Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Fearless Females -- Mary Abigail Fillmore

Mary Abigail Fillmore
Today is the 181st anniversary of the birth of the only daughter of President Millard Fillmore.  She was born in Buffalo, New York on March 27, 1832.  She lived a short life, but for a woman of her time she lived a very full life in her 22 years.

Mary graduated from the New York State Normal School [1] and was a teacher for a time at a private school in Lenox, Massachusetts.  She later taught briefly in the public school system of Buffalo, New York up until her father succeeded to the Presidency in 1850.  

Campus of the New York State Normal School (1909)
Mary spoke French fluently and was conversant in Spanish, German and Italian, which must have been quite useful when her father became President and her mother became ill and could not function as hostess at White House social events.  Mary became White House Hostess from 1850 to 1853 during her mother's health difficulties.  Mary was also a musician who played the piano, harp and guitar.  She often performed at White House functions.

Sadly, Mary died suddenly of cholera at age 22 barely a year after the death of her mother.  Her mother, Abigail (Powers) Fillmore,  died 160 years ago this week on March 30, 1853 in Washington, DC.  Abigail died just twenty-six days after she and Millard left the White House following the inauguration of Fillmore's successor, Franklin Pierce.  Abigail died at the Willard Hotel in Washington following an illness she first suffered after the outdoor inauguration of Pierce and that later developed into pneumonia.

Mary Abigail Fillmore is my 5th cousin 4X removed. 

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

[1]  The New York State Normal School is today known as The University at Albany, State University of New York.  It is now the oldest university campus in the SUNY system having been established in 1844.  A "Normal School" was a school that was developed in order to establish standards or "norms" for teaching -- thus the designation "Normal School."  The first publicly funded Normal School in the United States was founded in Massachusetts in 1839.  It is now known as Framingham State University.  Almost all the former "Normal Schools" later became known as teachers' colleges and by the 1960s most had become universities or were absorbed by established universities.  See, for more information on Normal Schools.

Bust photograph of Mary Abigail Fillmore posted at Find-A-Grave by Garver Graver

Photograph of Mary Fillmore in gown from the Buffalo Architecture and History website page on the Millard and Abigail Fillmore House Museum 

Photograph of the New York State Normal School campus is part of the collection of the Library of Congress.  The image is in the public domain. 
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

1 comment:

  1. A very interesting story, John. She did a lot in her short life.