Dolley Madison

A portrait of First Lady Dolley Madison, wife of President James Madison

Dolley (Payne) Madison was perhaps the first First Lady to be public figure on her own account.

She was smart enough to land James Madison and he was smart enough to listen to her counsel.

From her White House profile

With her charm and her laughing blue eyes, fair skin, and black curls, the young widow attracted distinguished attention. Before long Dolley was reporting to her best friend that “the great little Madison has asked…to see me this evening.”……Dolley’s social graces made her famous. Her political acumen, prized by her husband, is less renowned, though her gracious tact smoothed many a quarrel. Hostile statesmen, difficult envoys from Spain or Tunisia, warrior chiefs from the west, flustered youngsters–she always welcomed everyone. Forced to flee from the White House by a British army during the War of 1812, she returned to find the mansion in ruins. Undaunted by temporary quarters, she entertained as skillfully as ever.”