By John T. Marck
First Lady: 1841 to 1842
First Wife of President John Tyler
Born: November 12, 1790 Died: September 10, 1842
Letitia Christian was born and raised on her father's Cedar Grove Plantation, in New Kent County, Virginia. Her education consisted of long hours of tutoring restricted only to the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, because they believed females were incapable of higher learning. Letitia grew up to be quite a beautiful, gentle, dutiful lady. Marriage was quite an important matter, for economic as well as social reasons, so her family supervised her choice quite closely. Her father did approve of her suitor, John Tyler, as he was the son of Judge Tyler. John Tyler did not push the marriage as he was busy studying law under his father and starting a practice as well as a political career. Upon his father's death, he inherited a small piece of property, and then decided to marry, on March 29, 1813.
For several years, John Tyler tried, however unsuccessfully, to combine farming with law and politics. He moved his family three times to different plantations, before finally settling in Williamsburg, Virginia. Letitia generally stayed at home, rearing seven of their eight children. When her husband was Governor of Virginia, she spent some time in Richmond, and also spent some of the winter months in Washington, D.C. when her husband was a senator. At the age of forty-nine, Letitia suffered a stroke and never recovered. As Harrison was President and Tyler was Vice President, he assumed the office of President following Harrison's death just one month into office. President Tyler moved his family to Washington, setting up a special chamber area for his wife in the White House. Letitia was never seen in public and her illness never mentioned. While in the White House, Letitia turned the duties of official hostess over to her daughter Elizabeth; then following Elizabeth's marriage, to Priscilla, the wife of the Tyler's son Robert, and finally, when Robert left Washington, to the Tyler's daughter Letitia Semple. Letitia died at the White House on September 10, 1842, and was given a state funeral in the East Room.
John Tyler did remarry on June 26, 1844 in New York to Julia Gardiner, who assumed the duties of official hostess at the White House.
Copyright © 1990-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author. From The First Ladies of the Unites States by John T. Marck.