Lucy Webb Hayes

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Lucy Hayes
Lucy Webb Hayes - Brady-Handy.jpg
First Lady of the United States
In office
March 4, 1877 – March 4, 1881
Preceded by Julia Grant
Succeeded by Lucretia Garfield
Personal details
Born (1831-08-28)August 28, 1831
Chillicothe, Ohio, U.S.
Died June 25, 1889(1889-06-25) (aged 57)
Fremont, Ohio, U.S.
Spouse(s) Rutherford B. Hayes
Children Birchard Austin Hayes
James Webb Cook Hayes
Rutherford Platt Hayes
Joseph Thompson Hayes
George Crook Hayes
Frances Hayes
Scott Russell Hayes
Manning Force Hayes
Occupation First Lady of the United States
Religion Methodist

Lucy Ware Webb Hayes (August 28, 1831 – June 25, 1889) was a First Lady of the United States and the wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes.

Historians have christened her "Lemonade Lucy" due to her staunch support of the temperance movement; however, contrary to popular belief, she was never referred to by that nickname while living, and it was her husband who banned alcohol from the White House.[1]

Early life

Born in Chillicothe, Ohio, the daughter of James Webb, a doctor, and Maria Cook-Webb, Lucy was descended from seven veterans of the American Revolution. Her father died when she was a child. After his death, she, her mother and the other children freed the family slaves and continued to give them assistance and show an interest in their welfare.[2] With her mother, she moved to Delaware, Ohio where in 1847 she met Rutherford B. Hayes. Later that year, she enrolled at Wesleyan Women’s College, class of 1850 (which later merged with Ohio Wesleyan University), from which she graduated with first honors;[3] she was the first first lady to have graduated from college and was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. Hayes was by this time practicing law in Cincinnati, and the two began dating seriously. He proposed in June 1851.

Rutherford Hayes, aged 30, married Lucy Webb, aged 21, on December 30, 1852, at the home of the bride’s mother in Cincinnati, Ohio. After the wedding, performed by Dr. L.D. McCabe of Delaware, the couple honeymooned at the home of the groom’s sister and brother-in-law in Columbus, Ohio.

Rutherford and Lucy Hayes on their wedding day.

She and her husband were both strong supporters of the Methodist Church in their home town, Fremont, Ohio. When the church constructed a new building there, they paid a quarter of the cost, and did so again when it burned and had to be rebuilt some years later. They assisted other churches as well.[4]

During the Civil War, Lucy spent two winters with him at a camp in Virginia, nursing him back to health while he served with the Union forces. She also worked with other hospitals and camps during the war.[5]

A vigorous opponent of slavery, Hayes contributed to her husband’s decision to abandon the Whigs for the antislavery Republican Party. During the American Civil War, she visited Hayes often in the field. Before becoming First Lady of the United States, she was twice First Lady of Ohio, first from 1868 to 1872 and again from 1876 until 1877 when her husband became President.[6] While her husband was governor of Ohio, she helped establish the state Home for Soldiers’ Orphans at Xenia.

First Lady

Lucy’s official White House portrait
Lucy and Rutherford Hayes’s grave at Spiegel Grove.

As First Lady, Hayes brought her zeal to the White House and supported her husband's ban of alcoholic beverages at state functions, excepting only the reception for Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia in 1877, at which wine was served. The Hayes had a lifelong habit of avoiding alcoholic beverages. Of their decision to continue that habit in the White House, Lucy said "It is true I shall violate a precedent, but I shall not violate the Constitution, which is all that, through my husband, I have taken the oath to obey. As for my countrymen, they are accustomed to independent action." Because of this stand, she was dubbed "Lemonade Lucy" and the Hayes administration became known as "the cold water regime."[7] The Women's Christian Temperance Union hailed her policy and in gratitude commissioned a full-length portrait of her, which now hangs in the White House. She also instituted the custom of conducting an Easter egg roll on the White House lawn. A devout Methodist, she joined the president in saying prayers after breakfast and she presided over group hymn sings with the cabinet and congressmen on Sunday evenings, singing with great joy in her warm contralto voice.[8]

During her years as First Lady, the Hayes family attended the Foundry Methodist Episcopal Church, and when the Woman's Home Missionary Society of that denomination was organized in 1880, Lucy became its first president and held that position for nine years. The Lucy Webb Hayes Training School for Deaconesses in Washington, D.C. was named in her honor. In that position, she spoke out often about the importance of the family, saying that with "American homes what they should be, we need not greatly fear the evils that threaten us from other lands."[9] "America is the cradle of the future for all the world. Elevate woman, and you lift up the home; exalt the home and you lift up the nation."[10] She made these statements in a public address at Syracuse, New York.[11]

