Sarah Polk, from Murfreesboro, TN, was the wife of James K. Polk, the 11th president of the United States from Columbia, TN. Last night at the James K. Polk Home we enjoyed a reception for the newest exhibit there, First Lady of Style.
Born Sarah Childress, she enjoyed an outstanding education for her time. In 1824, she married Polk and quickly exerted incredible influence on public affairs and politics. Her husband's biographer called her "indispensable" to his career. James' death left her a widow at age 45; she never remarried.
John Holtzapple, director of the Polk Home tells us, "Sarah Childress Polk, a woman raised in the frontier West, worried Washington society. Socialites were concerned that she would lack the grace, manners, and style that a First Lady required. Instead, Washington was pleasantly surprised. Sarah grew up amidst wealth in Tennessee and in her later years she wrote that she was brought up wearing only silks and satins. Sarah was also well educated for the time and she carried herself with refinement.
Mrs. Polk seems to have been influenced by Dolley Madison. The fourth First Lady, Mrs. Madison was known for her fashion sense and her wearing of turbans. Still alive in her seventies during the Polk Administration, Mrs. Madison was a frequent guest at the Polk White House. Becoming a close confidante of Dolley Madison, perhaps Sarah adopted the wearing of turbans in honor of her illustrious White House predecessor."
Pictured is one of Sarah Polk's turbans.
I was honored and in awe to be in the midst of these incredible women, White House historian Conover Hunt, State Representative Sheila Butt, Polk Memorial Association Past President Tiny Jones, First Lady Crissy Haslam, and Polk Memorial Association Past President Lucy Scott Kuykendall.
I will work to get photos of the exhibit to publish. No flash photography was allowed in the exhibit and wouldn't you know I only had my smart phone for a camera. Thank you to Kathie Fuston for sharing her photos with us.
***Did you know....?***
When he took office on March 4, 1845, James K. Polk, at 49, became the youngest man at the time to assume the presidency. Polk set four clearly defined goals for his administration:
- Reestablish the Independent Treasure System
- Reduce tarrifs
- Acquire the Oregon country
- Acquire California and New Mexico from Mexico.