June 1, 1807, in Donelson, Tennessee


December 19, 1836, in Nashville, Tennessee


Andrew Jackson’s wife Rachel Donelson Jackson died of a heart attack in 1828, only five days after Jackson was elected as president. Following the precedent set by the widowed President Jefferson, Jackson asked a relative to serve as hostess in the White House––his wife’s favorite niece, Emily Donelson. Emily was 21 years old when her uncle was inaugurated as president and she became White House hostess. Emily was welcomed warmly by Washington society and soon became well-regarded as acting first lady who was not only responsible for entertainment, but also housekeeping duties, which included supervising the family slaves that had been brought from Tennessee. Unfortunately, Emily became sick with tuberculosis in 1836 while Jackson was still president. She left the White House and returned to the family plantation in Tennessee, where, soon after, she died. Following Jackson’s second inauguration in 1833, his nephew’s wife, Sarah Yorke Jackson, lived with her family periodically in the White House and had sometimes served as co-hostess with Emily. Sarah was therefore able to serve as primary White House hostess for the remainder of Jackson’s second term to 1837.

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