Parents and Teachers: In honor of Veterans Day, please check out my extensive resources on United States History and United States Geography. These sections contain hundreds of interactive and printable resources as well as fun online games, interactive maps, and much more! As always, please support this site by following me on FACEBOOK or TWITTER.

Sarah Childress Polk

   

Biography Navigation

   
All Biographies
Revolutionary War Figures
Civil War Figures
Military Figures
Explorers
Pioneers
African Americans
Women
Native Americans
Authors/Artists
Athletes
Inventors/Innovators
Presidents/Politicians
Pirates
 
 

First Lady Biographies

 
 

Sarah Childress Polk

by Michael Gabriele

 

Sarah Childress Polk was born on September 4th, 1803, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  Her parents owned a large plantation. She was the third of six children. During her childhood, she attended schools to teach women basic reading, writing, and arithmetic. As a teenager, she was enrolled in an all-female academy in North Carolina known as Moravians’ Salem Academy until her father died.

Sarah met James Polk in school when she was twelve years old and he was nineteen. At the time, he was a clerk of the Tennessee Senate. Years later, he began courting her and they were married in 1795 in North Carolina. She never had children of her own, but she did take in the son of her husband’s brother, named Marshall Tate, who often proved to be a troublemaker. In 1825, after serving as a state Congressman, James was appointed to the United States Congress and moved to Washington D.C., while Sarah stayed in Tennessee.  In 1839, James ran for the Governor of Tennessee.  During his campaign, Sarah scheduled his speeches, reviewed his press releases, and contacted newspapers. Throughout her husband’s political career,  Sarah provided  support, operations, and even political advice.  In 1845, James won the Presidency and the couple celebrated in Nashville before moving into the White House.

As First Lady, Sarah’s Christian orthodox beliefs made her seem very strict. For instance, she did not approve of business being conducted Sundays. She also stayed away from any events involving gambling, and did not allow dancing in the White House. At the time of the Polk presidency, the Presidential family was expected to fund any social events happening at the White House. Compared to their predecessors, the Tyler’s, the Polk’s were not rich, so there was less opportunity to entertain. Sarah’s low-key, sedate gatherings earned her the nickname “Sahara Sarah.” Sarah, did however, host the nation’s first annual Thanksgiving at the White House.

Just three months after departing from the White House to Nashville, James passed away. Sarah was left a widow at forty-five. She stayed in the Polk’s home in Nashville for the rest of her life. Sarah passed away on August 14th, 1891, forty years after her husband’s death. She was a widow for longer than any other First Lady.

 

Sources
http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=12
http://www.biography.com/people/sarah-polk-9443646