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  Mary McElroy

by John T. Marck

Lady of the Presidents House: 1881 to 1885

Sister of President Chester Arthur

Born: July 5, 1841 Died: January 8, 1917

Mary Arthur McElroy was Chester Arthur's sister. Chester Arthur had been married to Ellen Herndon, however she died of pneumonia in January 1880, prior to Chester's term as President.

Mary Arthur was born in Greenwich, New York, the last of nine children to be born to William and Malvina Stone Arthur. Mary was educated in Emma Williams Seminary in Troy, New York. She married John E. McElroy of Albany, and the couple had two children.

After the death of President Garfield in September 1881, the White House went into six months of mourning. The succeeding President, Arthur, used this time to renovate the White House, while he lived in Washington with a friend. When Mary came to Washington, she brought her two children with her. It has been said that her children were the two best behaved ever to live in the White House. Washington society was also quite pleased with the manner and dress of Mary. She handled her position as hostess with excellence. Upon the completion of the renovations to the White House in December 1881, Chester and his sister moved in.

The new White House had been done in Victorian Decor. The State Rooms were spectacular, and the East Room had a silver ceiling with ivory decorations. The Oval Room was painted a robins-egg tint, while the Red Room had a gold ceiling with flags and eagles. One of the more decorative changes made by Chester and Mary was a glass screen by Tiffany, which was placed between the North lobby and the cross corridor. Because of the cold and draft it created, it was removed and destroyed a few years later.

In 1884, Arthur was refused his party's nomination for a second term. As such, Mary retired at her home in Albany, New York. She remained there until her death on January 8, 1917.

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.