Sunday, August 10, 2014

First Lady Profile #2--Julia Grant!

Life was not easy for the Grants; he seemed to be unable to succeed at anything that was nonmilitary-farming or working in his father's leather goods shop-and the family was often nearly destitute.  Through all the hard times, though, the bonds of affection between Ulysses and Julia and between them and their four children remained strong.  Then the Civil War broke out, and Ulysses returned to the army.  Though a disaster for the rest of the nation, it brought an end to the Grants' financial difficulties and led them to the White House.--Diana Dixon Healy
--What impressed me most about Julia Grant was her strong bond with her husband and family.  She had faith that Ulysses would be successful some day, when no one else did.

Although Ulysses was unsatisfied at work, he was content with life at home.  Julia Grant was gifted with a cheerful, optimistic nature.  She created a home atmosphere that was relaxed and lighthearted.  Economic hardship had not changed her happy personality or shaken her faith in her husband.--Christine A. Fitz-Gerald
--She was born on January 26, 1826 in St. Louis, Missouri.  She was the 5th of 8 children.
--Her family was wealthy, and they owned 2 homes, along with some slaves.  A country home called White Haven and a city home in St. Louis.  Julia was sent to boarding school at the age of 10 until she was 17 when she returned to White Haven.
--Julia's brother was roommates with Ulysses at West Point.  They fell in love and wanted to marry, but her father didn't approve.  He said that if they still wanted to get married after waiting 2 years, he would allow it.  Ulysses ended up fighting in the Mexican war, so the 2 years ended up becoming 4 years.  They finally married on August 22, 1848.  Ulysses's family didn't come to the wedding because they objected to him marrying into a family that owned slaves.

--Julia gave birth to four children: Frederick, Ulysses (Buck), Ellen (Nellie) and Jesse.
--Ulysses was lonely in the military having to be away from his family so often.  He decided to retire and come home.  This led to a lot of struggles for the Grant family.  They had a home called Hardscrabble, but in 1857 all their crops failed and Julia's mother died.
--They tried real estate, but that failed as well.  So, they moved to Galena, Illinois.

--In 1860 the Civil War started and Ulysses was once again back in the military.  In August, he was promoted to general.  Julia often visited Ulysses during the war, sometimes with her children, and sometimes alone.
--Once, Julia was almost kidnapped by confederate soldiers on a visit.
--She dealt with criticism from numerous places.  Her father supported the south during the war and was very upset that his son-in-law was fighting for the north.  Julia was upset about all the criticism of her husband in the newspapers as well.
--Yet, despite his critics, Lincoln was impressed with Ulysses and promoted him to general-in-chief of the Union armies in March of 1864.
--Julia had always known that Ulysses could accomplish a position such as this and was very happy.  They would be famous from this point on for the rest of their lives.

--Mary Lincoln did not like Julia, thus they did not get along well at all.  It was because of this that the Grants didn't join the Lincolns at Ford's Theatre the night Lincoln was assassinated.
--The Grants were so popular that the presidency was almost a given, and Ulysses was elected president in 1868 and served 2 terms.  Julia enjoyed being first lady immensely.  She redecorated the White House, since it had fallen into disrepair during the war.
--The Grants' daughter Nellie was married in the White House in May of 1874.
--Both of Grant's terms in the White house were marred by corruption.  While Ulysses was honest, many of the men he appointed were dishonest and greedy.  He may have excelled in the military, but he wasn't necessarily equipped to be president.

--After the White House, the Grants traveled around the world from 1877-1879, making Julia the first former first lady to do this.  They were treated like royalty wherever they went. 
--They then settled in a mansion in New York City.  Yet, because of a bad business deal, they ended up losing most of their fortune.
--In 1884, Ulysses got throat cancer and was dying.  He scrambled to finish his memoirs so that Julia would be taken care of after his death.  He finished within weeks of his death on July 23, 1885 at the age of 63.
--His memoirs brought in a lot of money and Julia was well taken care of until her death on December 14, 1902 at the age of 76.  She wrote her own memoirs, but they weren't published until many years later in 1975.

My Julia Grant Books:
-Julia Dent Grant--Christine A. Fitz-Gerald
-The Personal Memoirs of Julia Dent Grant: Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant
-America's First Ladies--Diana Dixon Healy
-First Ladies--Betty Boyd Caroli
-First Ladies of the White House--Nancy J. Skarmeas

Previous Profiles:
-Eleanor Roosevelt

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