“Since that day of wind and storm and sunshine when we entered the dismal White House to take the places left by President Hayes’ family, an age of bitter sorrow to me has intervened…”.
Lucretia Garfield was just the second First Lady to receive a college degree. She prepared for college at Geauga Seminary, where she was a boarding student and took a course of study that focused on Greek and Latin, and also included algebra, science, geography and music. She attended college at Hiram Eclectic...
Lucretia Garfield was just the second First Lady to receive a college degree. She prepared for college at Geauga Seminary, where she was a boarding student and took a course of study that focused on Greek and Latin, and also included algebra, science, geography and music. She attended college at Hiram Eclectic Institute from 1850 -1855, where she studied French and took a classical course of study, continuing in Greek and Latin and widening her expertise in classical literature, British literature and French literature. She helped to organize a literary society which staged elocution, debate and oratorical presentations, often taking to the stage herself and defending the rights of women to do so at a time when many men considered it improper for women to so publicly present themselves. She also worked as editor and illustrator of The Eclectic Star, a school magazine. Upon her graduation, Lucretia pursued a career as a teacher of French, algebra and Latin at the Eclectic Institute. From here, she moved away from home to take a teaching job at Ravenna, Ohio, proud to be "on her own." After receiving a note from her former Greek teacher at the Eclectic Institute, James Garfield, now attending Williams College in Massachusetts, they began a long correspondence. In 1858 Garfield proposed marriage and she accepted.
When her husband was elected to Congress, she maintained a constant presence in his public life. James Garfield came to rely on her advice, and he later commented that whenever he sought her help, she was discreet and wise. Lucretia also enjoyed taking in political debates on important issues of the era and those taking place in the U.S. Congress and Senate. She initially opposed her husband's run for the presidency. When he was nominated, he wrote telling her that he would accept the nomination only with her approval. Despite expressing her wariness of the personal cost to come with such an honor she was willing to compromise her privacy for her husband's success. After the election, she traveled to New York under the assumed name of "Mrs. Greenfield" and served as a liaison between Garfield and Roscoe Conkling, leader of the New York Republican faction called the "Stalwarts," to discuss Cabinet suggestions. She did so reluctantly since she did not approve of Conkling. She advised her husband against the naming of Thaddeus Pound to the Cabinet because of an earlier indiscretion on his part, and urged the appointment of James Blaine. Garfield supported her suggestions by not appointing Pound but naming Blaine as Secretary of State. At the Inauguration ceremony of her husband, Lucretia found herself befriended by the outgoing First Lady, Lucy Hayes, a fellow Ohioan. They had friends in common, including Lucy’s cousin Lucy Cook.
As First Lady, she intended to conduct a redecoration of the White House that would include an effort to recreate some historical ambience that recalled the earlier residents of the mansion, and went with the President to the Library of Congress to conduct some preliminary research on what the rooms had once looked like. She also made at least one independent trip to New York to see decorators. A notation in her papers suggests that she intended to invite celebrated writers, artists and musicians to the White House as dinner guests. Given time, she might have become a 19th century version of Jacqueline Kennedy. In a marked departure from her predecessors, Lucretia also granted at least one press interview and willingly discussed political matters. Lucretia strongly supported women’s rights. Her daughter attested to the fact that even as an older woman, she vigorously believed in "equality of the sexes" and saw "no reason why woman should not be entitled to all the privileges that men enjoy."
Whatever public cause she may have intended to support, her active public role came to a sudden halt in early May of 1881 when she contracted malaria and nearly died in the White House. The President recorded that he found himself unable to conduct the affairs of government, so distracted was he at the mere thought of her demise. Still recovering and at the shore when Garfield was shot on July 2, 1881, Lucretia Garfield rushed back to Washington to nurse him and take charge of the White House, showing a remarkable calm and courage that won her widespread admiration. Throughout the long months of his lingering life, the nation's newspapers reported in detail how the First Lady managed herself and encouraged the President, often idealizing her and ignoring her genuine fear and weariness. Rallying her own precarious health, as she had barely recovered from malaria, the First Lady was often seen depicted as going down into the White House kitchens herself to prepare some special food intended to heal his wounds or fight off infection. As the shocked, enraged, and captivated nation looked on, President Garfield lingered until September 19, when he died. He was buried in Ohio on September 26. Now the exhausted and doubtless stunned Lucretia Garfield was a widow, faced with raising their five children alone.
Autograph letter signed, on her personal letterhead, November 1, 1881, to Lucy Cook, whom he addresses as “My Dear Miss Cook”, pouring out her heart and heartbreak as a public person can only do to an old friend. “I am very grateful to you for your sympathy and for all your kind words. Your expressions of esteem for my husband, and your pleasant reminiscences of occasions now alas! all past and very precious. Since that day of wind and storm and sunshine when we entered the dismal White House to take the places left by President Hayes’ family, an age of bitter sorrow to me has intervened, and my heart is too overwhelmed by sadness to yet see why such cruel fate should have been ours. Remember me with kind regard to your father. With affectionate remembrence, Lucretia Garfield.”
This is unquestionably the most important letter written in the immediate wake of a presidential husband’s assassination that we have ever seen reach the market. It has never before been offered for sale.
Frame, Display, Preserve
Each frame is custom constructed, using only proper museum archival materials. This includes:The finest frames, tailored to match the document you have chosen. These can period style, antiqued, gilded, wood, etc. Fabric mats, including silk and satin, as well as museum mat board with hand painted bevels. Attachment of the document to the matting to ensure its protection. This "hinging" is done according to archival standards. Protective "glass," or Tru Vue Optium Acrylic glazing, which is shatter resistant, 99% UV protective, and anti-reflective. You benefit from our decades of experience in designing and creating beautiful, compelling, and protective framed historical documents.Learn more about our Framing Services