his oath of office at the Capitol, her serene and beautiful face impressing even cynical journalists.
Lucy came to the White House well loved by many. Born in Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1831, she lost her father at age two. She was just entering her teens when her mother took her brothers to the town of Delaware to enroll in the new Ohio Wesleyan University. Lucy began studying with its excellent instructors, and graduated from the Wesleyan Female College in Cincinnati at 18, unusually well educated for a young lady of her day.
"Rud" Hayes had set up a law practice in Cincinnati, and began paying calls at the Webb home. References to Lucy appeared in his diary: "Her low sweet voice is very winning ... a heart as true as steel.... Intellect she has too.... By George! I am in love with her!" Married in 1852, they lived in Cincinnati until the Civil War, and he soon came to share her deeply religious opposition to slavery. Over 20 years Lucy bore eight children, of whom five grew up.
She won the affectionate name of "Mother Lucy" from men of the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry who served under her husband in the Civil War. She ministered to the wounded, cheered the homesick and comforted the dying. When Hayes became governor of Ohio, Lucy accompanied him on visits to state reform schools, prisons and asylums, gaining experience in what a woman of her time aptly called "semi-public life."
Lucy entered the White House with confidence. An admirer hailed her as representing "the new woman era." Although she was a temperance advocate and liquor was banned at the mansion during this administration, she took criticism of her views in good humor to become one of the best-loved hostesses to preside over the White House. She and the president celebrated their silver wedding anniversary there in 1877.
The Hayes term ended in 1881, and the family moved to "Spiegel Grove," their estate at Fremont, Ohio. Husband and wife spent eight active, contented years together until her death in 1889. Lucy was buried in Fremont, mourned by her family and hosts of friends.
You Might Also Like
Collection White House Women
While there has yet to be a female president, women have played an integral role in shaping the White House...
Collection Slavery in the President's Neighborhood
Many people think of the White House as a symbol of democracy, but it also embodies America’s complicated past an...
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 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 The Presidents
Biographies & Portraits
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 Elizabeth Truman
Whistle-stopping in 1948, President Truman often ended his talk by introducing his wife as "the Boss" and his daughter, Margaret, as "...
Bio Martha Washington
Born on June 2, 1731, Martha Dandridge was raised by a prominent family in New Kent County, Virginia. She was taught to...
Bio Betty Ford
In 25 years of political life, Betty Ford did not expect to become first lady. As wife of Representative Gerald R....
Bio Frances Cleveland
"I detest him so much that I don't even think his wife is beautiful," said one of President Grover Cleveland's...
Bio Dolley Madison
For half a century she was the most important woman in the social circles of America. To this day she...