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American Women: Resources from the Manuscript Collections

Lucretia Rudolph Garfield

Lucretia Rudolph Garfield

Edmond & Son. Lucretia Garfield with thirteen of her sixteen grandchildren at Lawnfield. 1906. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.24

The first lady with the largest collection in the Manuscript Division is Lucretia Rudolph Garfield (1832-1918), wife of James A. Garfield, who was elected president in 1880 and was assassinated less than a year later by a disgruntled job seeker. Her collection (55,000 items; 1807-1958) pertains to her husband's assassination, their children, and her interests in art, literature, civic and political affairs, women's rights, genealogy, and the publication of her husband's papers and biography. Of particular significance is her correspondence with her children and their families, some of which is included in the separately maintained papers of her sons Harry Augustus Garfield (60,000 items; 1888-1934) and James Rudolph Garfield (70,000 items; 1879-1950; bulk 1890-1932). Lucretia also appears in her husband's papers, which include not only family diaries and the president's correspondence with his mother and daughter, but also his professional correspondence with Susan B. Anthony, Almeda A. Booth, Lucy Stone, and Frances Willard.

Manuscript Resources Referenced

The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.


  1. Lucretia Garfield's tenure as first lady was short and tragic. She assumed her duties as mistress of the White House in March 1881, but all official activities came to a halt in May when she was stricken with malaria and taken to Elberon, New Jersey, to recuperate. While there, her husband of nearly twenty-three years was shot on July 2 by disappointed office-seeker Charles Guiteau. James A. Garfield lingered for eighty days, with his wife at his bedside, before succumbing on September 19. With the income from a congressional grant, her husband's congressional pension, and a generous fund raised by the American public, Lucretia was able to support herself and her five living children. She devoted her remaining thirty-six years to preserving her husband's memory, engaging in civic and political affairs, and serving as the beloved matriarch of a large and growing family, which visited her often at the family farm. Back to text