Harriet Rebecca Lane Johnston (May 9, 1830 - July 3, 1903) acted as First Lady of the United States during the presidency of her uncle, lifelong bachelor James Buchanan, from 1857 to 1861. Among the handful of women who have served as first lady while not

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Image ID: G16DJA
Harriet Rebecca Lane Johnston (May 9, 1830 - July 3, 1903) acted as First Lady of the United States during the presidency of her uncle, lifelong bachelor James Buchanan, from 1857 to 1861. Among the handful of women who have served as first lady while not being married to the president, she is by far the best known. She lost her mother when she was 9; when her father's death 2 years later made her an orphan, she requested that her favorite uncle, James Buchanan, be appointed her legal guardian. She was a popular hostess during the four years of the Buchanan presidency. Women copied her hair and clothing styles, parents named their daughters for her, and a popular song, Listen to the Mockingbird, was dedicated to her. While in the White House, she used her position to promote social causes, such as improving the living conditions of Native Americans in reservations. She also made a point of inviting artists and musicians to White House functions. For both her popularity and her advocacy work, she has been described as the first of the modern first ladies, and her popularity at the time is compared to that of Jacqueline Kennedy in the 1960s. She waited until she was almost 36 to marry. She chose, with her uncle's approval, Henry Elliott Johnston, a Baltimore banker. Within the next 18 years she lost her uncle, both her young sons, and her husband. She died in 1903 at the age of 73.