Can You Guess Which U.S. State Has Produced the Most First Ladies?

Here's a hint: It's one of the original 13 colonies.

first ladiesShutterstock (3)

If you live in the United States and pay attention to current events (and know your history), you probably know off the top of your head that America has seen 44 different presidents in the 230 years since George Washington first took office. But the number of first ladies is much less straightforward. While it’s easy to pinpoint the state where the largest number of presidents were born, the state with the most first ladies is a little trickier to find. In case you didn’t know, this is the state that’s produced the most U.S. presidents.

From 1921 onward, the first lady has always been the wife of the president, but she doesn’t have to be. In several cases throughout the history of the presidency, someone other than a spouse has served as first lady. Four commanders in chief took office as widowers, meaning their wives never actually held the first lady role. So for Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, and Chester A. Arthur, a daughter, a niece, a daughter-in-law, and a sister, respectively, served as first lady.

And some presidents had more than one first lady—John Tyler and Woodrow Wilson’s wives died while their husbands were in office. Tyler and Wilson both remarried while in office, and also had family members temporarily serve as first lady before their second marriages. Grover Cleveland took office as a bachelor, with his sister as first lady, but got married while serving as president. And to complicate matters even further, two first ladies were alive and married to the president during his whole term but left hostess duties to their daughters because of illness and/or unwillingness. Check out these romantic stories of how presidents met their first ladies.

No matter who you consider to be the “real” first lady in the scenarios where there is more than one candidate, though, there’s still one clear winner: New York has produced more first ladies than any other state. Eleven first ladies have come from the state, including several of America’s best-known first ladies: Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Nancy Reagan all have New York birthplaces. Ohio also makes a strong showing, too, with six first ladies. (And Ohio is also the runner-up for most presidents!)

All in all, American first ladies have come from 20 of the 50 states, and two first ladies were born outside the United States.

Check out the full list below. Then, go beyond their birthplaces and learn these 44 fascinating facts you never knew about first ladies.

New York (11)

  • Elizabeth Monroe
  • Priscilla Cooper Tyler (John Tyler’s daughter-in-law; served as first lady between his marriages)
  • Julia Tyler (John Tyler’s second wife)
  • Abigail Fillmore
  • Mary Arthur McElroy (sister of widower Chester A. Arthur)
  • Rose Cleveland (sister of Grover Cleveland, who took office as a bachelor)
  • Frances Folsom Cleveland (married Grover Cleveland while he was in office)
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
  • Nancy Reagan
  • Barbara Bush

Ohio (6)

  • Lucy Hayes
  • Lucretia Garfield
  • Caroline Harrison
  • Ida McKinley
  • Helen Taft
  • Florence Harding

Tennessee (4)

  • Emily Donelson (niece of widower Andrew Jackson)
  • Sarah Polk
  • Eliza Johnson (wife of Andrew Johnson; sickly throughout his presidency and left hostess duties to her daughter)
  • Martha Johnson Patterson (was first lady for her father, Andrew Johnson, in her sick mother’s stead)

Virginia (4)

  • Martha Washington
  • Martha Jefferson Randolph (daughter of widower Thomas Jefferson)
  • Letitia Tyler (died while her husband, John Tyler, was in office)
  • Edith Wilson (Woodrow Wilson’s second wife)

Georgia (3)

  • Ellen Wilson (died while her husband, Woodrow Wilson, was in office)
  • Margaret Wilson (Woodrow Wilson’s daughter; served as first lady between his marriages)
  • Rosalynn Carter

Illinois (3)

  • Betty Ford
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • Michelle Obama

Iowa (2)

  • Lou Hoover
  • Mamie Eisenhower

Kentucky (2)

  • Betty Taylor (was first lady for her father, Zachary Taylor, in her sick mother’s stead)
  • Mary Todd Lincoln

Missouri (2)

  • Julia Grant
  • Bess Truman

Pennsylvania (2)

  • Sarah Yorke Jackson (daughter-in-law of Andrew Jackson; became first lady after Emily Donelson’s death)
  • Harriet Lane (niece of lifelong bachelor James Buchanan)

Texas (2)

  • Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Johnson
  • Laura Bush

Outside the United States (2)

  • Louisa Adams (England)
  • Melania Trump (Slovenia)

Connecticut (1)

  • Edith Roosevelt

Maryland (1)

  • Margaret Taylor (wife of Zachary Taylor; ill throughout his presidency and left hostess duties to her daughter)

Massachusetts (1)

  • Abigail Adams

Nevada (1)

  • Pat Nixon

New Hampshire (1)

  • Jane Pierce

New Jersey (1)

  • Anna Harrison

North Carolina (1)

  • Dolley Madison

South Carolina (1)

  • Angelica Singleton Van Buren (daughter-in-law of widower Martin Van Buren)

Vermont (1)

  • Grace Coolidge

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.