Tags: Presidential History | first lady | james buchanan

Harriet Lane: The Causes That Defined President James Buchanan's First Lady

By    |   Tuesday, 09 Jun 2015 09:06 AM

Harriet Lane, niece and acting first lady of 15th president James Buchanan, did not allow her unusual status as first lady to her uncle hinder her passions for the causes for which she cared most.

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Her official title in Washington was ‘hostess’ to the only bachelor U.S. president.  She was also known as the ‘Democratic Queen’ because of her beauty and poise, and because Queen Victoria had awarded her with the rank of ambassador’s wife while her uncle served as minister to the Court of St. James in 1854.

Below are some of the causes for which Lane cared most:

Child Care
Harriet became an orphan at the age of 11 years old, causing her to be sympathetic for less fortunate children. In her death, Lane left over $400,000 to Johns Hopkins Hospital in memory of her two sons who had died during childhood to develop the Harriet Lane Home for Invalid Children. The home eventually became the Harriet Lane Clinic, which still remains a leading pediatric care center in Baltimore.

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Fine Arts
As a result of her time in Europe, Lane grew to greatly admire European art. She eventually accumulated a significant collection of works and, wanting to share her love of art with others, lobbied for 1846 legislation that established the National Gallery of Art. Today Lane is listed as and early patron of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Concern for Human Welfare
Serving as first lady in the years leading up to the American Civil War, Lane supported her uncle’s unionist views though she was quietly against slavery, which she once referred to as a “peculiar institution.” Additionally, her love for the fine arts gave her an appreciation for Native American art and culture. Lane advocated for Native American medical and educational needs and became known as the “Great Mother of the Indians” to the Chippewa Nation.

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Harriet Lane, niece and acting first lady of 15th president James Buchanan, did not allow her unusual status as first lady to her uncle hinder her passions for the causes for which she cared most.
first lady, james buchanan
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2015-06-09
Tuesday, 09 Jun 2015 09:06 AM
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