Information on First Ladies and their roles at the Inaugurations


1789----Martha Washington did not attend the inauguration on April 30th; in fact she did not arrive in New York City (then capital) until May, 27th.

1793----Martha was present in the Senate Chamber of Congress Hall in Philadelphia(then capital) on March 4, the date fixed by the Continental Congress for inaugurations.

1797----Abigail Adams was in Quincy, Mass when her husband was inaugurated in Philadelphia.

1801----Thomas Jefferson was a widower when Chief Justice John Marshall administered the first executive oath of office ever taken in the new federal city in the new Senate Chamber (now the Old Supreme Court Chamber) of the partially built Capitol building.

1805---- (same as above)

1809----Dolley Madison was present in the Hall of the House of Representatives (now National Statuary Hall). Subsequently the oath by Presidents-elect, with few exceptions, was taken in the House Chamber or in a place of the Capitol associated with the Congress as a whole..

1813---- ???? In the reference books I have there are no details on Dolley's role at the second inauguration of Madison.

1817----Elizabeth Monroe was not present at the swearing-in nor did she even make an appearance at the Inaugural Reception held in her own home(the mansion was still being repaired from the War of 1812). Because the Capitol was also still under reconstruction, James Monroe was inaugurated outside.

1821----The ceremony was indoors again in the Hall of Representives, but held on March 5th as March 4th was a Sunday . Mrs. Monroe did attend the Inaugural Ball.

1825----????Again I don't have any specific references. I would assume that Louisa witnessed the Inauguration, as the Adamses where already living in Washington (JQA was Monroe's Secretary of State) and she had been active in seeking the office of the Presidency for her husband. Yet as First Lady she would retreat into the background.

1829----Andrew Jackson was a widower. Outgoing President Adams did not join in the ceremony, which was held for the first time on the East Portico of the Capitol building. This was the location of the majority of future Inaugurations until just recently.

1833----Andrew Jackson was a widower.

1837----Martin Van Buren was a widower.

1841----Anna Harrison was not present, but had planned to arrive in May when traveling would be easier. Her husband died one month after the inauguration, his death was attributed to his delivering an hour and forty-five minute Inaugural address in a snowstorm..

1845----Sarah Polk was present at the inauguration and attended the Inaugural Ball, but all dancing and music stopped in deference to her religious beliefs. The Inauguration was held outside despite the pouring rain.

1849----Margaret Taylor was in Washington but whether she was at the Inauguration is in question.

1853----Jane Pierce was ready to attend the Inauguration, but decided not to at the last moment because she learned that her husband had actively sought the Presidency after he had been denying the the same to her. She thus blamed the death of their young son just weeks earlier on her husband's ambition. It is worthy to note that Franklin Pierce did not "swear" his oath, but "affirmed" it as allowed in the Constitution.

1857----James Buchannan was a bachelor.

1861----Mary Lincoln was in attendance and at the Inaugural Ball danced with Stephen Douglas !!

1865----Mrs. Lincoln again was in attendance.

1869----Julia Grant attended and tradition has it that General Grant turned to her, shook her hand and said, "Now, my dear, I hope you are satisfied". General Grant broke what had become a tradition when he refused to ride to the Inauguration with outgoing President Johnson.

1873----Julia was again in attendance and her brother Fred was the Inaugural Committee chairman.

1877----Lucy Hayes witnessed her husband's swearing-in probably twice. Because March 4th was a Sunday (and no ceremonies could take place on a Sunday) and because the election results of 1876 were so controversial Rutherford Hayes was sworn in after dinner with the Grants on Saturday, March 3rd and then again publicly on Monday, March 5th.

1881----Crete Garfield said her husband was "almost superhuman" in delivering his Inaugural address on a snow covered East Portico. In a little over six months James Garfield would be dead.

1885----Grover Cleveland was a bachelor at his inauguration yet just over a year later 49 year old Grover married 21 year old Frances Folsom.

1889----A rainstorm did not prevent Carrie Harrison from watching Benjamin take the oath of office on the East Portico for the Centennial Inaugural.

1893----Frances Cleveland was present as her husband became the only man to regain the Presidency after having lost it, thus fulfilling a a prediction Mrs. Cleveland had made the day they left the White House four years earlier. On that occasion she told a White House staff member to take good care of the mansion because "they would be returning four years from today".

1897----Ida McKinley was present, yet at the Inaugural Ball she fainted and fell unconscious.

1901----Mrs. McKinley was present, but in a little over six months, she would be a widow.

1905----For the Inauguration, Edith Roosevelt arranged for seating of cabinet members and their families and relatives. Thus watching Theodore's swearing-in was a current(Edith) and two future First Ladies-- Helen Taft(William was Secretary of War) and Eleanor Roosevelt (Theodore's niece and ,of course, future wife of Franklin) . Tradition holds that Edith Galt(the future Mrs. Woodrow Wilson) was in the mass of "common folk" watching the proceedings.

