January 26, 1826, in St. Louis, Missouri
December 14, 1902, in Washington, D.C.
Julia Grant served as first lady throughout her husband’s (Ulysses Grant) two terms in the years 1869-1877. Julia was 43 years old when she became first lady.
Following the dark years of the Civil War, the public welcomed its wartime hero Ulysses Grant into the White House, along with his vivacious wife Julia. With Julia’s entrance to the White House, the role of the reclusive first lady was dismissed to the annals of history. Julia exploited the wave of public support she and her husband rode to the White House and managed to not only restore festive and lavish entertaining as a standard, but also to secure the support needed to refurbish and redecorate the now run-down mansion in an ornate and extravagant style that was fashionable at the time. Open houses, receptions, and weekly state dinnersJulia relished in hosting them all. She worried not about expenses and often hosted lavish dinner parties that served 20 to 30 courses. Julia truly enjoyed her time as first lady and later referred to her years in the White House as “quite the happiest period” of her life.
In Grant’s final days, he wrote a wildly successful memoir that earned enough money to sustain his family financially for many years. Julia also spent her later years writing her own autobiography. Although her work was not published until after her death, her autobiography was the first memoir by any first lady to be printed.
Regarding her years as first lady, Julia noted, “My life in the White House was like a bright and beautiful dream.”
Acknowledging her confidence in her husband’s career, Julia wrote, “I always knew my husband would rise in the world. I believed he would someday inhabit the highest office in the land. I felt this even when we were newly married and he was making a mere pittance in salary.”