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Lucretia Garfield was the wife of President James Garfield and, thusly, first lady of the United States for nine months.
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When she became first lady in 1881, Lucretia Garfield carefully researched the history of the White House and her predecessors, but she also steered an independent course. In May 1881, she became ill with malaria and went to Long Branch, New Jersey, to recuperate. On July 2, 1881, word reached her that her husband had been shot, and he died two months later, leaving her a widow with five children.
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When the 19th Amendment was ratified, women were finally given the right to vote, and over the years many courageous women have stepped onto the national political stage as well. In 1916, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress and almost a century later Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina woman to serve on the Supreme Court. And within the last two decades, the esteemable Hillary Clinton has served as First Lady, a New York senator and Secretary of State. These women, and many more, are setting the stage for the future of female leaders in Washington.
Visit Biography.com's Women's History group to explore more biographies, photos and videos of some the world's most fascinating women."
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The wives of U.S. presidents are often important American figures in their own right. Although they have no official responsibilities, first ladies are a highly visible part of U.S. government. The role of the first lady has evolved over the centuries, from hostess of the White House to advocates for public policy. Learn about the different causes first ladies like Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, and Michelle Obama have championed over the years, from literacy to addiction to health care reform.
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