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Julia Boggs Dent Grant

(1826 - 1902)

First Lady from March 4, 1869 to March 4, 1877

Julia Grant

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
Julia Grant

 

In office
March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1877
Preceded by Eliza McCardle Johnson
Succeeded by Lucy Webb Hayes

Born January 26, 1826
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Died December 14, 1902 (aged 76)
 
Spouse(s) Ulysses S. Grant
Relations Frederick Tracy Dent (brother)
Children Frederick Dent Grant
Ulysses S. Grant, Jr.
Ellen Wrenshall Grant
Jesse Root Grant
Occupation First Lady of the United States
Religion Methodist
Signature

Julia Boggs Dent-Grant (January 26, 1826 – December 14, 1902), was the wife of the 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, and was First Lady of the United States from 1869 to 1877.


 

Contents

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 Background

Born Julia Boggs Dent at White Haven plantation west of St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Colonel Frederick Dent, a slaveholding planter and merchant, and Ellen Wrenshall-Dent, Julia was rather plain in appearance and squinted through crossed eyes. In memoirs prepared late in life—unpublished until 1975—she pictured her girlhood as an idyll: "one long summer of sunshine, flowers, and smiles".

 Education

She attended the Misses Mauros' boarding school in St. Louis for seven years among the daughters of other affluent parents. She excelled in art and voice. A social favorite in that circle, she met "Ulys" at her home, where her family welcomed him as a West Point classmate of her brother Frederick; soon she felt lonely without him, dreamed of him, and agreed to wear his West Point ring.

 Engagement and Marriage to Grant

Grant proposed several times before Julia finally accepted. When she did, they were sitting on the front steps of her beloved childhood home, a picturesque plantation called White Haven. In 1844 the couple embarked on a four-year engagement, deferred by the Mexican-American War, during which they saw each other only once.

Ulysses Grant, aged 26, married Julia Dent, aged 22, on August 22, 1848 at White Haven plantation. Neither of their fathers approved the match - hers because as a career soldier, Grant's prospects seemed bleak; his because the Dents were slaveholders. Grant's parents refused to attend the wedding, though they did come to accept Julia.

Their marriage, often tried by adversity, met every test; they gave each other a life-long loyalty. Like other army wives, "dearest Julia" accompanied her husband to military posts, to pass uneventful days at distant garrisons. Then she returned to his parents' home in 1852 when he was ordered West.

The Grants had three sons and a daughter:

Ending that separation, Grant resigned his commission two years later. Farming and business ventures at St. Louis failed, and in 1860 he took his family back to his home in Galena, Illinois.

 Civil War

Grant was working in his father's leather goods store when the Civil War called him to a soldier's duty with his state's volunteers. Throughout the war, Julia joined her husband near the scene of action whenever she could.

Julia Grant with daughter Nellie, son Jesse, and her father Frederick Dent

Ulysses S Grant, Jr

Frederick Dent Grant in 1908

 First Lady

After so many years of hardship and stress, she rejoiced in his fame as a victorious general, and she entered theWhite House in 1869 to begin, in her words, "the happiest period" of her life. With Cabinet wives as her allies, she entertained extensively and lavishly. The social highlight of the Grant years was the White House wedding of their daughter in 1874. Contemporaries noted her finery, jewels, and silks and laces.

As First Lady it was suggested to her that she have an operation to correct her crossed eyes, but President Grant said that he liked her that way.

 After the Presidency

Upon leaving the White House in 1877, the Grants made a trip around the world that became a journey of triumphs. Julia proudly recalled details of hospitality and magnificent gifts they received. A highlight of the trip was an overnight stay and dinner hosted for them by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle in England. They also enjoyed a swing through the Far East, being cordially received at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo by the Emperor and Empress of Japan.

In 1884 Grant suffered yet another business failure and they lost all they had. To provide for his wife, Grant wrote his famous personal memoirs, racing with time and death from cancer. The means thus afforded and her widow's pension enabled her to live in comfort, surrounded by children and grandchildren, until her own death in 1902 at age 76.

She became the first First Lady to write a memoir, though she was unable to find a publisher, and she had been dead almost 75 years when her "The Personal Memoirs of Julia Dent Grant (Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant)" was finally published in 1975.

She had attended in 1897 the dedication of Grant's monumental tomb overlooking the Hudson River in New York City. She was laid to rest in asarcophagus beside her husband. She had ended her own chronicle of their years together with a firm declaration: the light of his glorious fame still reaches out to me, falls upon me, and warms me.


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