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Where U.S. First Ladies went to college

  • Where U.S. First Ladies went to college

    Harvard. Princeton. Yale. At first glance, you may assume this is a list of the alma maters of U.S. presidents. It is—but it’s also a list of the universities attended by U.S. first ladies.

    Though first ladies aren’t elected and don’t have any official duties, it’s still a remarkably high-powered position. These women have the ear of the president when few others do: After hours, when all the advisers have gone home and disconnected for the evening. They knew the president before his rise to power, giving these remarkable women an edge over other confidants.

    Because this largely ceremonial office is what you make of it, the first lady’s education matters much more. The experience she gained in high school, college, and even graduate school can extend into the White House. Read on to find out where all 47 United States first ladies went to college, and see if you can identify how their studies have influenced their pursuits and passions. 

    RELATED: Experts rank the U.S. Presidents

  • Martha Dandridge Custis Washington

    No formal education

    Like many women of her time, Martha Washington didn't receive a formal education. However, she did learn basic mathematics, reading, and writing at home, which is more than many girls at the time could say.

  • Abigail Smith Adams

    No formal education

    An early advocate for women's rights, Abigail Adams also did not receive a formal education. What education she had, she taught herself from the books in her family's library.

  • Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson

    No formal education

    Technically, Martha Jefferson never served as First Lady because she died 19 years before her husband Thomas Jefferson became president. She also was not formally educated, but was an accomplished musician.  

  • Dolley Payne Todd Madison

    No formal education

    The nation's fourth First Lady did not have a formal education either, though that didn't stop her from becoming an accomplished hostess and socialite.

  • Elizabeth Kortright Monroe

    No formal education

    Though no records of Elizabeth Monroe's education exist, historians assume she took lessons in French, Latin, music, literature, dancing, and other traditional social graces.

  • Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams

    French convent school, English boarding school, and private tutoring

    Louisa Adams was the first First Lady with a formal education. As a girl, she attended a Roman Catholic convent school in Nantes, France and a girls' boarding school in England. Later, she continued her studies with a private tutor.  

  • Rachel Donelson Jackson

    No formal education

    There's no record of Rachel Jackson receiving any formal education, but historians assume that her upbringing in rural Virginia likely didn't include any education beyond basic reading and writing.  

  • Hannah Hoes Van Buren

    Local school in Kinderhook, New York

    Hannah Van Buren grew up in a Dutch community in Kinderhook, New York, where she attended a local school. Dutch was Van Buren's first language.

  • Anna Tuthill Symmes Harrison

    Clinton Academy (secondary school) and the Boarding School of Isabella Marshal Graham (secondary school)

    Anna Harrison was a well-educated lady for her time. As a girl, she attended Clinton Academy in East Hampton, New York for several years before enrolling at a boarding school in New York City.

  • Letitia Christian Tyler


    No records exist of Letitia Tyler's education. In fact, historians know very little about her life before she married John Tyler in 1813.