Birthday: July 25, 1775
Died At Age: 88
Sun Sign: Leo
Born in: Morristown, Province of New Jersey
Famous as: Former First Lady of America
Spouse/Ex-: William Henry Harrison (m. 1795–1841)
father: John Cleves Symmes
mother: Anna Tuthill Symmes
children: Anna Tuthill Harrison Taylor, Benjamin Harrison, Carter Bassett Harrison, Elizabeth Bassett Harrison, James Findlay Harrison, John Cleves Symmes Harrison, John Scott Harrison, Jr, Lucy Singleton Harrison Este, Mary Symmes Harrison, William Henry Harrison
Died on: February 25, 1864
place of death: North Bend, Ohio
U.S. State: New Jersey
Anna Tuthill Symmes Harrison was the wife of the ninth President of the United States, William Henry Harrison. Being married to the president she assumed the First Lady of the United States but this title was only nominal as she never entered the White House during her husband’s one-month term in 1841. Thus she has the distinction of holding the title for the shortest length of time. She is also the oldest woman ever to become the First Lady as she was 65 years old at the time her husband became the president; she was also the first woman to be widowed while serving as the First Lady. As a woman Anna Harrison was a very simple and home-loving individual who was fully dedicated to being a good wife and a responsible mother. Having lost her mother at an early age, she had her share of hardships while growing up. At the age of 20 she fell in love with Lieutenant William Henry Harrison, an army man, and decided to marry him. Her father strongly disapproved of her choice but the young woman eloped with Harrison. Eventually reconciled with her father, she went on to bear ten children and became a contented homemaker. It was much later in life that her husband became the president and she, the First Lady.
Childhood & Early Life
She was born on 25 July, 1775 in Sussex County, New Jersey to John Cleves Symmes, a Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court who had served as the Colonel of the Continental Army during American Revolution. Her mother, Anna Tuthill Symmes, died when she was in her infancy. She had one sister, Maria.
Her father was unable to care for Anna by himself and took her to her maternal grandparents Henry and Phoebe Tuthill in Suffolk County, on Long Island.
She lived with her grandparents till adolescence and received good education. She first went to the Clinton Academy and then to the Boarding School of Isabella Marshal Graham. She went to live with her father and step-mother when she was 13.
In 1795, she went to visit relatives in Kentucky where she met Lieutenant William Henry Harrison, who was in town on military business. The two fell in love and began courting each other.
Anna’s father strongly disapproved of this relationship because of William’s military career and felt that the young man would not properly take care of his daughter. Thus the young couple eloped and got married.
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She was a traditional woman who harbored no ambitions beyond the threshold of her home. She was a devoted wife and loving mother to the many children she bore. In addition to her familial responsibilities she was also active in the church community.
Because of his military career, William was often posted away from home. During such periods marked by her husband’s absence, she dutifully managed the household and reared the children.
In 1799, her husband was elected to the Congress as Territorial Representative and she joined him in the capital city of Philadelphia and made an extensive visit to his relatives in Richmond, Virginia.
A couple of years later William was named Territorial Governor of Indiana in 1801. She moved with the children to Indiana where her husband built a sturdy mansion for the family.
In spite of the fact that the couple had numerous servants, it became Anna’s responsibility to directly manage the household which included her large family. The financial management of the couple’s properties also fell upon her shoulders.
Being an educated woman she took an active interest in the education of her children and taught them reading, writing, and religious studies. She also introduced the children to Greek philosophy and Shakespeare.
During this time her husband’s political career was also on the rise and she had to play hostess to the various political and military figures who came to consult with William Harrison, including Vice President Aaron Burr.
William Harrison was drafted as the Whig candidate for President in both 1836 and 1840. He had a landslide electoral victory in 1840 and assumed office as the ninth President of the United States on 4 March 1841. His presidency however was very short-lived as he died just a month later.
After the death of her husband Anna went to live with her son John Scott. She was provided with a grant of $25,000 as pension for a president’s widow.
Personal Life & Legacy
She eloped with William Harrison and got married on 25 November, 1795. Though her father initially disapproved of her choice, eventually he came to admire and respect his son-in-law for his strong character.
She gave birth to ten children and was a loving and responsible mother to them. She also shared a close bond with her husband and took delight in her duties as a wife.
She had to endure a lot of heartache as several of her children died in front of her eyes. Her husband also died in 1841. She outlived her husband by several years and died on 25 February, 1864, at the age of 88.
This First Lady of the United States was the first one to have received a formal education.