Tags: Presidential History | first lady | John Tyler | Letitia

Letitia Tyler: The Causes That Defined President John Tyler's First Lady

By    |   Wednesday, 24 Jun 2015 04:49 PM

Letitia Christian Tyler served as first lady of the United States during the first 17 months of President John Tyler's term, until her death in 1842.

She was born Nov. 12, 1790, the daughter of Virginia House of Delegates member Colonel Robert Christian. She grew up not far from John Tyler, whom she married in 1790 after a five-year courtship, according to The National First Ladies' Library.

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The Tylers had eight children, and Letitia suffered a stroke in 1839, leaving her partially paralyzed, though she continued to supervise the family's slaves and maintain the homestead.

When her husband assumed the presidency following the death of William Henry Harrison, Letitia wasn't present at the swearing-in ceremony, but joined him several months later, along with members of their family.

As unelected officials, first ladies don't have specific responsibilities and are motivated based on their personal political, humanitarian and charitable pursuits. Because of her diminished capacity, Letitia Tyler supported charitable causes that helped the needy and sick. She donated money from her personal wealth to the less fortunate in Washington, D.C.

Tyler encouraged her family to enjoy the opportunities that came with being a presidential family, despite not being able to enjoy them herself. The ceremonial duties of the First Lady were performed by the Tyler's daughter-in-law, Priscilla Cooper Tyler and daughter Letitia Tyler Semple.

While Letitia took an interest in what went on in the White House, Priscilla Cooper Tyler was the physical presence, holding formal dinner parties twice a week and monthly parties for as many as a thousand people, according to C-Span.

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"She opened up the White House on New Year's Eve -- on New Year's, she opened up the White House on July 4 and she started the tradition of having the Marine Band perform in the South Lawn," Colonial Williamsburg Historian Taylor Stoermer told C-Span.

Letitia Tyler died in 1842. John Tyler re-married Julia Gardiner Tyler in 1844.

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Letitia Christian Tyler served as first lady of the United States during the first 17 months of President John Tyler's term, until her death in 1842.
first lady, John Tyler, Letitia
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2015-49-24
Wednesday, 24 Jun 2015 04:49 PM
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