Sarah Childress Polk
Sarah Childress was born on September 4, 1803 in Murfreesboro, TN.
Sarah met James Knox Polk in 1821. He proposed to her in 1823.
Before they were married Sarah had James pledge that he would run for Congress.
The Polk's had no children.
The election of 1844 was very bitter. James Polk was very unpopular with some people in Washington.
At Polk's inauguration, Sarah wore a blue satin dress. She carried a fan with her that her husband had given her. It had pictures of the ten presidents who came before him and an image of the Decoration of Independence on the back of the fan.
Sarah had the military band play Hail to the Chief when Polk entered the room. This became a Presidential Tradition.
That night there were two inaugural balls. One for the richer people that cost $10.00 to attend and the Democratic Association party that was less's formal and cost $5.00. The Polk's made an appearance at the fancy ball but spent more time and ate dinner at the $5.00 party.
She was Presbyterian and very religious. She did not allow card playing or dancing in the White House.
Sarah hosted the first formal Thanksgiving dinner ever held at the White House.
She and her husband were friends of Francis Scott Key who wrote the Star Spangled Banner.
Sarah was very religious and her religion made her shun “follies and amusements of the world. She banned dancing, card playing and hard liquor from the White House.
She staffed the White House with her slaves. She renovated the basement of the White House so her slaves could live there.
Sarah worked at the presidents personal secretary. They sometimes work 16 hour days.
Mr. Polk became ill while on tour of the Eastern States. He had cholera. He died from this disease on June 15, 1849.
Sarah wore widow's black the rest of her life.
She outlived her husband by 42 years. She was the longest living widow of a president.
Mrs. Polk died on August 14, 1891. She was 87. She is buried next to her husband in Nashville, TN.
In addition to the books listed below I also used:Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America
Sources of Information:
This page was updated: January 21, 2016