Mary Arthur McElroy

Mary McElroy (née Arthur; July 5, 1841 – January 8, 1917) was the sister of the 21st president of the United States, Chester A. Arthur, and served as a hostess (acting as the first lady) for his administration (1881–1885). She assumed the role because Arthur's wife, Ellen, had died nearly two years earlier.[1][2]

Mary Arthur McElroy
Arthur mcelroy mary.jpg
Acting First Lady of the United States
In role
September 19, 1881 – March 4, 1885
PresidentChester A. Arthur
Preceded byLucretia Garfield
Succeeded byRose Cleveland (acting)
Personal details
Mary Arthur

(1841-07-05)July 5, 1841
Greenwich, New York, U.S.
DiedJanuary 8, 1917(1917-01-08) (aged 75)
Albany, New York, U.S.
John Edward McElroy
(m. 1861; died 1915)
EducationEmma Willard School

Early lifeEdit

Mary Arthur was born in Greenwich, New York, the last of nine children born to William and Malvina S. Arthur. Arthur's mother, Malvina Stone, was born in Vermont, the daughter of George Washington Stone and Judith Stevens.[3] Malvina's family was primarily of English and Welsh descent, and her grandfather, Uriah Stone, fought in the Continental Army during the American Revolution.[4][5] Her father, William Arthur, was born in Dreen, Cullybackey, County Antrim, Ireland; he graduated from college in Belfast and emigrated to Canada in 1819 or 1820.[6] Her mother met her father while William Arthur was teaching at a school in Dunham, Quebec, just over the border from her native Vermont.[7] William became an American citizen in 1843 after Mary and her siblings were born.[8]

She attended the Emma Willard School Seminary in Troy, New York.

Acting First Lady of the United StatesEdit

In November 1880, Mary's brother Chester Arthur was elected vice president. In July 1881, President James Garfield was fatally wounded and died on September 19, 1881. Arthur succeeded him as president, and asked McElroy to care for his young daughter Ellen and act as "Mistress of the White House."[9][10] Because she had her own family in Albany,[11] McElroy lived in Washington, D.C. only during the busy winter social season. Although Arthur never officially granted her the protocol of a formal position, she proved to be a popular and competent hostess. The procedures she and her brother developed for the social functions were used by future First Ladies for decades.[9]

McElroy presided over a number of events and honored former First Ladies Julia Tyler and Harriet Lane, James Buchanan's niece and social hostess, by asking them to help her receive guests at the White House.[12] McElroy's oldest daughter May and Arthur's daughter Nell often assisted.[9] Her final reception took place on February 28, 1885, one week before the end of the Arthur administration: 3,000 people attended (including Adolphus Greely) and 48 daughters of officials and of the social elite assisted her.[13][12]

McElroy and her husband were supportive of civil rights for African Americans and hosted Booker T. Washington at their home in Albany in June 1900. She was a member of the Albany Association Opposed to Women's Suffrage.[12]

Personal lifeEdit

On June 13, 1861, she married John Edward McElroy (1833–1915), the son of William McElroy and Jane Mullen.[14] McElroy was an insurance salesman who was the president of the Albany Insurance Company. They lived in Albany, New York, and had four children:[9][15]

  • May McElroy (b. 1862), who married Charles H. Jackson,[16] and assisted her in presiding over social functions at the White House.[17]
  • William A. McElroy (1864–1892).[15]
  • Jessie McElroy (1867–1934), who died unmarried.[18]
  • Charles Edward McElroy (1873–1947),[19] an investment broker who married Harriet Langdon Parker (1878–1965), daughter of Gen. Amasa J. Parker, Jr. in 1901.[20][21][22][23] Their daughter married Schuyler Merritt II, the son of Rep. Schuyler Merritt.[19]

She died on January 8, 1917 at the age of 75 in Albany, New York and was buried at Albany Rural Cemetery.[12][24]



  1. ^ Rhatigan, Joe (January 5, 2016). White House Kids: The Perks, Pleasures, Problems, and Pratfalls of the Presidents' Children. Charlesbridge Publishing. ISBN 9781607344728.
  2. ^ Hendricks, Nancy (October 13, 2015). America's First Ladies: A Historical Encyclopedia and Primary Document Collection of the Remarkable Women of the White House: A Historical Encyclopedia and Primary Document Collection of the Remarkable Women of the White House. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781610698832.
  3. ^ Hambley, Del (2008). Presidential Footprints. Indianapolis, IN: Dog ear Publishing. p. 103. ISBN 978-159858-800-2.
  4. ^ Reeves 1975.
  5. ^ Howe 1966, p. 4.
  6. ^ Reeves, Thomas C. (July 1, 1970). "The Diaries of Malvina Arthur: Windows Into The Past of Our 21st President" (PDF). Proceedings of the Vermont Historical Society. Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society. p. 179.
  7. ^ Reeves 1970, p. 294.
  8. ^ Dodd, Edward (18 August 1843). "[William Arthur Naturalization]" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 July 2011.[unreliable source?]
  9. ^ a b c d Reeves 1975, p. 269.
  10. ^ "Mary Arthur McElroy, White House hostess for President Chester Arthur". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  11. ^ "First Lady Mary Arthur McElroy on". Our White House | Looking In, Looking Out. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  12. ^ a b c d Sibley, Katherine A. S. (March 2, 2016). A Companion to First Ladies. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9781118732243.
  13. ^ Reeves 1975, p. 414.
  14. ^ Times, Special To The New York (17 September 1915). "John E. McElroy". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  15. ^ a b Brogan, Hugh; Mosley, Charles (1993). American Presidential Families. Alan Sutton. ISBN 9780750905824.
  16. ^ Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho. West Publishing Company. 1910.
  17. ^ Strock, Ian Randal (July 5, 2016). Ranking the First Ladies: True Tales and Trivia, from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. ISBN 9781631440601.
  18. ^ "MISS JESSIE McELROY". The New York Times. 17 June 1934. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  19. ^ a b Times, Special To Thb New York (24 February 1947). "CHARLES E. M'ELROY; | Albany Broker for 40 Years Was Nephew of President Arthur". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  20. ^ Times, Special To The New York (6 January 1901). "McElroy -- Parker". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  21. ^ Herringshaw's American Blue-book of Biography: Prominent Americans of 1912- An Accurate Biographical Record of Prominent Citizens of All Walks of Life | Who Have Achieved Success In Their Chosen Vocations In The Various Civil, Industrial And Commercial Lines of Activities. Chicago, IL: American Publishers' Association. 1913.
  22. ^ Beardsley, Guy E. (1912). Quindecennial Record of the Class of 1896, Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University. R.S. Peck & Company.
  23. ^ "Parker, McElroy to Dissolve". The New York Times. 12 December 1940. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  24. ^ Wilson, Scott (August 22, 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. (2 volume set). McFarland. ISBN 9780786479924.


External linksEdit

Honorary titles
Preceded by First Lady of the United States

Succeeded by