Because I am still on a presidential history jag and the Legislature has not gone into a special session…yet, I thought I’d give you a little spin on Martin Van Buren’s wife.
Well, his late wife.
Hannah Van Buren was also of Dutch origin, but was born in New York and the first, “First Lady” to be born an American citizen. Although she only spoke Dutch with Martin at home, Hannah still considered it to be her first language and English her second.
Hannah and Martin were childhood sweethearts but waited until Martin had finished school to marry at the ripe old age of twenty-four! Did I mention they were first cousins, once removed? Well, it’s true. They were.
Hannah and Martin were busy. Hannah gave birth to six children in ten years with only four of the boys surviving into adulthood. It would appear that Hannah never quite fully recovered after her sixth child (can you blame her?), and became ill with what was thought to be tuberculosis. She died ten years prior to Martin being sworn in as President leaving him to raise four young sons alone.
Not much has ever really been written about Hannah. Martin did not mention her in his autobiography and there is only an obituary and some letters written by her church (Presbyterian) clergy that mention her kind heart and empathy for the poor.
Nonetheless, historians still consider Hannah Van Buren as the “First Lady” of this administration simply because Martin never re-married. Personally, I’m thinking Hannah would have been relieved to miss most of Martin’s political career seeing that he was a shrewed political professional, voted out of office and given the nick name, “Martin Van Ruin”. I’m also sure she would NOT have enjoyed cleaning up the White House after Andrew Jackson, the party animal, who apparently trashed the place. I’m just saying…