Lucretia Rudolph Garfield was the wife of James A. Garfield, the 20th President of the United States. She served as First Lady from March 4, 1881 to September 19, 1881.
Lucretia Randolph was born on April 19, 1832, in Garrettsville, Ohio. After attending the Geauga Seminary, where she first met James Garfield, Lucretia attended the Eclectic Institute. She graduated from Hiram College, where Garfield also attended, and then became a teacher.
Marriage to James Garfield
After a long courtship, Lucretia and James Garfield married on November 11, 1858, and went on to have seven children, five of whom survived into adulthood.
The family was separated during James Garfield’s service in the Union Army from 1861 to 1863. Following his first winter in Washington, D.C. as a member of the House of Representatives, the family established residences in both Washington and Ohio, so that they could remain together.
First Lady of the United States
James A. Garfield was elected President in 1880 and took office on March 4, 1881. Intelligent and politically-savvy, Lucretia was one of her husband’s trusted advisors. She helped him select his cabinet as he worked to broker a truce between warring factions of his own Republican Party. As First Lady, she was also a dedicated hostess, holding twice-weekly receptions at the White House.
After living in the White House for just a few months, Lucretia contracted malaria and became seriously ill. She went to Long Branch, New Jersey to recuperate. She was still there when James Garfield was shot by an assassin on July 2, 1881. Lucretia rushed to her husband’s bedside. According to her official White House Biography, eyewitnesses reported that Lucretia returned to Washington, D.C. “frail, fatigued, desperate, but firm and quiet and full of purpose to save.” President Garfield fought for his life for three months before succumbing to his injuries.
Following her husband’s death, Lucretia and her children returned to their home in Ohio. She lived for 36 more years, largely staying out of the public eye. She died on March 14, 1918, at the age of 85. She is buried with her husband in the lower level crypt of the James A. Garfield Memorial at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio.