Born on May 9, 1830 in Mercersburg PA, Harriet Lane served as First Lady for her uncle, 15th President James Buchanan. By the time she was ten, both her mother and father died, so James Buchanan took her into his care.

Harriet was a fun loving child who was the ringleader of schoolgirl pranks, but so was she intelligent with always doing well in her studies. Harriet and her uncle became very close. She was his confidante, and she was exposed to the world of politics—something women did not experience in the Victorian era. When she traveled abroad with her uncle, she endeared herself to kings and queens, always leaving them wanting more of her wit, intelligence and humor. Queen Victoria considered her a true friend.

People, who had concerns and problems, would come to Harriet to ask her to bring an issue to President Buchanan’s attention. For example, a member of the Chippewa nation complained to her that a government agent was selling liquor to his people. She intervened to end abuses by government agents and worked for better medical treatment and educational opportunities. She became known to the Chippewa as “Mother of the Indians.”

After she left the white house, she remained involved in education and the arts. and continued her support. When she died in 1903, an important provision of her will was money be given for the clinic in Baltimore that she and her husband had incorporated in 1883 to care for children regardless of race, creed or the ability of the parents to pay. It was called the Harriet Lane Home for invalid Children, now the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

Franklin County is proud to have Harriet Lane as its First Lady.

Read more about Harriet Lane here.

Article by Kelly Spinner.