The Woman who "Lit Up the White House"

Caroline also had electricity installed for the first time and left the lights on all night long ....

The future 23th First Lady of the United States was born in a small town in Ohio in 1832 to a minister and professor of science and math John Witherspoon and Mary Potts Neal.  Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison was raised with parents who encouraged Caroline to study English literature, theater, art, and painting at the Oxford Female Institute. Caroline would later join the faculty at the Oxford Female Institute as an Assistant in Piano Music.

Benjamin Harrison meet his future wife while studying under her father at Farmer's College.  A year after Caroline graduated from college with a music degree she married Ben and they moved to Indianapolis, Indiana to setup Ben's first law practice.  While Benjamin fought during the American Civil War, Caroline gave birth to two children, Russell and Mary.  During this time Caroline joined local groups who took care of wounded soldiers and raised money for their support and supplies.

Ten years after the Civil War Benjamin set his mind to politics while Caroline struggled with poor health because of a bout of pneumonia she suffered from years earlier.  In 1888 Benjamin Harrison defeated Grover Cleveland for President of the United States.  As First Lady Caroline petitioned Congress for funds to renovate the White House which laid new floors, painted and wallpapered the walls, installed new plumbing and bathrooms.  Caroline also had electricity installed for the first time and left the lights on all night long because she like the look of the White House all lit up .

Caroline started a White House custom we still use today, the raising and lighting of a Christmas tree.  Also during Caroline tenure as First Lady she served as the first President General to the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  One of her biggest fundraisers was for the building of Johns Hopkins University Medical School — Caroline would only throw her weight behind the fundraiser if the school meet the condition that women be admitted.

Unfortunately, Caroline would not fulfill her duties as First Lady because she lost a battle to Tuberculosis in 1892.  Caroline's daughter Mary took over the First Lady duties while her father finished his presidency.  To learn more about this amazing First Lady go to your public library and check out Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison (Presidential Wives) by Anne Chieko Moore.

Portrait By Daniel Huntington