American Presidential Biography: Lucretia Garfield

President James Garfield and his wife, the first lady, Lucretia Garfield, were interesting people who had a unique marriage.

To strangers, Lucretia Garfield may have appeared 'stiff' in the beginning, however, by the fourth or fifth time people were in her company, they sincerely appreciated her gracious attitude toward life.

The marriage of Lucretia and James Garfield introduced disaster to the young couple in the beginning. Lucretia wrote a letter to James Garfield listing various reasons she was getting "˜cold feet' about marrying him. Lucretia was a schoolteacher, and she had an attitude we consider today as "˜career-oriented.' She communicated to Garfield that her heart was not schooled to be submissive and serve domestically as anyone's wife. This lady was known to have a good head on her shoulders, and oft times it revealed that she was totally focused on logic.

Eventually the young couple did marry, with Lucretia Garfield carrying with her the belief that marriage was a matter of duty. However, Garfield's attitude evolved with thoughts of the event being a complete mistake, and he had no problems in letting it be known. Upon hearing such comments from him, Mrs. Garfield promised to "try harder."

Finally, the Garfields worked through the marriage's rough spots and began showing love and respect toward one another. While living in Washington, the couple shared many mutual interests with friends, and they enjoyed being alone, too. The marriage evolved beautifully, with continued improvement to the point that "Crete" and "Jim" thoroughly enjoyed each other's company. The only occasional intrusions were Garfield's career, but he always found himself returning home to "Crete," as he affectionately called his wife.

Moving into the White House was a glorious part of the lives of President and Mrs. Garfield. After Garfield's inauguration, she held several successive receptions. Cultured, well bred, and collected, this lady was quite fit for the role of First Lady. Though she loathed publicity, she did not mind entertaining those persons who congregated to the White House, sometimes in herds.

Lucretia Garfield was an unassuming, generous, and genuine person. She was one with abilities to create a warm and comfortable environment - certainly a woman who preferred casual entertaining to formality. Mrs. Garfield was very attractive, still possessing a slim figure at the age of forty-nine. She was a very devoted wife who loved intellectual conversations with her husband. She always demonstrated uplifting feelings while traveling with her husband - something that she had a passion in doing.

In 1881, Lucretia Garfield contracted malaria. Relentless efforts in maintaining her social graces, with many gatherings, plus coping with her illness, eventually spiraled her entire health into a progressive and grave dilemma.

When Lucretia Garfield heard the terrifying news that President Garfield had been assassinated, she exhibited a show of courage - even through her weakness. Publicly she demonstrated too much Christian courage to show grief. She did, however, retreat to her room and cried many hours uncontrollably, despite all efforts to the contrary. Molly, her daughter, tried aimlessly to follow the example of her mother, but she could not help herself. She grieved long and hard over the loss of her father.

After President Garfield was shot, he'd fought valiantly for life. Because Lucretia never left the side of her husband during this horrific period, she received much admiration and respect from fellow Americans. In September, the President died, with "Crete" by his side. Shortly thereafter, she went back to Ohio and lived on the farm with other family members.

Lucretia Garfield lived for thirty-six more years, but she did so in her own private space. When in the busy mode, she worked with diligence in preserving records of the President's life. On March 14, 1918, Lucretia Garfield died.

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