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Sarah Polk's Geni Profile

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Sarah Polk (Childress)

Birthplace: Rutherford, Tennessee, United States
Death: Died
Place of Burial: Tennessee State Capitol Building and Grounds Nashville Davidson County Tennessee
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Joel W Childress and Elizabeth Childress
Wife of James K. Polk, 11th President of the USA
Mother of Charles Taylor Polk
Sister of Maj. John W. Childress; Mathilda "Mary" Fountain Catron; Susan Rucker and Anderson Childress

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Sarah Polk

In Washington as congressman's wife during the administrations of John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Martin Van Buren, Mrs. Polk very much enjoyed her social duties. She risked a breech with Jackson, her husband's mentor, by taking part in the social ostracism of Peggy Eaton.

Although not particularly attractive, Sarah Polk was lively, charming, intelligent, with a good conversationalist. President Polk at times discussed policy matters with her. Sarah helped James with his speeches in private, copied his correspondence, and gave him advice. While she enjoyed politics, she also cautioned him against overwork. A devout Presbyterian, she as First Lady banned dancing and hard liquor at official receptions and refused to attend horse races or the theatre. She hosted the first annual Thanksgiving dinner at the White House.

Only 41 when her husband became president, Sarah Polk outlived several of her successors: Margaret Taylor, Abigail Fillmore, Jane Pierce, Mary Todd Lincoln, Eliza Johnson and Lucy Webb Hayes. Only a handful of first ladies have lived longer -- Anna Harrison, Edith Bolling Wilson, Betty Ford, Lady Bird Johnson, and Bess Truman. Only three months after retirement to their new home "Polk Place" in Nashville, James Polk died. (He had the shortest retirement of any former US President).

Contrasted with Julia Tyler's waltzes, the Polk entertainments were noted for sedateness and sobriety. Although some accounts stated that the Polks never served wine, a Congressman's wife recorded in her diary details of a four-hour dinner for forty at the White House--glasses for six different wines, from pink champagne to ruby port and sauterne, "formed a rainbow around each plate. Mrs. Polk was said to be popular and respected.

She retired with the former president to Nashville, Tennessee, where she remained after his death in 1849. During the Civil War, she supported the Confederacy. During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate soldiers came to pay their respects to her.

Sarah Polk lived on in that home for 42 years. She lived through the longest retirement and widowhood of any former US First Lady, and wore black always.

She and James had no children.

She was the First Lady of the United States after James was inaugurated as the 11th President on March 4, 1845.

James' and Sarah's bodies were moved to the grounds of the State Capitol in Nashville, Tennessee in 1893.

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Sarah Polk's Timeline

September 4, 1803
Rutherford, Tennessee, United States
January 1818
Age 14
January 1, 1824
Age 20
Tennessee, United States
August 14, 1891
Age 87
Salem, North Carolina, United States
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States
Tennessee State Capitol Building and Grounds Nashville Davidson County Tennessee