The Library

Presiding Ladies of the White House {Free eBook}

Presiding Ladies of the White House {Free eBook}

The position of the First Lady is a non-elected office and ceremonial only. Yet, it is a highly visible position where the First Lady herself defines her role. Presiding Ladies of the White House by Lila G. A. Woolfall is a quick look at the women who have presided at the White House from Martha Washington through Edith Roosevelt.

The individuality of each hostess has left its imprint upon the history of her time from the pomp and ceremony of Martha Washington’s régime, to the greater freedom from restraint of that of “Dolly Madison.” We hear also of the extreme “simplicity” of Jefferson’s administration and the social festivities which marked Mrs. Grant’s residence at the White House. Mrs. Polk abolished dancing, while Mrs. Hayes banished wine, from their entertainments. Mrs. Fillmore founded the library, for of books there were none when she was installed as mistress of the White House; and Mrs. McElroy marked the administration of her brother, Chester A. Arthur, with the acme of refined hospitality.

The book includes a brief biography of each First Lady along with her portrait and the dates she resided at the White House. At the end of the book you’ll also enjoy a tour of the White House including:

  • The East Room.
  • The Blue Room.
  • The Red Room.
  • The Green Room.
  • State and Private dining rooms.
  • The Library.
  • The Executive Office.

Finally, you can read about the official etiquette — at least of that time.

  • A book like this with brief biographies is a perfect jumping-off point to learn more. One way to interact with the book is to create a Presidential First Ladies notebook. Make one page for each first lady. Your notebook can include:
    • Name
    • Photo, portrait, or illustration.
    • Dates in office.
    • President.
    • What state she was from.
    • Brief biography.
    • Interesting fact.
    • Quote.
    • Interest or cause.
    • Contributions to the White House and grounds.
  • Make a First Lady timeline.

Presiding Ladies of the White House is a great complement to our Presidents Day resources and our free civics studies — and it’s free!

Free eBook


Additional Resources

First Ladies
Biographies at

The First Ladies
Interactive from the National Museum of American History.

Roles of the First Lady
Download from the White House Historical Association.