Summary

Birth:
28 Aug 1831 1
Chillicothe, OH 1
Death:
25 Jun 1889 1
Fremont, OH 1
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Personal Details

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Full Name:
Lucy Ware Webb Hayes 1
Also known as:
Lemonade Lucy, Wife of US President Rutherford B. Hayes 1
Birth:
28 Aug 1831 1
Chillicothe, OH 1
Female 1
Death:
25 Jun 1889 1
Fremont, OH 1
Cause: Stroke 1
Burial:
Burial Place: Rutherford Hayes Home, Fremont, OH 1
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Birth:
Mother: Maria Cook-Webb, 1
Father: Dr. James Webb 1
Marriage:
Rutherford Birchard Hayes 1
30 Dec 1852 1
Cincinnati OH 1
Spouse Death Date: 17 Jan 1893 1
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Occupation:
First Lady of the United States 1
Religion:
Methodist 1
Race or Ethnicity:
English 1
Education:
Institution: Ohio Wesleyan University 1
Place: Delaware, OH 1
From: 1847 1
To: 1850 1

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Stories

First Lady Lucy Hayes

By the time Lucy Ware Webb Hayes moved into the White House, the business of being First Lady was big news. She was the main beat for female journalists who had emerged in the late nineteenth century to challenge the male-dominated industry of reporting. Anxious to keep their jobs and to prove their worth and importance, female reporters increasingly devoted their time and energy to the most visible woman in America. By the third quarter of the nineteenth century, that woman was First Lady Lucy Hayes. And as a subject for journalists, Lucy did not disappoint.

 

Though Lucy Hayes was the first first lady to have a college education, journalists chose not to focus on this aspect of her background. Instead, hundreds of articles, cartoons, and poems were devoted to chronicling and parodying her opposition to drinking. She has been called "Lemonade Lucy" (by later generations not by contemporaries), but it was her husband who decided to ban alcohol from the White House. She was pleased by that decision, but although a member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), she opposed prohibition. She never drank, but wished to set a good example, and would rather persuade than prevent, refraining from condemning those who used alcohol in moderation. Her tolerance of temperate drinking at times angered ardent total abstainers, but the WCTU paid for a splendid portrait of Lucy by Daniel Huntington before she left the White House.

 

Lucy refused to adopt temperance as her special project and, in fact, declined to make any one issue her sole focus. As the First Lady of Ohio, Lucy had adopted war orphans, mental institutions, and reform schools as her projects. As First Lady of the United States, however, she rejected pleas from groups requesting her public support for a range of issues, committing herself instead to serving as a moral example to the nation.

 

Publicly, Lucy Hayes was a poster girl for clean living and high morals. Politically, she was her husband's silent partner, a dramatic change from the outspokenness of Julia Grant. Although it was the First Lady who encouraged the President to complete the monument to George Washington that had been started four decades earlier, she did not in any way become involved in the project. Nevertheless, though Lucy shied away from a politically visible presence, many believed she exerted a strong influence over her husband, not only on this issue but on others as well. It was a view Rutherford B. Hayes seemed to support when he commented, "I don't know how much influence Mrs. Hayes has with Congress, but she has great influence with me."

 

Although politically mute, Lucy Hayes was a visible social presence in her husband's administration. A skilled and experienced hostess, Lucy found formal events uncomfortable and adopted a more casual style that was reflected in the receptions she held during Washington's winter social season. She asked cabinet wives to help her hostess and urged guests to wear street clothes. During the holidays, she invited staff members and their families to Thanksgiving dinner and opened presents with them on Christmas morning. When Congress no longer allowed the Easter Egg Roll on the Capitol grounds, she offered the White House lawn as a permanent substitute.

 

Her social calendar also included concerts in the presidential mansion. Music was important to the First Lady and while famous musicians performed downstairs at White House events, informal "sings" occurred upstairs in the family quarters. Lucy sang and played the guitar, and was assisted by the talents of friends and family. At times, Secretary of the Interior Carl Schurz played the piano while Vice President William A. Wheeler, Secretary of the Treasury John Sherman, and his brother, Gen. William T. Sherman, joined in singing gospel songs.

