Many modern First Ladies have worked to improve a social issue, and their reputations matter almost as much as that of their presidential husbands. But former First Lady Julia Tyler had a scandalous reputation. Indeed, it preceded her time in the White House and lasted until she and her husband retired to their Virginia estate.
The title of First Lady originated in the United States, although, for many years, there was no single term to refer to the wife of the president. For instance, George Washington served as the nation’s first president. And most people referred to his wife, Martha, as “Lady Washington.”
An 1838 article in the St. Johnsbury Caledonian authored by a Mrs. Sigourney described how Martha Washington’s life had barely changed once her husband became president. The former wrote, “The first lady of the nation still preserved the habits of early life. Indulging in no indolence, she left the pillow at dawn.” And by 1877 the term had gained national attention and became more commonly used.