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The Library was Overdue

abigail2.jpg The first schoolteacher to become First Lady, Abigail Powers Fillmore (1798-1853) had a passion for literature. Educated at home by her mother, she read all of the books in her fathers’ library, and began to teach school at the age of 16, while continuing to go to school. After her marriage to Millard Fillmore, she continued to teach school, the first First Lady to have a job outside of her home.

Books were an important focus of Abigail’s life, and she founded the first circulating library in Sempronius, New York. Her husband often purchased books for her when he was traveling, and in the years of their marriage they collected over 4,000 books.

As First Lady, Fillmore was dismayed to find that there were no books in the White House, and she got Congress to appropriate $2,000 to purchase several hundred books. Shakespeare, Dickens, Thackeray, Burns, travel books, biographies, histories, law books, religious works and other novels were chosen.

An 1842 ankle injury had lasting effects on Abigail’s life and she limited her activities as First Lady during her husband’s abbreviated term of office (he succeeded to the Presidency with the death of Zachary Taylor). Standing during the snowy inauguration of President Franklin Pierce on March 4, 1853, she grew ill soon after, and died of pneumonia on March 30th.


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