19 Apr 1832 1
Hiram, OH 1
14 Mar 1918 1
South Pasadena, CA 1

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Personal Details

Full Name:
Lucretia Rudolph-Garfield 1
Also known as:
Mrs James Garfield, Crete 1
19 Apr 1832 1
Hiram, OH 1
Female 1
14 Mar 1918 1
South Pasadena, CA 1
Cause: Natural Causes 1
Mother: Arabella Mason-Rudolph, 1
Father: Zeb Rudolph 1
James Abram Garfield 1
11 Nov 1858 1
Spouse Death Date: 19 Sep 1881 1
First Lady of the United States 1
Disciples of Christ 1
Race or Ethnicity:
German, Welsh, English and Irish 1
Position: First Lady of the United States 1
Place: Washington D.C. 1
Start Date: 04 Mar 1881 1
End Date: 19 Sep 1881 1
Employer: Hiram College 1
Position: Teacher 1
Place: Hiram OH 1
Start Date: 1855 1
End Date: 1857 1
Institution: Hiram College 1
Place: Hiram OH 1
From: 1851 1
To: 1855 1

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Lucretia Rudolph-Garfield

In the fond eyes of her husband, President James A. Garfield, Lucretia "grows up to every new emergency with fine tact and faultless taste." She proved this in the eyes of the nation, though she was always a reserved, self-contained woman. She flatly refused to pose for a campaign photograph, and much preferred a literary circle or informal party to a state reception.

Her love of learning she acquired from her father, Zeb Rudolph, a leading citizen of Hiram, Ohio, and devout member of the Disciples of Christ. She first met "Jim" Garfield when both attended a nearby school, and they renewed their friendship in 1851 as students at the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, founded by the Disciples.

But "Crete" did not attract his special attention until December 1853, when he began a rather cautious courtship, and they did not marry until November 1858, when he was well launched on his career as a teacher. His service in the Union Army from 1861 to 1863 kept them apart; their first child, a daughter, died in 1863. But after his first lonely winter in Washington as a freshman Representative, the family remained together. With a home in the capital as well as one in Ohio they enjoyed a happy domestic life. A two-year-old son died in 1876, but five children grew up healthy and promising; with the passage of time, Lucretia became more and more her husband's companion.

In Washington they shared intellectual interests with congenial friends; she went with him to meetings of a locally celebrated literary society. They read together, made social calls together, dined with each other and traveled in company until by 1880 they were as nearly inseparable as his career permitted.

Garfield's election to the Presidency brought a cheerful family to the White House in 1881. Though Mrs. Garfield was not particularly interested in a First Lady's social duties, she was deeply conscientious and her genuine hospitality made her dinners and twice-weekly receptions enjoyable. At the age of 49 she was still a slender, graceful little woman with clear dark eyes, her brown hair beginning to show traces of silver.

In May she fell gravely ill, apparently from malaria and nervous exhaustion, to her husband's profound distress. "When you are sick," he had written her seven years earlier, "I am like the inhabitants of countries visited by earthquakes." She was still a convalescent, at a seaside resort in New Jersey, when he was shot by a demented assassin on July 2. She returned to Washington by special train--"frail, fatigued, desperate," reported an eyewitness at the White House, "but firm and quiet and full of purpose to save."

During the three months her husband fought for his life, her grief, devotion, and fortitude won the respect and sympathy of the country. In September, after his death, the bereaved family went home to their farm in Ohio. For another 36 years she led a strictly private but busy and comfortable life, active in preserving the records of her husband's career. She died on March 14, 1918.

Lucretia Rudolph-Garfield

Lucretia Rudolph married James A. Garfield in 1858 and became First Lady of the United States in 1881.

She was born on April 19, 1832, in Garrettsville, Ohio. Her parents firmly believed in the importance of education, and insisted that their daughter attend school. Although Lucretia Garfield was a sickly child, she received a thorough education. She attended the Geauga Seminary in Chesterland, Ohio, where she met her future husband, James A. Garfield. At this institution, Rudolph studied history, mathematics, Latin, Greek, and English. In 1850, she enrolled in the Western Reserve Eclectic College (modern-day Hiram College). Her father helped found this institution. She developed a relationship with Garfield at this school that continued by mail when Garfield transferred to Williams College in Massachusetts in 1853.

In 1854, Rudolph graduated from the Western Reserve Eclectic College and became a teacher. Rudolph continued to write Garfield. In 1858, he finally proposed and they were married. Their relationship was a difficult one. Lucretia Garfield was very shy, and she had difficulty expressing her love to her husband in person. James Garfield became exasperated on numerous occasions, wishing that his wife would be as outgoing in person as she was in her letters. Lucretia Garfield once wrote that, in her first six years of marriage, she only saw her husband for six weeks. James Garfield's participation in the Union Army during the American Civil War and his political career led to his absences from home. By 1870, Lucretia Garfield had succeeded in overcoming her shyness with her husband, and the couple's relationship became a truly loving one.

Lucretia Garfield dearly loved her husband, but she disliked his political career. She hated to be thrust into the spotlight, and strongly opposed James Garfield's election as President of the United States in 1880. Nevertheless, she was one of her husband's most trusted advisors while he served as a Representative of Ohio in Congress and then as President of the United States. During early 1881, James dispatched Lucretia to New York City to discuss potential cabinet nominations with Roscoe Conkling, a powerful member of the Republican Party. While in New York, Lucretia Garfield assumed the name "Mrs. Greenfield" to conceal her true identity.

As First Lady, Lucretia Garfield began to compile an extensive list of White House furnishings. However, In May 1881, she contracted malaria and was not able to complete the project. While recovering from her illness, she left Washington, DC for Elberton, New Jersey. Doctors hoped that the climate there would speed her recovery. On July 2, 1881, while Lucretia Garfield was away, her husband was shot by Charles Guiteau. She immediately returned to the nation's capital and arranged for her husband to be transported with her to New Jersey. She was a caring nurse, but her efforts were in vain. James Garfield died on September 19, 1881.

Lucretia Garfield retired to the Garfield home, Lawnfield, in Mentor, Ohio. She would move to Pasadena, California in 1901. She remained active in politics and participated in the Progressive Movement. Her original political allegiance belonged to the Republican Party of her husband, but by the time of her death, she had switched her affiliation to the Democratic Party. She strongly supported United States involvement in the Spanish-American War and in World War I and rolled bandages for soldiers during both of these conflicts. Lucretia Garfield died on March 14, 1918.


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