These seven Presidents and First Ladies demonstrate that it takes a lot to make a marriage work at the White House, but as Grunwald and Adler explain in The Marriage Book, many of these marital issues are more common than we may believe. Take a leaf from their book and apply it to your own relationship. Then get ready for some eye-opening information on how many marriages end in divorce among the highest office holders in the country.
The history of marriage at the White House is very much a history of the nation's life. Each president has had his or her own view on what kind of marriage would be ideal for them, and they have acted on those views by hiring a new bride or groom for themselves. Some presidents have even chosen their wedding dates after taking the reins of power!
There have been several attempts made by presidents to strengthen their marriages by having other people act as mediators or counselors between them. Ulysses S. Grant was given this role by his wife, Hannah, who hired a woman named Eleanor Strobel to help them out. Grant and Hannah didn't always see things eye-to-eye, so using another person to help them resolve their differences made sense from their perspective.
Other presidents have chosen not to seek outside counsel when it comes to their marriages, which has sometimes led to their divorces being announced by others.
Divorce was not even considered until the 1980s. Several first ladies have died in the White House. However, the narrative of these men and their spouses serves as a reminder that the person with their finger on the button has a pulse as well. These are the presidents who have had several wives.
James K. Polk - He married Sarah Childress, but she died after only six months into her marriage to him. She was pregnant at the time of her death, and he had her buried next to him in Texas. Her death caused him to become severely ill, and he died less than a year later at the age of 42. He's believed to have been suffering from tuberculosis.
Andrew Johnson - He married Elizabeth Todd two days before his eighteenth birthday, and she gave birth to a son just five months later. The family lived together until her death in 1872. He then married Mrs. Julia Chaffin the following year, but they also only stayed together for a few years before splitting up. In 1880, he married Mrs. Mary Ellen Brown, but she died three years later. He had two more marriages last for a total of four years each.
Bill Clinton - He married Hillary Clinton in 1975, but they separated eight years later. They got back together in 2005 when she became Secretary of State, but they split again just over a year later. They remarried in 2009 after his presidency ended.
Grover Cleveland marries in the Oval Office. President Grover Cleveland married at the White House for the first time on June 2, 1886. Cleveland entered the White House as a single man and departed as a married man with two children. His new wife was a lovely young lady called Frances Folsom, who was 27 years his younger. They had met when she worked as a clerk in a store owned by one of his friends.
They were married for only seven months before he was elected to the presidency again. This time he did not marry anyone else but instead took a new wife named Louise Lorraine Allen. She was a beautiful young woman who was about 30 years old. They had met when she worked as a secretary in the New York State Senate where he was once again serving as governor.
In all, he married twice and took three wives into the White House. One died early and another was divorced by her husband. The third one still lives in Washington D.C. today. She is known as Mrs. McLean and is the daughter of a former U.S. Marshal. Her name is Linda Blanche Thompson and she is 93 years old.
Cleveland's marital affairs became so famous that they have been used in books, movies and other forms of media.
Beginning in 1812, there have been eighteen known marriages at the White House: Lucy Payne Washington (Dolley Madison's sister) marries Thomas Todd on the State Floor, most likely in the Blue Room, on March 29, 1812. Their only child dies in infancy, and they divorce two years later.
Next, on February 12, 1815, John Churchman II married Mary Ball Smith on the same floor. They too had a son who died in infancy. The couple divorced in 1816 when John moved to Maryland where he married another woman.
In 1841, President William Henry Harrison dies after only forty-nine days in office. His wife, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Gray Harrison, refuses to leave their home in Ohio and move to Washington, D.C., so a relative carries out the marriage of her and John Tyler III on the East Portico of the White House on April 4, 1841. They too have a son who dies in infancy.
In 1845, James K. Polk becomes the ninth president when he is elected on the Democratic Party ticket. On June 8, 1845, he is married to Mrs. Lucretia Chandler on the South Portico. The wedding ceremony is conducted by Senator Lewis Cass of Michigan. They too have three children who die in infancy.
A tiny fraction (6%) had even celebrated their golden (50th) wedding anniversary. This proportion is around 1 to 2 percentage points higher than in 1996, suggesting both a leveling of divorce rates and improvements in life expectancy. Both spouses were in their first marriage for the majority of couples (72 percent).
The same is true for chiefs of state and kings, which is why it would be interesting to learn which US presidents married several times and under what conditions. President John Tyler was the first US President to marry more than once, and he was also the first to marry while in office.