The social highlight of the Hayes's years was their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary celebration, at which the President and the First Lady repeated their vows at a White House ceremony before many of the same guests who had attended the original nuptials in Cincinnati. On that occasion, Major William McKinley, who later became President, and others of the regiment she had served during the Civil War gave her a large silver platter with an affectionate inscription on it.[12]

Later life

In 1881 she retired with the President to Spiegel Grove in Fremont, Ohio. She died of a stroke on June 25, 1889, and was buried at Spiegel Grove. Upon her death, flags across the United States were lowered to half staff.


The Hayes had four sons and a daughter to live to maturity:

  • Sardis "Birchard Austin" Birchard Hayes (1853–1926) – lawyer. Born in Cincinnati, he graduated from Cornell University (1874) and Harvard Law School (1877). He settled in Toledo, Ohio, where he prospered as a real estate and tax attorney.
  • James Webb Cook Hayes (1856–1934) – businessman, soldier. Born in Cincinnati, he followed his brother to Cornell and on graduation became presidential secretary to his father. He later helped found a small business that eventually grew into Union Carbide. During the Spanish–American War, he was commissioned as an officer and received the Medal of Honor while serving in the Philippines.
  • Rutherford Platt Hayes (1858–1931) – library official. Born in Cincinnati, he attended the University of Michigan, graduated from Cornell University (1880), and did post-graduate work at Boston Institute of Technology. He worked as a bank clerk in Fremont, Ohio, for a time but devoted his life to promoting libraries. He also helped develop Asheville, North Carolina, into a health and tourist resort.
  • Joseph Thompson Hayes (1861–1863).
  • George Crook Hayes (1864–1866).
  • Frances "Fanny" Hayes-Smith (1867–1950). Born in Cincinnati, she was educated at a private girls' school in Farmington, Connecticut. In 1897, she married Ensign Harry Eaton Smith of Fremont, Ohio, later an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy.
  • Scott Russell Hayes (1871–1923) – businessman. Born in Cincinnati, he was still a youngster during his father’s presidency. At six he and his sister played host to other Washington area children in the first Easter egg roll conducted on the White House lawn. He was an executive with railroad service companies in New York City.
  • Manning Force Hayes (1873–1874).

In popular culture

  • In the musical comedy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the First Lady sings the "Duet for One," in which she transforms from Mrs. Grant into Lucy Webb Hayes.
  • In the Lucky Luke comic book Sarah Bernhardt, which is set in the late 19th-century Wild West, President Rutherford B. Hayes's wife is portrayed as being one of many who strongly disapprove of the titular actress's tour of the United States, given her reputation for loose morality. Disguised as a man called "George," the First Lady infiltrates Sarah's entourage and sabotages their tour throughout the U.S., though she does come to accept Sarah when the French actress's charms and singing talent moves a tribe of hostile Indians. "The president's wife" is not mentioned by name in the book, and thus might be regarded as fictional, although she and her husband do resemble Rutherford and Lucy Hayes in many ways. Hayes himself is portrayed as a man who is very taken aback by his wife's hostility towards Sarah, and keeps making the same speech over and over again, even when there is no one there to listen to him.


  1. Pakulski, Gary T. (27 August 2010). "First lady Lucy Hayes didn't initiate alcohol ban in White House". The Toledo Blade. Retrieved 9 September 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Edith Deen, Great Women of the Christian Faith, (Chappaqua, NY:Christian Herald Books,1959,p.228
  3. Edith Deen, Great Women of the Christian Faith, (Chappaqua, NY:Christian Herald Books,1959,p.227
  4. Dean, p. 228
  5. Deen, p. 228
  6. Edith Deen, Great Women of the Christian Faith, (Chappaqua, NY:Christian Herald Books,1959,p.227
  7. Dean, p. 227
  8. Deen, p. 227
  9. Dean, p. 228
  10. Dean, p.229
  11. Lorella Rouster, Hold-to-the-Basics Lucy, Testimonies of Faith, Sunday Schools Times/Gospel Herald, (Cincinnati, OH:Union Gospel Press, Winter Quarter, 2004-05, p.28
  12. Dean, p.28

External links

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Julia Grant
First Lady of the United States
Succeeded by
Lucretia Rudolph Garfield