Tags: Presidential History | first lady | Millard Fillmore | Abigail

Abigail Fillmore: The Causes That Defined President Millard Fillmore's First Lady

By    |   Thursday, 25 June 2015 03:27 PM

Abigail Powers Fillmore, first lady during the 13th presidency of the United States, grew up with an insatiable love of reading and learning. As a girl in Stillwater, New York, she spent hours in her father's library, and later helped establish a library in her childhood hometown.

Her passion for education led to her becoming a teacher. In that capacity she would meet and eventually marry a student two years her junior, Millard Fillmore, according to The Miller Center.

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When Fillmore rose within the ranks to become president following the death of Zachary Taylor, Abigail Fillmore brought her intellectual verve to politics to Washington, D.C. and championed the idea that people should enhance their knowledge.

Though the extent of her actual involvement is unclear, Abigail was an important advocate for the establishment of a library in the presidential mansion. Millard Fillmore received the appropriate funds, and Abigail spent months selecting hundreds of books.

The National First Ladies' Library gives a more detailed account
of the process, while crediting Abigail with being involved on some level. In any event, her belief in intellectual pursuits and equality likely meant that she supported the principles of the 1845 Seneca Falls Women's Rights convention, which had been organized by women to shine a light on the unfair treatment of women, according to History of American Women.

Once established, the library also served as a meeting place for intimate musical gatherings and political debates. Abigail also called on well-known speakers and performers to entertain guests.

Abigail opposed slavery and urged her husband to veto the Fugitive Slave Law, which called for escaped slaves to be returned to their owners, even if they crossed into a free state. He did sign it, however, and was punished by the Whig Party when he wasn't nominated for re-election.

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She is credited with convincing Millard Fillmore to end the practice of flogging in the U.S. Navy, according to The National First Ladies Library, citing Fillmore biographer William Elliott Griffis.

One thing Abigail didn't care as much for were the many social responsibilities of being first lady, so she enlisted the help of her daughter, Mary Abigail "Abby" Fillmore to serve as hostess. The young girl spoke French, German, Italian and Spanish, and played harp, guitar and piano.

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Abigail Powers Fillmore, first lady during the 13th presidency of the United States, grew up with an insatiable love of reading and learning.
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Thursday, 25 June 2015 03:27 PM
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