Letitia Christian Tyler


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Letitia Christian Tyler

by Michael Gabriele


Letitia Tyler was born on November 12th, 1790, in New Kent County,Virginia, on her family’s plantation. All that is known of her childhood is that she was born into a very wealthy family. She most likely spent her time learning how to sew, studying the Bible, and managing the plantation.
When she was seventeen years old, she met John Tyler at a neighbor’s plantation’s party. They “dated” for five years before they got married. They would eventually have seven children together. Not long after her marriage, Letitia’s parents passed away and left her an inheritance that allowed the Tyler’s to move into bigger and bigger houses in the Richmond, Virginia area.  John also used the money to further his career in politics. In 1817, John was elected to Congress and served for four years.

In 1825, as her husband served as the Governor of Virginia, Letitia gained the title of First Lady of Virginia. In 1836, John retired from the U.S. Senate and the family moved to Williamsburg, Virginia. Here, Letitia suffered a stroke that left her partially paralyzed. She had not fully recovered when John became vice-president of the United States under William Henry Harrison, and the 10th President of the United States, when Harrison died about a month after taking office.

From her bed, Letitia was able to direct the entertainment and celebrations that followed the inauguration of her husband. In the White House, Letitia remained in bed most of the time and spent her days with her family. She seemed to prefer familial events over ones that involved the Presidency and political socializing. Her one appearance at a White House event was to see her daughter get married.

Letitia suffered a second stroke that weakened her further. She passed away on September 10th, 1842. She was the nation’s first presidential wife to die in the White House. Letitia’s was buried in her home state of Virginia.