History's Women: Social Reformers: Lucy Webb Hayes, Wife of President Hayes and First Practical Temperance Reformer of the White HouseLucy Grymes Nelson
Wife of Thomas Nelson, Jr., Signer of the Declaration of Independence
1831 – 1879 A.D.

Mrs. Hayes was the daughter of Dr. James Webb. Dr. Webb removed from North Carolina to Ohio, where he sought to arrange her transportation to Liberia of slaves whom he and his father had liberated. The daughter Lucy was born in Ohio. The mother was of New England Puritan descent.

Miss Webb was educated at the Wesleyan Female College in Cincinnati. In 1852 she married Mr. Hayes. Her husband and all her brothers enlisted in the Union army during the civil war, and Mrs. Hayes gave much time to nursing the sick and wounded soldiers, both in her home and at the front. She spent two winters in camp and served in the hospital at Frederick City, Maryland.

She was an untiring worker in philanthropic and religious lines, and while her husband was engaged as a member of Congress and then as governor of Ohio, Mrs. Hayes devoted much time and talents to state charities. She was one of the organizers of the Ohio Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphans’ Home.

In 1877 Mr. Hayes entered upon his duties as a president of the United States and Mrs. Hayes became mistress of the White House. Here she introduced changes which called forth the contemptuous criticism of many and the well merited praise of many more. She determined that the White House should be a religious and temperance house so long as she remained in it. Wine was not served even at the state dinners. This was a startling innovation for Washington society.

At the close of Mr. Hayes’ administration, temperance people, among them many persons of eminence, presented Mrs. Hayes a great album of testimonials, in recognition of her heroic position in the matter of wine drinking.

Lucy Webb Hayes, “amiable, sincere, a devout Christian, and a devoted wife and mother.” She died June 25, 1879.


Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.