Main Content

The centennial of President Washington's inauguration heightened the nation's interest in its heroic past, and in 1890 Caroline Scott Harrison lent her prestige as first lady to the founding of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She served as its first president general. She took a special interest in the history of the White House, but the mature dignity with which she carried out her duties never overshadowed the fun-loving nature that had charmed "Ben" Harrison when they met as teenagers.

Born in Oxford, Ohio, in 1832, "Carrie" Scott was the second daughter of the founder of the Oxford Female Institute. As a pupil there, she infatuated the reserved young Ben, then an honor student at Miami University. They were engaged before his graduation and married in 1853.

They enjoyed a happy family life interrupted only by the Civil War. While General Harrison was away, Caroline cared for their son and daughter, gave active service to the First Presbyterian Church and to an orphans' home. Blessed with considerable artistic talent, she was an accomplished pianist. She especially enjoyed painting for recreation.

During her husband's term in the Senate, 1881-1887, she was repeatedly kept away from Washington's winter social season by illness, and she welcomed their return to private life. Nevertheless, she moved with poise to the White House in 1889 to continue the gracious way of life she had always created in her own home. The Harrisons shared the White House with some of their relatives, including their daughter, Mary McKee, and her two children. Caroline's efforts to have the mansion enlarged were in vain, but she did assure an extensive renovation with up-to-date improvements.

As well as giving elegant receptions and dinners, the first lady worked for local charities, established the collection of china associated with White House history and, along with other ladies of progressive views, helped raise funds for the Johns Hopkins University medical school on condition that it admit women. In the winter of 1891-1892, she fought illness as she tried to fulfill her social obligations. Caroline Harrison died of tuberculosis at the White House in October 1892, and after services in the East Room, was buried at her own church in Indianapolis.

You Might Also Like