Thursday, February 16, 2017

Born Today February 16: Julia Grant


Julia Grant was the 18th First Lady of the United States, being married to Ulysses S. Grant.  She was born Julia Boggs Dent on this date in 1826 in the White Haven section of St. Louis, MO to a slave owning planter and merchant and his wife.  She was the fifth of eight children.  She married the future president in 1848, with Grant's father refusing to attend the wedding on the grounds that he objected to her family owning slaves.  After enduring life as a military wife--being away from her husband for long stretches; and then as the wife of a poor farmer, the Grants found themselves caught up in the Civil War.  Ulysses Grant eventually found himself appointed commander of the Union armies; Lincoln sent for Julia, understanding her positive effect upon her husband.  In 1868 U. S. Grant won the nomination for the Republican party, Julia was much more elated than he was.  He felt he had been compelled to enter the race for highest office in land by the political storm surrounding the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.  She was deeply involved in her husband's political career, and she proved astute in her assessments of situations.  In regards to silent film, she appeared in two news reels the date from the year 1899.  The first was First City Troop Of Philadelphia, appearing with President McKinley.  The second was Mrs. Grant and President McKinley, which also includes Ida McKinley.  Both films were produced by American Mutoscope & Biograph. Her views on slavery and racism have always been a matter of conjecture; what is known is that she thought that the "black race" was inferior to the "white race," though she never supported post-war white supremacists--which included member of her own family--even a brother.  On women's rights, she was much clearer.  She was a complete defender of women's rights and would permit no jokes being told at a woman's expense in her company (especially in Washington D.C.).  After her husband left the office of the presidency, she joined several other former first ladies to become "Queen Mother" figures in the country.  Her husband died of throat cancer in 1885, she continued to live on until she passed away from kidney failure in Washington D.C. in 1902 on 14 December.  She was interred in General Grant's National Monument, affectionately known as "Grant's Tomb," in New York City.   As a curious fact, she always appears in profile in photographs, because she was born with strabismus; a condition that she wanted to correct after becoming first lady.  President Grant was having none of that, proclaiming to her "Did I not see you and fall in love with you with these same eyes? I like them just as they are, and now, remember you are not to interfere with them. They are mine, and let me tell you, Mrs. Grant, you had better no make any experiments, as I might not like you half so well with any other eyes."

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