The love story of Lucretia and James Garfield is not the smoothest or most romantic one in the history of U.S. presidents and first ladies. He wrote in his diaries that she bored him. She was deeply upset at his adultery, and distrusted his motives for marrying her, saying that she believed it was more out of duty than love. They were apart for the early part of the marriage as he traveled in the Union army and for the state legislature. But hardship would bring them closer.

First lady trivia: Lucretia Garfield Nursed Her Husband Back to Health After An Assassination Attempt
First lady trivia: Lucretia Garfield Nursed Her Husband Back to Health After An Assassination Attempt

In 1881 though, Mrs. Garfield was struck with severe malaria and almost died. President Garfield was overwhelmed with this, and took over more of the childcare and education of their children. When she recovered slightly, she decided to travel to the Jersey shore to hopefully heal in the fresh air. What they didn’t know was that an attempted assassin, Charles Guiteau, was waiting at the train station to kill the President when he took her to the train. But when he saw the frail state of the first lady, he held off, worried about how witnessing the murder would effect her.

On July 2nd, Guiteau did shoot James Garfield, and Mrs. Garfield rushed back to Washington to care from him, only barely healed herself. The country took great comfort in the brave face that she showed, and her calm bravery when the President did die in September, with his wife by his side. After his passing, Congress tried to pay his male doctor double the salary of his female doctor, but Mrs. Garfield stepped in and ensured that both doctors received an equal payment of $1,000.

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