Birthday: March 13, 1798
Died At Age: 55
Sun Sign: Pisces
Born in: Saratoga County
Famous as: First Lady of America
Spouse/Ex-: Millard Fillmore
father: Lemuel Powers
mother: Abigail Newland Powers
siblings: Almorena Strong, Amos Strong, Benajah Strong Jr., David Powers, Mary Powers, Sally Strong, Salmon Strong, Simeon Prime Strong, Thankful Strong, Truman Strong
children: Mary Abigail Fillmore, Millard Powers Fillmore
Died on: March 30, 1853
place of death: Washington, D.C.
Who was Abigail Fillmore?
Abigail Fillmore, wife of Millard Fillmore, the 13th President of the United States, was the First Lady of America from 1850 to 1853. Raised in a lower-middle class family without a father, she quickly became aware of her financial circumstances. She was passionate about learning and grasping knowledge which encouraged her to become a teacher in her teenage years. During her teaching career, she met an ambitious student, Millard Fillmore. They both fell for each other due to their similar interest in acquiring knowledge and married after some years. Initially a lawyer, her husband eventually went on to contest for the post of governor and later became the Vice President of United States. Following the untimely death of the then-President Zachary Taylor, her husband became the President and she became the First Lady of America. With her strong intellect, she helped her husband execute important political decisions. She also persuaded Congress to start a library at the White House and spent months selecting several hundred volumes to fill its shelves. She often played the hostess at dinners and political gatherings but mostly preferred to spend her time reading and playing the piano. She was a remarkably elegant First Lady of America with a rare combination of grace and intellect.
Childhood & Early Life
She was born on March 13, 1798 in Stillwater, New York to Reverend Lemuel Powers, a Baptist minister, and his wife, Abigail Newland Powers. She was the youngest of their seven children.
Her father died shortly after her birth and due to financial crisis, her family moved westward. Her mother anticipated that with limited money, they would last longer in a less settled region.
With the help of her late father’s personal library, her mother was able to provide for her education. Meanwhile Abigail was drawn towards books and reading which eventually developed into a lifelong love for learning.
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In 1814, she started out her career as a part-time teacher at the Sempronius village school. In 1817, after working as a part-time teacher for three years, she was employed as a full-time teacher. In 1819, she also started teaching at the newly opened New Hope Academy, New Hope.
In New Hope Academy, her eldest student was a young and ambitious teenager, Millard Fillmore. They both possessed a strong desire for learning and knowledge which brought them together. Gradually, they developed romantic feelings towards each other and became lovers.
In 1824, she privately tutored her three first cousins and soon her professional reputation earned her the opportunity to open a private school in Broome County. In 1825, she returned to Sempronius to resume her regular teaching.
Meanwhile Millard graduated and after apprenticing with a lawyer, he began a law practice in the nearby town of present-day East Aurora. In 1826, after a long courtship, they were married at the home of the bride's brother, Judge Powers, in Moravia, New York.
The couple settled in East Aurora, New York, and she continued to work as an educator for more than a year until the birth of their first child in the summer of 1828.
In 1829, Millard traveled to Albany, New York to serve a term in the state legislature. He returned in 1831 and started law practice in Buffalo where the family moved into a new six-room house. She founded a library in her house and spent most of her time reading.
In 1832, Millard was elected to the House of Representatives. In 1836, she was able to leave her children with relatives in New York to join her husband in Washington who was serving as a Congressman.
With the help of her acquired knowledge and being an avid reader, she applied her strong intellect to politics and soon became her husband’s chief adviser and political ally. In 1842, Millard made an unsuccessful bid for governor of New York and they left Washington D.C.
Millard was elected New York State Comptroller in 1847 and the family temporarily moved to Albany, New York while their children were away in boarding. In 1848 Millard was elected as the vice-presidential candidate from the Whig’s Party and assumed office in March 1849.
She came to Washington, D.C. as wife of the Vice President but following Zachary Taylor's death in 1850, Millard became the President and the family moved into the White House. During her years as the First Lady of America, her health constantly deteriorated and her teenage daughter, Mary, often replaced her as the hostess for the social and political gatherings in the White House.
Personal Life & Legacy
On February 5, 1826, she married Millard Fillmore and the couple settled in East Aurora, New York. She shared her husband's love of books and helped build their personal library.
They were blessed with two children; a son, Millard Powers Fillmore, born in 1828 and a daughter, Mary Abigail Fillmore, born in 1832.
At the outdoor inauguration of Franklin Pierce, Millard’s successor for the post of president, she caught a cold and soon came down with fever. Later, she contracted pneumonia and died on March 30, 1853 in Washington D.C.
She was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York. She was survived by her husband and two children.
This First Lady had the shortest post-Presidential life of any former First Lady. She died just 26 days after leaving the White House.