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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