Lucretia Rudolph Garfield
April 19, 1832, in Hiram, Ohio
March 14, 1918, in Pasadena, California
Lucretia Garfield served as first lady for her husband James Garfield’s very brief time in office––only 199 days––in 1881. Lucretia was 48 years old when she became first lady.
Lucretia’s tenure as first lady was cut short when an assassin shot her husband in the midst of his very first year as president. The bullet did not kill him immediately, and he suffered a long, drawn-out death because doctors were not able to remove the bullet and fight the infection that ultimately killed him. Prior to the shooting, Lucretia had caught malaria and was actually recovering near the sea when her husband was shot. A telegram informed her of the incident, and she promptly returned to the White House to spend those last days with her husband. Lucretia had advised Garfield throughout his career, and following his death she preserved all of his political papers.
A newspaper journalist wrote following the assassination of Garfield, “The wife of the President is the bravest woman in the universe.”