Julia Gardiner Tyler
1820 - 1889
Julia Gardiner Tyler, second wife of John Tyler, 10th president of the United States, died July 10, 1889. She was 69.
Mrs. Tyler was born May 4, 1820 in Gardiners Island, New York. The daughter of a prominent New York family, she was trained in all the social graces of rich young girls of her time. She went on a European tour with her family prior to meeting her future husband, President John Tyler.
When the Gardiners traveled to Washington in late 1842, she was introduced to the president, who had recently become a widower. They began a courtship.
When Juliaís father was killed in a freak accident during an ocean excursion in 1844, Tyler stepped up their courtship to include a secret engagement. They married in New York on June 26, 1844. She was 24, he 30 years older at 54. Mr. Tyler already had eight children by his first wife. It was the first time a sitting president had exchanged marriage vows.
Julia Tyler was First Lady for only eight months, but she attacked her duties with gusto. She reportedly was the person who influenced the decision to greet the arrival of a president with the Hail to the Chief anthem. She also became a stylish social presence, complete with the latest fashions and ladies in waiting to attend to her needs.
Other firsts initiated by Mrs. Tyler included posing for an ad for a department store, having a media representative, having her own secretary, and becoming the first woman to marry a sitting president.
Mrs. Tyler also got involved in politics. She worked very hard to influence the decision to annex Texas shortly before her husbandís term of office ended in early 1845.
After Tylerís term ended, he and his wife retired to a plantation home near Richmond, Virginia. Five of their seven children were born at the plantation. The Tylers had a total of 15 children, eight by Tylerís first wife and seven by Julia Tyler.
It is reported that Juliaís extravagant spending habits further strained the Tyler budget in caring for such a large family.
By 1860 both Julia and her husband had become advocates of secession by southern states. Mr. Tyler was elected to the Confederate Congress, but died in 1862. Mrs. Tyler moved to Staten Island to live with her mother.
She worked diligently for the Confederacy. After the war, she sold her war-torn home in Virginia and petitioned Congress for a pension. She was allotted a $1,200 stipend that was raised to $5,000 for all presidential widows in 1882.
Mrs. Tyler died in Richmond on July 10, 1889. She is buried next to her husband in Richmondís Hollywood Cemetery.