“Lemonade Lucy” the public preferred; but she’s “Mother Lucy” to the Ohio 23rd

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First Sergeant
Forum Host
Aug 6, 2016

Rutherford Birchard Hayes (1822-1893)
Lucy Ware Webb (1831 – 1889)
Wedding Day December 30, 1852.

Wikipedia (Public Domain)

Miss Lucy Webb was a daughter to parents that held strong principles and taught their daughter well. She was the 1st First Lady to hold a college degree. When she was 2 years old, her father Dr. James Webb, went to his father’s home in Lexington Kentucky for the purpose of freeing approximately 20 slaves he had inherited from his aunt. Unfortunately there was a cholera epidemic in the area and in due time the disease claimed the life of Dr. Webb as well as the life of his parents and a brother. He did not have time to free his inherited slaves so they became the property of his wife and Lucy’s mother Maria Cook. When advised that she should sell them for their monetary value she refused and stated she would take in laundry before she would sell a slave. Lucy learned at an early age to hate the practice of slavery and for the rest of her life she would be an advocate for the African American community.

By all accounts, even with the death of her father, her childhood was typical for a young girl of her social status. She had 2 older brothers who would go on to be doctors like their father. She was a pleasant child and had many friends. A favorite family story was passed down of a particular "spirited little girl" and her pony - - -

“One day Sir Head-strong Pony made up his will to come home ‘all of a sudden,’ whether his rider would or not. Presently Lucy’s mother and aunt heard the multitudinous, resolute clatter of four perverse little hoofs, and saw Master Pony and his plucky would-be mistress flash past the window in far too headlong fashion for their on-looking calm content. Out they rushed, with up-held hands and fear-stricken faces, just in time to see Miss Lucy spring from pony-back and alight in safety, while her small dashing steed sped on through the stable doorway. Dauntless Mistress Lucy was eager to bring him out from his retreat at once, and soon in a bouncing canter over miles of hill and valley tamed his willfulness into abject and weary submission.” {3}

The Importance of Her Education

When she was 6 years old Miss Lucy was enrolled at Miss Baskerville School Female School in Chillicothe Ohio. There are no records of what she was taught while in attendance. The only record of her at all was a report of when a “stern” teacher reprimanded her younger cousin and Miss Lucy was not going to keep quiet about the incident.

As she entered her teenage years she was enrolled at Ohio Wesleyan Preparatory Department in Delaware Ohio. It was here she studied French, composition, grammar and penmanship. Perhaps by this time she had learned to control her “outspokenness” for she received merit points for conduct.

By 1847 she was ready to move on to college. For the first time she would board with 400 other female students when she attended the Cincinnati Wesleyan Female College. She was 16 years old.


Cincinnati Wesleyan Female College
(Public Domain)

She was described as a diligent student. Her studies would have included rhetoric, geometry, geology, astronomy, trigonometry, mental and moral science, German, French, drawing, painting, music. {1}

On a weekly basis, she was required to write a topical essay or participate in debates. The subjects she addressed included: {1}

Which Requires the Greater Sacrifices of Its Votaries, Religion or Vice?
Has the World Degenerated Since the Fall?
Is Knowledge Necessarily Active?
Is Emulation a Greater Promotive of Literary Excellence than Personal Necessity?
The Importance of Refined Taste
Is Traveling on the Sabbath Consistent With Christian Principles?
Is the Advancement of Civil Society More Indebted to Intellectual Culture than Physical Suffering?
Has Society a Right to Prohibit the Manufacture and Sale of Ardent Spirits?
Is America Advancing in Mental and Moral Improvement.

When she graduated from college she took with her a liberal arts degree. She was elected to the Lyceum, which was an academic honor, and her graduation speech topic was titled: “The Influence of Christianity of National Prosperity”.

Marriage & Children & War

There is a probably that Lucy had dated several young men before Rutherford B. Hayes come into her life. They were actually brought together when Hayes’s mother, a friend of Lucy’s mother, began to encourage a match between the two. Mrs. Hayes admired the moral character and the religious beliefs of Miss Lucy Webb. Hayes fell in love with Lucy, but had reservations about her - - -

“intellectual worldliness, and believed that if she read a wider diversity of literature, practiced writing, and had more frequent and closer contact with cultivated and intellectual individuals that she would enlarge herself to her fullest mental capacities.” {1}

But on December 30, 1852, after a one year engagement, the 21 year-old Lucy married the 30 year-old Hayes. There marriage would last 40 years and produce 7 sons and 1 daughter, with 3 sons dying before reaching adulthood.

hayes 15-1.jpg

Lucy Hayes with her two youngest children Scott and Fanny
in the White House conservatory.

