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Hello Dolley

3g06776r.jpgWhile Dolley Madison may not have technically been the first First Lady to be photographed (that honor may go to sitting First Lady Sarah Polk between 1845-1849), she was the first if ranked by the order in which their husbands held office (Dolley was married to President #4, James Madison).

The beloved Grande dame of Washington, Dolley was renowned as an entertainer during the time of our founding fathers, having assisted the widowed Thomas Jefferson during his tenure as President, and serving as First Lady during her husband's two terms of office. She was also the first First Lady to attend her husband’s inauguration.

During the War of 1812, she fled the White House and saved the treasured Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, as well as state papers and other valuables. She and her husband retired to their home Montpelier, which Dolley sold several years after her husband’s death in 1836. After Congress purchased her husband's papers, she moved to Washington D.C. where she became the center of social life once again. She was the first First Lady to be granted a permanent seat on the floor of the House of Representatives, the first private citizen to transmit a message via telegraph (an honor given her by its inventor, Samuel B. Morse), and was treated with great honor during the Polk administration.

Dolley Madison was photographed on July 4, 1848, the same day she attended the laying of the cornerstone of the Washington Monument. When Dolley died on July 12, 1849, Congress immediately adjourned. It is said that President Zachary Taylor paid tribute to Dolley Madison in his eulogy, saying, "She will never be forgotten, because she was truly our First Lady for a half-century,” the first time the phrase “First Lady” was used.

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