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Abigail Fillmore

The Nation’s 13th First Lady was born Abigail Powers, on 17 March 1798, in Stillwater, New York, to Rev. Lemuel Powers and Abigail Newland. She was educated at New Hope Academy and subsequently taught there. Millard Fillmore, two years her junior, became one of her students in 1819. The two fell in love and were married at
 Moravia on 5 February 1826. Abigail continued to teach, the first First Lady to hold a job after marriage.

Two children were born to Millard and Abigail Fillmore. Millard Powers was born in East Aurora on 25 April 1828. He became an attorney, and served as his father's private secretary during his Presidency. A bachelor, he died in Buffalo on 15 November 1889. Mary Abigail was born in Buffalo on 27 March 1832. She was an accomplished musician, who often served in place of her mother at White House functions. Her life was cut short on 27 July 1854 when she died of cholera.

The Fillmore family moved to Buffalo in 1830, and both Mr. and Mrs. Fillmore worked diligently for improvement in public education, establishment of a public library system, and cultural and intellectual enrichment. They maintained their Buffalo residence throughout Fillmore’s political career, returning periodically when his several terms of office ended and he resumed his law practice.

In 1848 Fillmore was elected Vice-President and the family moved to Washington, D.C. He took the oath of office on 5 March 1849 and served under President Zachary Taylor until Taylor’s death on 9 July 1850. Fillmore was sworn in as President the following day and the family moved into the White House.

National mourning for President Taylor and Abigail’s own ill health kept the social life of the Fillmore administration somewhat subdued, but the First Lady performed her duties with grace and elegance. Her special interest was the establishment of a White House library, for which she obtained an appropriation from Congress.

Millard Fillmore’s term as President ended on 4 March 1853. Unwell to begin with, Abigail suffered a chill during the inauguration of his successor, Franklin Pierce, and developed pneumonia. She died three weeks later on 30 March 1853 at the Willard Hotel in Washington. Abigail and her husband, who died at Buffalo in 1874, are buried in Buffalo’s beautiful Forest Lawn Cemetery.

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