 

If Lucy Hayes stopped short of organizing a White House band, she did not shrink from establishing a White House mini-zoo, conservatory, and First Lady Hall of Fame. Lucy was fond of animals, so much so that a cat, a bird, two dogs, and a goat joined the Hayes family in residence at the White House. She also loved flowers and plants, and had greenhouses built so she could pursue her passion for gardening. Ultimately growing to twelve in number, these buildings required upkeep amounting to twenty-five percent of the White House budget and a crew of ten. When presidential portraits were commissioned for the White House, Lucy insisted that paintings of both Martha Washington and Dolley Madison also grace the walls of the presidential mansion.

 

But in recognizing the history of her role, Lucy Hayes did more than hang a few pictures. During her tenure as First Lady, she visited with Sarah Polk and journeyed to Martha Washington's Mount Vernon and Dolley Madison's Montpelier. She asked Julia Tyler to help officiate at a White House reception and was friendly with former First Lady Julia Grant. If Lucy Hayes had a sense of her First Lady past, she was also friendly with women who would be future First Ladies, such as Lucretia Garfield, Ida McKinley, and Helen Herron Taft. In fact, Lucretia Garfield would become Lucy's successor when Rutherford B. Hayes declined to run for a second term.

 

Lucy Hayes was an extremely popular First Lady who set precedents for those who came after her. She was the first in her role to have a college education. She was the first presidential spouse to visit the West Coast while her husband was President. She was the first in her position to become the main beat for female journalists, many of whom used her stand on alcohol to sell newspapers. She was the first to make use of a typewriter, a telephone, and a phonograph while in office, and was also the first to enjoy a permanent system of running water in the White House. And while she was hardly the first to shape the actions of future First Ladies, she drew attention to the contributions of those who came before her, establishing their place of importance not only on the walls of the White House but in the history of the nation.

Lucy Ware Webb Hayes

There was no inaugural ball in 1877--when Rutherford B. Hayes and his wife, Lucy, left Ohio for Washington, the outcome of the election was still in doubt. Public fears had not subsided when it was settled in Hayes' favor; and when Lucy watched her husband take his oath of office at the Capitol, her serene and beautiful face impressed even cynical journalists.

She came to the White House well loved by many. Born in Chillicothe, Ohio, daughter of Maria Cook and Dr. James Webb, she lost her father at age two. She was just entering her teens when Mrs. Webb took her sons to the town of Delaware to enroll in the new Ohio Wesleyan University, but she began studying with its excellent instructors. She graduated from the Wesleyan Female College in Cincinnati at 18, unusually well educated for a young lady of her day.

"Rud" Hayes at 27 had set up a law practice in Cincinnati, and he began paying calls at the Webb home. References to Lucy appeared in his diary: "Her low sweet voice is very winning ... a heart as true as steel.... Intellect she has too.... By George! I am in love with her!" Married in 1852, they lived in Cincinnati until the Civil War, and he soon came to share her deeply religious opposition to slavery. Visits to relatives and vacation journeys broke the routine of a happy domestic life in a growing family. Over twenty years Lucy bore eight children, of whom five grew up.

She won the affectionate name of "Mother Lucy" from men of the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry who served under her husband's command in the war. They remembered her visits to camp--to minister to the wounded, cheer the homesick, and comfort the dying. Hayes' distinguished combat record earned him election to Congress, and three postwar terms as governor of Ohio. She not only joined him in Washington for its winter social season, she also accompanied him on visits to state reform schools, prisons, and asylums. As the popular first lady of her state, she gained experience in what a woman of her time aptly called "semi-public life."

Thus she entered the White House with confidence gained from her long and happy married life, her knowledge of political circles, her intelligence and culture, and her cheerful spirit. She enjoyed informal parties, and spared no effort to make official entertaining attractive. Though she was a temperance advocate and liquor was banned at the mansion during this administration, she was a very popular hostess. She took criticism of her views in good humor (the famous nickname "Lemonade Lucy" apparently came into use only after she had left the mansion). She became one of the best-loved women to preside over the White House, where the Hayeses celebrated their silver wedding anniversary in 1877, and an admirer hailed her as representing "the new woman era."

The Hayes term ended in 1881, and the family home was now "Spiegel Grove," an estate at Fremont, Ohio. There husband and wife spent eight active, contented years together until her death in 1889. She was buried in Fremont, mourned by her family and hosts of friends.

Lucy and Rutherford Hayes’ grave at Spiegel Grove.

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