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Monday, January 24, 2022

Our First Ladies # 11



                                                           Julia Gardiner Tyler 1820-1889


Julia Gardiner Tyler was born in 1820 to Juliana and David Gardiner, a landowner, and New York State Senator. (1824 to 1828). She was raised in the town of East Hampton and educated at the Chegary Institute in New York. In 1839, she shocked polite society by appearing, posed with an unidentified man, and identified as "The Rose of Long Island", in a newspaper advertisement for a middle-class department store. Her family took her to Europe to avoid further publicity and allow her notoriety to subside, but she was indeed a beauty.

On January 20, 1842, the 21-year-old Julia was introduced to President John Tyler at a White House reception. After the death of his first wife, Letitia Christian Tyler, on September 10, 1842, Tyler made it clear that he wished to get involved with Julia. Initially, the high-spirited and independent-minded northern beauty felt little attraction to the grave, reserved Virginia gentleman, who was thirty years her senior. He first proposed to her on February 22, 1843, when she was 22, at a White House Masquerade Ball. She refused that and later proposals he made. The increased time spent together prompted public speculation about their relationship.

Julia, her sister Margaret, and her father joined a Presidential excursion on the new steam frigate Princeton. During this excursion, her father, David Gardiner, along with others, lost his life in the explosion of a huge naval gun called the Peacemaker. Julia was devastated by the death of her adored father. She spoke often in later years of how the President's quiet strength sustained her during this difficult time. Tyler comforted Julia in her grief and won her consent to a secret engagement, proposing in 1844 at the George Washington Ball.

After a wedding trip to Philadelphia, a White House reception, and a stay at Sherwood Forest, an estate the president had recently acquired for his retirement, the newlyweds returned to Washington D.C.. Although her husband was often visibly fatigued, his youthful wife thoroughly enjoyed the duties of First Lady.

President Tyler was 54 years old, while Julia was just 24. Tyler's oldest daughter, Mary, was 5 years older than her father's new wife. The marriage made Julia the first (First Lady) to marry a President who was already in office at the time of the wedding.

It was awkward for the eldest Tyler daughter, Mary, to adjust to a new stepmother five years younger than herself. One daughter, Letitia, never made peace with her stepmother.

The anthem "Hail to the Chief" had been played at a number of events associated with the arrival or presence of the President of the United States before Julia Tyler became First Lady, but she ordered its regular use to announce the arrival of the President. It became established practice when her successor, Sarah Polk did likewise. It is still practiced today.

The first lady was known as a wonderful hostess and the President was delighted with all the compliments she received. When the President’s term was finished, they retired to The Sherwood Forest Plantation.

 All though a northerner by birth, Mrs. Tyler soon grew accustomed to the leisurely routines of daily life as the wife of a wealthy plantation owner, and between 1846 and 1860, Julia and John had seven children together.

Julia wrote a defense of slavery titled "The Women of England vs. the Women of America", in response to the "Stafford House Address" petition against slavery which the Duchess of Sutherland had helped to organize.

In response to Julia Tyler's essay, Harriet Jacobs, a former slave and later abolitionist writer, authored her first published work, a letter to the New York Tribune in 1853.

After her husband's death in 1862, lost her 60 slaves and 1,100 acres of land due to military events. Julia moved north to Staten Island with several of her children and family relations were so strained that her brother David moved out of his mother's house, where Julia had settled.

Her home there was almost burned down by enraged Union veterans when it was discovered she was flying a Confederate flag on the property. She resided at the Gardiner-Tyler House from 1868-74.

In 1865, her brother David sued to prevent her from inheriting the bulk of their mother's estate valued at $180,000, charging that Julia Tyler had exerted "undue influences" on their mother to execute a will despite her "mental incapacity". The court supported his claim on August 25 and refused to accept the will. After two appeals, David Gardiner won the case in 1867. David then asked the courts to partition the estate as if no will existed. Julia asked for a jury trial on the issue, and the jury declined to consider the contested will as an argument in her favor. The New York Times thought Julia was treated unfairly and that the dispute could be traced to "the political antagonisms of the rebellion, which have divide many a household besides that of Mrs. Gardiner". She died in 1889 and is buried next to her husband in Virginia.


I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

We don't hear a lot about President's and their later years. Mrs Tyler had a lot of difficulties and I feel she was treated unfairly too. Little do we know what happens.

Bev said...

Very Interesting!

Susan Kane said...

What a fighter!

Mari said...

Very interesting! So sad that the whole family was torn apart.