Tags: Presidential History | first lady | chester arthur

Ellen Arthur: The Causes That Defined President Chester Arthur's First Lady

By    |   Tuesday, 09 Jun 2015 10:34 AM

Ellen Arthur, wife of 21st U.S. president Chester Arthur, died of pneumonia in 1880, one year before her husband took office.

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Once elected, President Arthur would not formally give the title and roles of first lady to anyone else, though his sister, Mary Arthur McElroy often acted as a hostess.

Although Ellen was never able to take on the role of first lady, the causes for which she cared most were evident throughout her marriage with President Arthur.

Below are some of the causes she held most dear:

Family
As an only child with a rarely present father, Ellen had a close relationship with her mother and distant relatives.

During the civil war, Ellen feared for her relatives fighting for the Confederacy despite causing tension between her and her husband, who during this period reportedly called her his “little rebel wife.”

Ellen also convinced Chester to arrange for her to visit her relatives while they were imprisoned by the Union.

When Chester himself wanted to fight for the Union, Ellen would not allow it out of fear of him harming her relatives.

When Ellen’s mother died while visiting France, she willingly took to the seas to bring her mother's body stateside. Ellen and Chester Arthur had two sons, who died before the age of 3, and a daughter.

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Singing
Ellen was known for her singing voice, which strengthened her relationship with her mother and first attracted Chester, according to a biographical sketch of Ellen on firstladies.org.

Upon her death, Chester funded a stained-glass window in her memory in St. John’s Church near the White House where Ellen used to sing.

It is also believed that Ellen sang for Mendelssohn Glee Club, which sang to fundraise for charities. Because the group became all-male after the 1880s, there is little evidence beyond anecdotal evidence of Ellen’s involvement.

However, she is believed to have been at a charity event for the club the night before her death. 

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Ellen Arthur, wife of 21st U.S. president Chester Arthur, died of pneumonia in 1880, one year before her husband took office.
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Tuesday, 09 Jun 2015 10:34 AM
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