by John T. Marck
First Lady: (Mistress of the White House)
1829 to 1836
Niece of Andrew Jackson, 7th President of the United States
Born: June 1, 1807 Died: December 19, 1836
Emily Donelson was Andrew Jackson's niece, and was born on June 1, 1807 at Clover Bottom Farm in Donelson, Tennessee. She was the daughter of Rachel's brother John and Mary Donelson. At the age of seventeen, Emily married her first cousin, Major Andrew Jackson Donelson, was also served as President Jackson's private secretary. Together Emily and her husband raised four children.
When Andrew Jackson became President, he was still grieving the loss of his wife, Rachel Donelson Jackson, who had died suddenly while making the preparations for the trip to Washington. Rachel had been married first to Lewis Robards. This marriage did not last, and Lewis returned to his Kentucky home to get a divorce. Rachel, thinking she received a divorce, married her second husband, Andrew Jackson. Two years later she learned that Robards got the divorce after her second marriage, a plan he used to charge her with adultery. This caused a scandal, and fearing these charges, Rachel then remarried Andrew in a second ceremony.
Having lost his wife, and since President Jackson needed a mistress of the White House, he chose Emily, as his wife Rachel had chosen Emily to assist her with those duties. Emily, prior to moving to Washington, had been the mistress of Tulip Grove Plantation, where she cared for her husband, Major Andrew Jackson Donelson, and their family.
As Jackson began his Presidency, he was a tired and sad man, as he missed his family who were not present with him. In time, Emily gave the White House a family mansion atmosphere, and Washington society approved of her. During her stay with her Uncle President, she had only one disagreement, in that she refused to recognize Peggy O'Neale, the wife of Jackson's friend and Secretary of War. Jackson sent her back to Tennessee as a result, only to recall her later when the controversy was resolved.
In the last year of his Presidency, Jackson was quite upset and worried about Emily's health. She had developed tuberculosis, and was returned to Tulip Grove, and who was losing strength rapidly. Emily, hoping to see her husband who was in route from Washington, died December 19, 1836, two days before her husband finally arrived.
Copyright © 1990-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author. From The First Ladies of the United States by John T. Marck.