Jan 8, 2009

A First Lady a Day: Crete, 1881

Lucretia Rudolph Garfield definitely wins the Best Nickname of any American First Lady Award. Crete. I think that’s cool. A Very interesting woman. She was well educated, studying French, Greek and Latin languages and classical, British and French literature. She was an independent woman , a teacher and an intellectual. Crete was also a fine hostess, although not at all interested in publicity. She married James Garfield in 1858. He rose to Brig. General in the Union Army, then Congress then the White House. Their marriage survived an admittedly rocky beginning, although they eventually became close.
About 2 months after the March 1881 inauguration, she contracted malaria and was still recovering in July when her husband was shot. Lucretia handled herself and the White House with courage and grace during the 3 months Garfield lingered. He died in Sept.1881 and she went home to Ohio to a long and busy, although private, life. I beleive she preserved the records of his career, creating a veritable presidential libary in her home.

from : http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucretia_Garfield : “Library of Congress description: "Garfield, Mrs. James, wife of President Garfield" Source Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Brady-Handy Photograph Collection. Date: between 1870 and 1880 Author Mathew Brady or Levin Handy”

For more:
http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=21 http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/firstladies/lg20.html

Now - The Dress.

From the Smithsonian Institution: from the National Museum of American History: Back view, “Lucretia Garfield wore this gown to the 1881 inaugural ball. The gown's original color was a delicate lavender. It was dyed with fuschine, a light-sensitive synthetic dye that faded to oyster white. “

It’s 1881, she is slim, dark haired and 48 years old. I would have loved to see this in the original lavender. The back is stunning. The front of the dress is overly complex by today‘s standards, a bit like a wedding cake, but in 1881, that was the style. The monochrmatic range saves it from being overwhelming. As I have said before, I am a fan of this era. A-.

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