1909----Held indoors in the Senate Chamber because of a blizzard, Nellie Taft not only witnessed William's inauguration, but, when Theodore Roosevelt left immediately, foregoing the traditional ride back to the White House, Nellie took TR's place and rode alongside her husband. Before the Inauguration, Edith Roosevelt began a tradition that continues to this day when she gave Helen Taft a personal tour of the White House

1913----Ellen Wilson was in attendance.

1917----Edith Wilson, whom the President had married in December 1916 after Ellen had died in 1914, witnessed the inauguration on Monday, March 5th as March 4th was again a Sunday. The President had also been sworn-in the day before in a private ceremony.

1921----Florence Harding, who was so instrumental in her husband's attaining the Presidency broke precedent and rode with Mrs. Wilson to the Inaugural. This tradition continues.

1925----Grace Coolidge witnessed the ceremony while finding time to to seek out and speak to Nellie Ross, the nation's first woman Governor.

1929----Lou Hoover held up the ceremony as she and Grace Coolidge literally became lost in the throng of officials.

1933----As Eleanor watched FDR take his first oath of office, she looked out at the thousands of faces in the crowd, many with tears in their eyes, and thought to herself "how would these poor people ever pay their hotel bills".

1937----Eleanor , but held for the first time on January 20th as per the new 20th amendment to the Constitution.

1941----Eleanor and 18 other members of FDR's family watched as for the first time in our nation's history a President broke the tradition started by George Washington of only serving two consecutive terms.

1945----Eleanor, but held on the South Portico and no formal celebration followed because of the ongoing war.

1949----Bess and Harry Truman hosted the first integrated inaugural ball .

1953----Ike began his Inaugural address with a prayer and ended it by kissing Mamie.

1957----Mamie again, and again two swearing-ins as January 20th was a Sunday--January 20th in the East Room and January 21st on the East Portico..

1961----The "First Lady" Inauguration as in attendance were the following past, present and future First Ladies--Edith Wilson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, and Betty Ford. The ceremony was held on the expanded East Front of the Capitol.

1965----Lady Bird began a new tradition--holding the Bible while her husband took the oath of office.

1969----During the ride back to the White House, Pat Nixon and Richard had to stop standing and waving and sit down because protesters were throwing stones.

1973----Pat again, more protesters and stones.

1977----During the motorcade after the Inauguration,Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter shocked everyone by getting out of their cars and walking !

1981----Nancy Reagan in her $1700 dress and $1500 alligator purse watched her husband take the oath of office from a new location--the west side of the Capitol. While the ceremony was taking place, American hostages held by the revolutionary government of Iran were released.

1985----Nancy again with a $46,000 Inaugural wardrobe watched as the ceremony was held in the Capitol Rotunda because of zero degree temperatures outside. Also another "double inauguration" with the 20th being a Sunday. The oath was first given on that day in the Grand Foyer of the White House and publically on the 21st in the Rotunda.

1989----The Bicentennial Inaugural--Following the ceremony, Barbara and George Bush walked back to The White House with Barbara even leaving the entourage to go over and kiss NBC Weatherman Willard Scott!!!

1993----Hillary and William Jefferson Clinton walked back to the White House .

1997----For the final inauguration of the 1900's Bill and Hillary again, but this time daughter Chelsea stood right by her parents as her father took the oath of office for the second time. He would become the second President to be impeached.

2001----The first inauguration of the 2000's was a REAL FIRST. For the first time in US history an ex-President and First Lady watched their son take the oath of office as George Herbert Walker Bush and Barbara Bush watched George W. Bush become the 43rd President. Laura Bush and their two daughters stood by as with tears in his eyes and exactly on time, George W. Bush was sworn in on a cold misty day .

2005----George W. Bush was sworn in for his second term with almost 145 family members watching. His short 20 minute speech mentioned the word liberty 15 times and freedom 27 times Laura Bush held the family bible and their two daughters stood by their father as he took the oath of office. .

2009----The first African-American President Barrack Obama took his oath of office on the Abraham Lincoln bible held by his wife, Michelle while their two young daughters looked on. Also watching was former first lady Hillary Clinton who already had made history by becoming a US Senator and was about to be approved as the next Secretary of State. The largest crowd to attend an inauguration saw the oath of office delivered incorrectly, and was readministered in private the next day.

Most information was obtained from First Ladies by Carl Sferrazza Anthony --one the best books on First Ladies and also from

Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents

E-mail Your comments are appreciated along with any information you can add.

Presidents and Their First Ladies, dramatically speaking