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Lucy Webb Hayes 1831 ~ 1889


Lucy Webb Hayes

Lucy Webb Hayes was born in Chillicothe, when it was the capital of Ohio. She was the daughter of Dr. James Webb and the granddaughter of Dr. Isaac Cook. The Webbs were natives of North Carolina. Her father died of cholera in 1833, in Lexington, Kentucky, where he had gone to complete the arrangements for sending slaves, whom his father and himself had set free, to Liberia. After the death of her father her mother removed to Delaware, Ohio, in order to be near the Western University, where her sons were educated. Mrs. Hayes pursued her studies and recited with her brothers to the college instructors, by whom she was prepared for the Western Female College at Cincinnati, entering that institution at the same time that her brothers entered the medical college.

Mrs. Hayes was very fortunate in having a home in Ohio, which was among the first states to advocate the equal education of men and women. She was a great favorite of Rev. and Mrs. T. B. Wilbur, the principals of the college. She was a devout member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, following in that respect closely in the footsteps of her mother. It was while she was a student that she met Rutherford B. Hayes. They were married December 20, 1852. Mrs. Hayes' chief characteristics were her womanly and wifely qualities and devotion to her religion.

Rutherford B. Hayes was a graduate of Kenyon College and of the Cambridge Law School. He practiced law before the Supreme Court of Ohio and established himself at Fremont, Ohio, but subsequently removed to Cincinnati, where he remained for many years. He was made city attorney twice. At the outbreak of the Civil War he volunteered in the 23rd Ohio Regiment (Infantry) and was subsequently made major of the regiment of which General Rosecrans was colonel and the late Stanley Matthews was the lieutenant-colonel. They were assigned to the army of the Potomac. He was four times wounded and served to the close of the war notwithstanding the fact that he was urged to enter politics. Mrs. Hayes spent two summers and a winter taking care of her husband and his soldiers in the field. After his return from the service he was twice elected to Congress, after which he was made Governor of Ohio and they occupied the executive mansion at Columbus.

Mrs. Hayes made a national reputation by her pre-eminently social qualities while occupying the executive mansion at Columbus. She seemed to feel that a state or national executive mansion belonged to the people of the state and the nation and she threw open the doors of the executive mansions in Columbus and Washington on all occasions that it was proper that she should extend their hospitality to the people, or to distinguished visitors from other lands. She worked with earnestness as the wife of the Governor in the interest of the charities of the state, and was one of the most popular women of her day. Mrs. Hayes was probably one of the most highly intellectual and accomplished of the women who have ever graced the White House and was at the same time the most cordial, unaffected and genial. She had been the idol of the soldiers during the war, as well as of the people of Ohio, and when she came to Washington there was great solicitude as to whether she was worthy of her universal popularity, and people waited with impatience for her first reception. Those who attended that reception went away enthusiastic in their praises of her. While she could not be called a beautiful woman, she had a most attractive face, very bright and expressive eyes and beautiful black hair. She had wonderful health and would not admit that she experienced any fatigue, although she gave more receptions and social entertainments than any occupant of the White House.

There were very many illustrious men in this country when President and Mrs. Hayes were in the White House, and it was her pleasure to make everyone feel at home, and few who called to pay their respects failed to go away without singing her praises. The poorest person who sought alms at the White House was not denied some recognition. She was passionately fond of flowers and there was a profusion of flowers in the White House on every occasion. She created a sensation when she decided not to serve wine on the President's table during their residence in the White House. The adverse criticisms made no impression whatever upon her. She would not discuss the subject, but persisted in her decision, and many time since persons have wished that her example might have been followed by her successors.

She was very much interested in the missionary cause, and there is in Washington the Lucy Webb Hayes Home for Deaconesses and retired missionaries, which was named in her honor. A life-sized portrait of Mrs. Hayes by Huntington, was placed in the White House by the Temperance Women of this country. No passing of a Mistress of the White House was more sincerely regretted than was that of Mrs. Hayes, and no one has been more sincerely missed since her untimely death at Fremont, Ohio, in 1889.

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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