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Ellen Lewis Herndon Arthur*

*Ellen Arthur never served as First Lady. She came down pneumonia in November of 1880 and died on January 10, 1881. She was forty-two when she died.

Ellen (Nell) Herndon was born on August 30, 1837 in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
When she was young her family moved to Washington, D.C.

Her father, William Lewis Herndon was a naval officer. He helped establish the Naval Observatory.

She was an excellent singer and sang in the St. John's Episcopal Church choir.

Nell met Chester Arthur in New York in 1856. They were introduced by her cousin Dabney Herndon.

Chester helped Nell and her family with their financial matters when her father died in 1857.

Nell and Chester were married on October 25, 1859 in New York City.

Ten months before Chester Arthur's election as Vice President, Ellen caught a cold. Two days later she was critically ill with pneumonia. On January 10, 1881 she died. She was 42.

Arthur gave a stained glass window in honor of his wife's memory to the St. John's Episcopal Church. The window was placed so he could see it from the White House.

After Nell's death Arthur's younger sister Mary served as hostess during his term in office.

Ellen and Chester are buried in Rural Cemetery in Albany, New York.




Visit our site on U.S. Presidents



First Ladies

Books and Websites


Smithsonian Presidents and First Ladiesby James Barber and Amy Pastan.
First Ladies: Women Who Called The White House Home (First Ladies) by Beatrice Gormeley.

Websites National First Ladies Library of Congress, Images of the First Ladies




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This page was last modified: January 17, 2012