Library of Congress
First Ladies Biographies

When the civil war began Lucy encouraged her husband to serve. Rutherford Hayes had an attitude toward the union to just “let them [the southern states] go”, but when Fort Sumter was fired upon he enlisted. He was appointed a Major in the 23rd Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry. In September of 1862 he was injured and was placed in a Maryland hospital where he was soon joined by Lucy. After he healed, Lucy became a regular visitor at the camp. She comforted the wounded, cheered the men as they fought hard battles, held the hands of the dying and became quite attached to the boys of the 23rd as they did her by lovingly referring her as “Mother Lucy”.

The Years After the War

In 1864 Rutherford Hayes was elected to Congress from Ohio’s 2nd District, but he was unwilling to leave his military duties so he would not begin serving until December of 1865. He was re-elected in 1866 but would resign in 1867 to run for the governorship of Ohio.

He served as the 29th Governor of Ohio serving 2 terms from January 13, 1868 – January 8, 1872; and then he’d return to serve as the 32nd Governor from January 10, 1876 – March 2, 1877. During 4 years in-between he looked forward to spending some time with his family. By this time his only daughter Fanny and son Scott had been born.

They took a financial hit during the Panic of 1873 during which time he wished to stay out of politics while he tried to work to re-coup his losses and build up his law practice. The state of Ohio had other plans when they begged him to run for governor. He felt he could not say no. He became the 1st 3-term governor of Ohio. This would not be the pinnacle of his political career for the Republican party nominated him as their candidate in the 1876 Presidential election. In a rather muddled and fuzzy election, Rutherford Hayes was elected. Since this is an article about Lucy Webb Hayes I have included a link** of the election, however, because of the dispute over the outcome of the election, there was no Inaugural Ball held in 1877. He resigned his governorship 2 days before he took the Presidential oath.

When Lucy entered the White House she was mothering her 2 children who were 6 and 10 years old. With her level of education more pressure was put on her for an expectation of greater endeavors. She was politically careful never to join any cause that was controversial and put her husband’s career in any danger.

From a young age she was conscious of the dangers of consuming alcohol, but it was after a visit from the Grand Dukes Alexis and Constantine, sons of Tsar Alexander II of Russia in April 1877, when her husband would make the decision to ban all alcohol from the White House.

hayes 17.jpg

A newspaper cartoon satirized the First Lady's alcohol policy showing
Lucy Hayes smiling in a water bottle and frowning in a wine bottle.
(Kent State University Press)

National First Lady Library {1}

The First Lady strongly agreed with this stance, but found that she was ridiculed for the policy and personally blamed for her husband’s decision even to the point where she was caricatured on a wine bottle with a prudish expression smiling in a water bottle. Thus her moniker “Lemonade Lucy” was born.

Rutherford Hayes did not seek re-election for the presidency. Lucy's niece wrote a letter to one of their sons the following remembrance from their mother on her view of a 2nd term in the White House - - -

"While this White House epoch was drawing to a close, your grandmother wrote of it, to a cousin, thus:

“We will be ready to leave in the spring. I am surprised to find how I look longingly for the springtime to come. I have had a particularly happy life here, and yet will hail my return home with the greatest pleasure. ‘Four years’ is long enough for a woman like this one.”

Former President Rutherford B. Hayes and his wife lived their retirement in their Ohio home “Spiegel Grove”. Lucy was a tireless worker on those issues she cherished from her youth especially within the African American community. She never lost her compassion for those struggling in life. She also found a new love in animals. Every day she would be tending to her birds that flocked as she tossed them food, and she loved her dogs. She lived for 8 years in retirement until a stroke claimed her life at 57. She was buried on the family estate. The former president was devastated by her death. Her hearse was attended by her beloved Ohio 23rd whom had dubbed her “Mother Lucy”. Rutherford B. Hayes joined her in death on January 17, 1893 at 70 years of age.


Gravesite of President and Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes
Spiegel Grove. Fremont, Ohio
A granite tombstone, made from granite quarried from the
Hayes homestead in Dummerstown, Vermont, marks their burial site.

Wikipedia Commons (Released in Public Domain)

* * * * * * *

1. http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=20
2. Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
3. https://www.rbhayes.org/hayes/reminiscence-of-lucy-webb-hayes/
4. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/5196/lucy-ware-hayes
5. https://www.whitehousehistory.org/bios/lucy-hayes

**More on the Presidential Election of 1876
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Sergeant Major
Nov 27, 2018
Chattanooga, Tennessee
What a fascinating woman! I would love to read some of the essays she wrote in college. Great thread @DBF ! Has this been featured? It's definitely worthy. Please consider submitting it.
I should think that those essays would be saved in some repository somewhere. It doesn't sound as though a catastrophe such as fire claimed them. I was thinking the same thing @Eleanor Rose, that given the pertinence of the subject material, the essays would be a fascinating reflection on that era.


Dec 30, 2016
Manassas VA
Great write-up. She was a very lovely woman. And a very strong minded one as well. Sad she succumbed to a stroke at such an early age, but that was not uncommon back then...
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