March 8, 1783 — Hannah Hoes Van Buren was born today. The wife of the 8th President of the United States, Martin Van Buren, she died of consumption on February 5, 1819 — 18 years before her husband took office on March 4, 1837.
The couple had been childhood sweethearts and were first cousins once removed through his mother. When they married on February 21, 1807 at the home of the bride’s sister in Catskill, NY, Martin was 24, and Hannah was 23.
Van Buren is said to have been devoted to his shy, blue-eyed bride, whom he always called “Jannetje,” a Dutch pet name for Johanna. Like Martin, she was raised in a Dutch home and never did lose her distinct accent. They eventually had four children, two of whom would later serve in their father’s Cabinet.
Van Buren never remarried and was one of the few Presidents to be unmarried while in office. During his term, his daughter-in-law, Angelica, performed the role of hostess of the White House and First Lady of the United States. He died on July 24, 1862, at the age 79.
Words of Wisdom
As to the presidency, the two happiest days of my life were those of my entrance upon the office and my surrender of it.