Caroline L. Harrison

From Ohio History Central
Harrison, Caroline L..jpg
Official White House Portrait of Caroline Harrison.

Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison was born on October 1, 1832, in Oxford, Ohio. Her father, John Witherspoon Scott, was a professor of science and math at Miami University in Oxford. Scott emphasized education's importance and made sure that his daughter attended school. In 1845, Scott moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he accepted a position with Farmers' College. The Scott family remained in Cincinnati until 1849, when they returned to Oxford. Here, Mr. Scott opened the Oxford Female Institute. Caroline Harrison graduated from this institution with a music degree in 1853, and she entered the teaching profession.

While the Scott family resided in Cincinnati, Caroline met and fell in love with Benjamin Harrison. When the Scotts returned to Oxford, Harrison enrolled in Miami University so that he would be close to Caroline. The couple married on October 20, 1853. They first resided in North Bend, Ohio.

Benjamin Harrison quickly embarked upon a legal career. In 1853, the Harrisons moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where they rarely saw each other, as Benjamin devoted himself to his career. With the outbreak of the American Civil War, Benjamin enlisted in the Union Army. His wartime experience convinced him of his wife's and family's importance, and he returned from the conflict a much more compassionate man. Benjamin continued in his legal career following the war, and he also embarked on a political career. A member of the Republican Party, Harrison's first major political position was as United States Senator from Indiana, an office he assumed in 1880.

Caroline Harrison supported her husband's political ambitions. She used his prestige to support numerous causes. Caroline assisted the Indianapolis Orphanage. She also was a supporter of the women's rights movement. Unfortunately, she constantly suffered from ill health. She suffered a fall early on in her husband's Senate term, causing her to be away from Washington, DC, much of the time as she recuperated.

In 1888, Benjamin Harrison won election as the President of the United States. Caroline Harrison played an active role as First Lady. She loved china and documented the different types of china her predecessors had utilized in the White House. She sought to expand the White House, but she failed to secure funding from the United States Congress. Undeterred, Harrison modernized the structure, adding a bathroom and updating the kitchen facilities. Caroline Harrison also became the President General of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Under her leadership, this new and fledgling organization prospered. In this role, Harrison gave the first speech by a First Lady that was ever recorded electronically. Still committed to women's rights, Harrison refused to support the addition of a hospital wing at John Hopkins Medical School, until this institution agreed to admit women to its medical program. The hospital administration agreed to Harrison's demands. Caroline Harrison also placed the first Christmas tree in the White House.

See Also