Julia Gardiner Tyler was One of the U.S. Colorful Leading Woman
Julia Gardiner Tyler was One of the U.S. Colorful Leading Woman

Julia Gardiner Tyler was One of the U.S. Colorful Leading Woman

D.G. Hewitt - March 18, 2019

Julia Gardiner Tyler was One of the U.S. Colorful Leading Woman
President Tyler was not buried with full honors and Julia had to fight for a pension. Wikimedia Commons.

2. As former First Lady, Julia was hit hard by a financial crash and then her own brother sued her over their mother’s will

The former President hit Julia hard, including on a financial level. What’s more, the Civil War meant that she lost around 60 slaves and some 1,100 acres of land. Before long, she decided to move back to New York. Her brother David had moved out of their mother’s old house, so Julia moved, bringing a couple of her own children with her. Them, three years after her husband’s death in 1862, her own brother hit Julia with a lawsuit. The siblings went to court, with David alleging that Julia had exploited their mother’s supposed “mental incapacity” to get the lion’s share of the inheritance.

Shockingly for Julia, the courts sided with David and declared their mother’s will invalid. The family inheritance was then re-distributed, with Julia losing out. To make matters worse, the financial crisis of 1873 – known then as the Panic of 1873 – further hit Julia hard. As a result, Julia moved to Virginia in 1873. She moved in with her children and was forced to rely on them for money. The days of enjoying the good life and the luxuries that came with being the First Lady were well and truly over.

Julia Gardiner Tyler was One of the U.S. Colorful Leading Woman
Julia was buried alongside her husband, President and First Lady together forever. Find A Grave.

1. The former First Lady had to fight hard to get an official pension – but only had a few years of financial comfort at the end

In the end, Julia Tyler was able to live her last few years in relative comfort. After months of lobbying hard, in 1880, Congress finally agreed to pay her a monthly allowance. Though this was far short of the official pension Julia wanted – and believed she deserved – it eased her worries considerably and allowed her to be more independent. Then, the unexpected death of President James Garfield in 1881 led to a change in the rules. Congress finally agreed to grant the widows of former Presidents an annual pension of $5,000 – a sizeable sum and enough for Julia to live more than comfortably.

Sadly, however, Julia would only live another 8 years. In July of 1899, she suffered a stroke whilst on holiday in Richmond. She died shortly afterwards in the Exchange Hotel in the city. Since she had converted to Roman Catholicism late in life, she was given a full religious funeral. While her husband might be one of America’s ‘forgotten Presidents’, Julia is remembered as one of the country’s most colourful First Ladies, even if her attitudes to slavery do taint her legacy.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Julia Tyler Biography.” National First Ladies’ Library.

“Julia Gardiner Tyler.” The White House.

“Julia Gardiner: Wife of a President.” The East Hampton Star.

“Tenth President John Tyler’s Grandsons Are Still Alive.” Daily Mail, August 2017.

“Julia Tyler.” The White House Historical Association.

“Julia Tyler’s Premonition.” Presidential History Blog.

“Women and Slavery: Julia Gardiner Tyler and the Duchess of Sutherland.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography.

“Julia Gardiner Tyler.” The Miller Center.

“Convert Julia Tyler: America’s Tenth First Lady.” Catholicism.org.