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Eliza McCardle Johnson 1810 ~ 1876


Eliza McCardle Johnson

Eliza McCardle, wife of Andrew Johnson, was the daughter of a widow. She was a beautiful girl who had had some opportunities of education and was considered quite an advanced scholar. She was married to Mr. Johnson when seventeen years of age and entered with much enthusiasm upon the labor of assisting him in the acquirement of his ambition. He was a poor boy, his chief capital consisting of high aspirations and indomitable energy. While he was struggling with poverty as a tailor his loyal wife knew no abatement in her energy and vigilance in taking advantage of every opportunity to advance her husband's fortunes. They resided in Greenville, Tennessee, near a college, and the intercourse with the students in the college served to keep alive Mr. Johnson's eagerness for the acquisition of an education. Mrs. Johnson being very popular with these young students, they made many visits to their modest but hospitable home where, without knowing it they aided Mr. and Mrs. Johnson in their educational desires. They continued this struggle for many years with more or less success.

Mr. Johnson being a member of the Tennessee legislature at the time of the breaking out of the Civil War he was most active as a Unionist and was subsequently elected to the Senate of the United States. Mrs. Johnson came to Washington in the spring of '61 to be with her husband during the sessions of the Senate. During the rebellion they had very trying experiences, as they were the victims of the vengeance of the Confederates. Through it all, however, Mrs. Johnson managed to command the respect and protection of the officers of the Confederate and Union armies, but Mr. Johnson dared not return to Tennessee. She displayed marvelous ability and diplomacy in her efforts to protect her family.

The Convention of 1864 nominated Andrew Johnson for the vice-presidency on the ticket with Mr. Lincoln. In March, 1865, Mr. Johnson left his family in Nashville and came to Washington. The world knows of the assassination of Mr. Lincoln on the 14th of April, 1865, and of the promotion of Mr. Johnson from the vice-presidency to the presidency. It was with many forebodings and little enthusiasm that Mrs. Johnson came to the White House as its mistress.

Her health was very much broken and as a result her daughters, Mrs. Patterson and Mrs. Stover accompanied her and were soon installed as the ladies of the executive mansion. Mrs. Johnson was a confirmed invalid, and was unable even to appear at any social function, but Mrs. Patterson and Mrs. Stover were quite equal to the duties of conducting the affairs of the White House. Mrs. Patterson's husband was a member of the Senate and she had been accustomed to the society of the Capital, but it seemed that the shadows which had gathered over the White House after the assassination of Mr. Lincoln were not to be dispelled during Mrs. Johnson's occupancy of the executive mansion. On account of the impeachment trial of Mr. Johnson their last days in the White House were those of intense grief and anxiety. After their return to Greenville, Mr. Johnson became a candidate for the Senate as successor to Mr. Brownlow. He was defeated, but his indomitable will caused him to become a candidate the second time, when he was successfully elected and took his seat at the beginning of the session, December, 1874. He occupied that position during the extraordinary session which followed, when he made a speech of great importance to himself in vindication of his course as President of the United States. This speech was of such a personal character that it is of great doubt whether it should have been made or not. Returning home in midsummer, he was stricken with illness and on the morning of the 31st of July, 1875, he died in the home of his youngest daughter near Greenville, Tennessee.

Mrs. Johnson survived him but six months and died at the home of her eldest daughter, Mrs. Patterson, on the 13th of January, 1876. She was buried beside her husband. Their children have erected a magnificent monument to the memory of Andrew and Eliza Johnson. Mrs. Johnson was a noble woman and lived a life of self-denial and self-sacrifice.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.


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