On this day in 1849, Dolley Madison died in her sleep. She was eighty-one years old and, frankly, better liked than her late husband and pretty much anyone else in America. Her funeral, write the folks at Montpelier, was “the largest state funeral to date.”
Sometimes referred to today as the first First Lady, the title actually came from her eulogy and delivered by then-President Zachary Taylor, who referred to her as “the first lady of the land for half a century.” Her final legacy was to inspire the term by which the presidents’ wives have been known ever since.
There seems to be some question, though, if that’s entirely accurate. The National First Ladies’ Library, bucket of cold water in hand, qualifies the story as “legend” and admits that “no record of his eulogy is extant.”
IMAGE: Dolley Madison (right) with her
younger sister niece Anna Payne, ca. 1848