AKA Rachel Donelson
Birthplace: near Chatham, VA
Location of death: Washington, DC
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, The Hermitage, Nashville, TN
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: First Lady
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Wife of US President Andrew Jackson
Rachel Jackson was the wife of US President Andrew Jackson. Smears about her honor became a major issue in her husband's 1828 election campaign, and even today the facts of the matter remain somewhat muddled, but she is known to have married Lewis Robards, a wealthy Kentucky man, when she was 17. Her marriage to Robards was rocky, and she said she was thrown out of his house in 1788, while he maintained that she had abandoned him without cause. After their separation, she went to live with her widowed mother, and began dating Jackson, then a young lawyer.
Andrew and Rachel Jackson always claimed that they were married in 1791, after receiving word that Robards had divorced her. Others in the area said the couple had eloped or merely lived together as early as 1790, and no documentation of their 1791 marriage has been found. Robards, however, did not even file for divorce until 1792, a divorce granted the next year on grounds of his wife's infidelity and desertion of their home.
In a time when a woman's reputation was of grave importance, the whispers about the Jacksons' marriage were intolerable to the future President, so the Jacksons were married or re-married in 1794. As his political career progressed to the US House, then Senate, and a judgeship, her alleged bigamy and his rumored seduction of a married woman were the basis of frequent fist fights with opponents, and occasional duels. In 1806, in response to an insult about his wife's character, Andrew Jackson fought a duel with attorney Charles Dickinson, who wounded him before being shot and killed by the future President.
When he ran for President in 1828, the circumstances of their courtship and marriage were dredged up repeatedly, including a pamphlet circulated by John Quincy Adams' supporters that asked, "Ought a convicted adulteress and her paramour husband to be placed in the highest offices of this free and Christian land?" Her husband won the election, but after his victory she reportedly dreaded enduring four years of insults and innuendo. Weeks after the election but before his inauguration, she died, reportedly of a heart attack. She was buried in the white dress she had purchased for his swearing-in ceremony.
The doomed love affair of Andrew and Rachel Jackson has been frequently retold, embellished and perhaps sanitized, and has become American folklore. The President's Lady, a best-selling novel by historian Irving Stone, was based on the Jacksons' lives, and the book was adapted into a hit movie in 1953. Susan Hayward starred as Rachel Jackson and Charlton Heston as Andrew Jackson.
The Jacksons had three children, all adopted. Andrew Jackson Jr was born to Andrew Jackson's brother Severn and Severn Jackson's wife, Elizabeth Rucker Donelson, but his twin brother, Thomas Jefferson Donelson, remained with his natural parents. On the frontier battlefield, Andrew Jackson found a young Indian boy whose parents had been killed, and had the child delivered to his home, where he was named Lyncoya and raised as a son. Another child, Andrew Jackson Hutchings, the orphaned grand niece of Rachel Jackson, was taken in and raised by the Jacksons from the age of five. The Jacksons also served as guardians for several other children, which under the customs of the day meant that the Jacksons provided for the financial welfare of these children, who were mostly cousins, nieces, and nephews, but they did not live with the Jacksons.
Though she was dead before her husband took office, Rachel Jackson is listed as a First Lady by White House historians. Without a wife, President Jackson asked his wife's niece, 21-year-old Emily Donelson, to perform White House hostess duties. After she refused to socialize with the scandal-plagued Margaret O'Neill Eaton, wife of Secretary of War John Henry Eaton, President Jackson asked Sarah Yorke Jackson, the wife of his adopted son Andrew Jackson Jr., to became his de facto hostess at official events.
Father: John Donelson (explorer, co-founder of Nashville, TN, b. circa 1725, d. 1786 murder)
Mother: Rachel Stockley Donelson (b. circa 1730, m. 1744, d. 17-Nov-1801)
Brother: Alexander Donelson (b. 1749, d. 1834)
Sister: Mary Donelson Caffery (b. 1751, d.)
Sister: Catherine Donelson Hutchings (b. 1752, d. 1835)
Brother: Stockley Donelson (b. 1753, d. 1804)
Sister: Jane Donelson Hay (b. 1757, d. 1834)
Brother: John Donelson (b. 1755, d. 1830)
Brother: William Donelson (b. 1756, d. 1820)
Brother: Samuel Donelson (b. 1758, d. 1804)
Brother: Severn Donelson (b. 1763, d. 1818)
Brother: Leven Donelson (b. 1765, d.)
Husband: Lewis Robards (b. 5-Dec-1758, m. 1-Mar-1785, sep. 1788, div. 17-Sep-1793, d. 15-Apr-1814)
Husband: Andrew Jackson (US President, dated 1789-91, m. 15-May-1791, m. 1794, d. 8-Jun-1845)
Son: Andrew Jackson Jr (b. 4-Dec-1808 adopted, d. 1865)
Son: Lyncoya Jackson (saddlemaker, b. 1811 adopted, d. 1828 tuberculosis)
Son: Andrew Jackson Hutchings (b. 1812 adopted, d. 1841)
Scottish Ancestry Paternal
Welsh Ancestry Paternal
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