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Lucretia Rudolph-Garfield (April
19, 1832 – March 14, 1918), wife of James
A. Garfield, was First
Lady of the United States in
Born in Hiram,
Ohio, the daughter of Zebulon Rudolph,
a farmer and co-founder of the Eclectic Institute at Hiram, and Arabella Mason-Rudolph,
Lucretia "Crete" Rudolph was a devout member of the Disciples
of Christ church.
She first met James Garfield in 1849 when they were classmates at Geauga
Seminary in Chester,
Ohio, and followed him to the Eclectic Institute, where they began dating.
She was somewhat plain in appearance, but Garfield was attracted to her keen
intellect and appetite for knowledge. While Garfield went on to Williams
College, she taught school in Cleveland,
Ohio and Bayou, Ohio. They had
planned to marry on his graduation in 1856, but decided to postpone the
wedding for a couple of years until he was earning more money.
Both James and Crete were 26-years when they married on November 11, 1858 at
the home of the bride's parents in Hiram. Although both were Disciples of
Christ, the nuptials were performed by Henry Hitchcock, a Presbyterian minister.
The newlyweds did not take a honeymoon but instead set up housekeeping
immediately in Hiram.
His service in the Union
Army from 1861 to 1863 kept
them apart. But after his first winter in Washington as a freshman
Representative, the family remained together. With a home in the capital as
well as one (Lawnfield)
Ohio, they enjoyed a happy domestic life.
D.C. they shared intellectual
interests with congenial friends; she went with him to meetings of a locally
celebrated literary society. They read together, made social calls together,
dined with each other, and traveled in company until by 1880 they were as
nearly inseparable as his career permitted.
The Garfields had four sons and a daughter to live to maturity:
Harry Augustus Garfield (1863-1942)
- lawyer, educator, public official.
James Rudolph Garfield (1865-1950)
- lawyer, public official.
- Mary "Mollie" Garfield Stanley-Brown (1867-1947).
Educated at private schools in Cleveland and Connecticut, she in 1888
married Joseph Stanley-Brown, presidential secretary during Garfield's term,
later an investment banker. She lived in New York and Pasadena, CA.
- Irvin McDowell Garfield (1870-1951)
- lawyer. He followed his older brothers to Williams College andColumbia
Law School. He settled in Boston, where he prospered as partner in the
firm of Warren & Garfield and served on the boards of directors of several
- Abram Garfield (1872-1958)
- architect. A graduate of Williams College and Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, he settled in Cleveland, where he worked as an
architect from offices in the James A. Garfield Building. He served as
chairman of the Cleveland Planning Commission 1929-1942 and was active in
Institute of Architects.
Lady of the United States
Garfield's election to the presidency brought a cheerful family to the White
House in 1881. Though Mrs.
Garfield was not particularly interested in a First Lady's social duties, she
was deeply conscientious and her genuine hospitality made her dinners and
twice-weekly receptions enjoyable. At the age of 49 she was still a slender,
graceful little woman with clear dark eyes, her brown hair beginning to show
traces of silver.
As First Lady, Mrs. Garfield researched the history of the White House
furnishings with a view to restoring it to its former glory, but she
contracted malaria and
was unable to pursue the project.
She was still a convalescent, at Elberon,
a seaside resort in New
Jersey, when her husband was shot by Charles
Guiteau on July 2 at a railway
station in Washington. The President was actually planning to take a train
north to New Jersey that same day in order to meet his wife, before continuing
on to a function at his former college in Massachusetts. The First Lady
hurriedly returned to Washington by special train -- "frail, fatigued,
desperate," reported an eyewitness at the White House, "but firm and quiet and
full of purpose to save." As her train raced south, it was speeding so fast
that the engine broke a piston in Bowie,
Maryland and nearly derailed.
Mrs. Garfield was thrown from her seat, but not injured. After an anxious
delay, she reached the White House and immediately went to her husband's
During the three months that the President fought for his life, her grief and
devotion won the respect and sympathy of the country. On the night of
Garfield's death, according to the doctor, she exclaimed, "Oh, why am I made
to suffer this cruel wrong?" After his death and funeral, the bereaved family
went home to their farm in northern Ohio. For another 36 years she led a
strictly private, but busy and comfortable life, active in preserving the
records of her husband's career. She created a wing to the home that became a
presidential library of his papers.
Life and Death
She lived comfortably on a $350,000 trust fund raised for her and the Garfield
children by financier Cyrus
W. Field. She spent winters in South Pasadena, where she built a home
designed by the celebrated architects Greene
and Greene to whom she was
distantly related. She died at her home in South
Pasadena, California on March
14, 1918. Her casket was placed above ground beside the coffin of her husband
in the lower level crypt of the presidential tomb at Lake
View Cemetery in Cleveland,