(Oct. 1, 1832-Oct. 25, 1892). Wife of President Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893) and first president-general of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Caroline (Carrie) Scott was born in Oxford, Ohio, and graduated from Oxford Female Institute (later Miami University of Ohio) with a degree in music, art, and literature. Caroline’s father, Reverend John W. Scott, had founded the Oxford Female Institute. In 1853, she married Benjamin Harrison. Her father performed the marriage ceremony.

Portraits of two women in profile face each other on a newspaper page. Written under their names is "The Next National Administration - The Coming Ladies of the White House.
Caroline Harrison (left), wife of President Benjamin Harrison, and her daughter Mary Harrison McKee (right), 1888 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

The Harrisons settled in Indianapolis, where he practiced law, worked as a reporter for the Indiana Supreme Court, and later entered politics. They had two children who survived to adulthood, Russell and Mary (known as Mamie). Caroline Harrison was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church, the literary club Impromptu, and served on the board of managers of the Indianapolis Orphans’ Asylum (later known as the Children’s Bureau Of Indianapolis). While her husband served in the Civil War, she was a leader in the Ladies’ Patriotic Association and the Ladies’ Sanitary Committee to aid wounded soldiers.

Benjamin Harrison was elected as the 23rd president and the family moved to Washington, D.C., in 1889. Caroline Harrison immediately undertook her duties as First Lady. She secured a $35,000 appropriation from Congress to renovate the White House. Her priority was ridding the mansion of rats and insects. She installed the first Christmas Tree in the White House, established the White House China collection (designing her own China pattern), and published the cookbook, Statesmen’s Dishes, and How to Cook Them (1890).

A series of drawings on one page shows a portrait of Mrs. Harrison, her grave site, her sitting room at the White House, her funeral cortege and her funeral railway car.
Harper’s Weekly prominently featured the ceremonies surrounding Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison’s funeral, 1892 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Caroline Harrison became involved in women’s rights causes while she served as First Lady. Johns Hopkins University Medical School asked for a donation, which she refused unless they agreed to admit women. She then led the Washington D.C., committee to raise matching funds for the school that admitted men and women as students. In 1890, she became the first president-general of the newly formed Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). 

Caroline Harrison died of tuberculosis in the White House during her husband’s administration in 1892. Services were held in the East Room, a simple ceremony as the family requested. All branches of the government were represented. A special train took her body to Indianapolis where another service was held. Business in the city was “generally suspended” during the funeral. The body was interred at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. The DAR’s first Indiana chapter, formed in Indianapolis in 1894, is named in her honor.

Revised February 2021

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