Margaret Mackall Smith Taylor
September 21, 1788, in Calvert County, Maryland
August 18, 1852, in Pascagoula, Mississippi
Margaret Taylor had hoped to retire with her husband to their home in Louisiana following the end of the Mexican War, but her plans were thwarted when Zachary Taylor––now a war hero––was elected as president. At the age of 60 Margaret moved to the White House upon her husband’s inauguration in 1849, but she preferred to spend most of her time in the second-floor living quarters, often visiting with friends and family there instead of in the mansion’s public spaces. Margaret even passed along her responsibilities as first lady to her 23-year-old, married daughter Mary Elizabeth Taylor Bliss. To those who wondered about Margaret’s seclusion, the family sometimes explained that she was ill. Many believed that she simply was not comfortable in the role as official hostess. Another story suggested that Margaret was maintaining a promise she had made to herself to give up social gatherings if her husband returned safely from the Mexican War, which, of course, he had. Mary Elizabeth served as acting first lady for Taylor’s brief presidency (1849-1850). He died in office during the second year of his term after becoming severely ill following a July 4th celebration.
Regarding the years Margaret followed Taylor’s military travels, Taylor noted, “My wife was as much a soldier as I was.”
A White House guest commented on acting first lady Mary Elizabeth’s entertaining prowess, “[Mrs. Bliss] blends the artlessness of a rustic belle and the grace of a duchess.”