Surrogate First Ladies

Surrogate First Ladies

On Thursday, April 4, 2019, Dr. Katie Sibley will join LancasterHistory to discuss the “other women” of the White House: First Ladies never married to presidents. For event details and how to register, please scroll to the bottom of this page.

Image of Harriet Lane.
Harriet Lane

Beginning with Martha Jefferson Randolph, Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, there have been a handful of “surrogate First Ladies” who have performed the duties of White House hostess while not being married to the president. Even when these women are acknowledged as “surrogate First Ladies,” they are often not granted the value or respect of official First Ladies, though many served important roles in presidential administrations.

Perhaps most notable to the lineup of surrogate First Ladies is Harriet Lane, niece of President James Buchanan, who is the only woman who was not married to a president that is considered an “official” First Lady. Harriet Lane acted as Buchanan’s hostess and was a highly visible public figure. Other non-spousal relatives, including Emily Donelson and Sarah Yorke Jackson (Andrew Jackson’s niece and daughter-in-law, respectively), Angelica Singleton Van Buren (Martin Van Buren’s daughter-in-law), and Rose Elizabeth Cleveland (Grover Cleveland’s sister), took on the duties of First Lady.

Image of Dr. Katie Sibley.Katie A. S. Sibley, Ph.D. is the Director of the American Studies Program at St. Joseph’s University. Professor Sibley’s most recent publication is a comprehensive monograph on Florence Harding, entitled First Lady Florence Harding: Behind the Tragedy and Controversy (University Press of Kansas, 2009). She recently served as editor of A Companion to First Ladies (Wiley Blackwell, 2016).




A casual reception will begin at 4pm on Thursday, April 4 at LancasterHistory, 230 N. President Ave., Lancaster. The main presentation will begin at 4:30pm in Ryder Hall.

The program is free and open to the public but requires advance registration to guarantee a seat at the presentation. Register online by clicking “Buy Tickets” below or by calling (717) 392-4633. Questions and accessibility requests may be directed to or (717) 392-4633. Ticketholders should bring a paper printout of their tickets or be able to display their tickets on a cellphone or other internet-enabled device to check-in to the lecture.

Membership Makes History Happen! Your membership enables us to bring dynamic speakers to for our lecture series throughout the year, and gives you other exciting benefits! Learn more about becoming a member of LancasterHistory or renewing your membership today.


April 4, 2019 Ryder Hall at, 230 N. President Avenue Reception 4pm | Presentation 4:30pm FREE | Registration Required To Guarantee Seat