On Thursday, April 4, 2019, Dr. Katie Sibley will join LancasterHistory to discuss the “other women” of the White House: First Ladies never married to presidents. Beginning with Martha Jefferson Randolph, Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, there have been a handful of “surrogate First Ladies” who have performed the duties of White House hostess while not being married to the president. Even when these women are acknowledged as “surrogate First Ladies,” they are often not granted the value or respect of official First Ladies, though many served important roles in presidential administrations.
Perhaps most notable to the lineup of surrogate First Ladies is Harriet Lane, niece of President James Buchanan, who is the only woman who was not married to a president that is considered an “official” First Lady. Harriet Lane acted as Buchanan’s hostess and was a highly visible public figure. Other non-spousal relatives, including Emily Donelson and Sarah Yorke Jackson (Andrew Jackson’s niece and daughter-in-law, respectively), Angelica Singleton Van Buren (Martin Van Buren’s daughter-in-law), and Rose Elizabeth Cleveland (Grover Cleveland’s sister), took on the duties of First Lady.