Caroline Lavinia Scott Harrison
Biography: The centennial of President Washington's inauguration
heightened the nation's interest in its heroic past, and in 1890 Caroline
Scott Harrison lent her prestige as First Lady to the founding of the National Society
of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She served as its first
President General. She took a special interest in the history of the
White House, and the mature dignity with which she carried out her duties
may overshadow the fun-loving nature that had charmed "Ben" Harrison when
they met as teenagers.
Born at Oxford, Ohio, in 1832, "Carrie" was the second daughter of Mary
Potts Neal and the Reverend Dr. John W. Scott, a Presbyterian minister
and founder of the Oxford Female Institute. As her father's
pupil--brown-haired, petite, witty--she infatuated the reserved young
Ben, then an honor student at Miami University; they were engaged before
his graduation and married in 1853.
After early years of struggle while he established a law practice in
Indianapolis, they enjoyed a happy family life interrupted only by the
Civil War. Then, while General Harrison became a man of note in his
profession, his wife cared for their son and daughter, gave active
service to the First Presbyterian Church and to an orphans' home, and
extended cordial hospitality to her many friends. Church views to the
contrary, she saw no harm in private dancing lessons for her
daughter--she liked dancing herself. Blessed with considerable artistic
talent, she was an accomplished pianist; she especially enjoyed painting
Illness repeatedly kept her away from Washington's winter social season
during her husband's term in the Senate, 1881-1887, and she welcomed
their return to private life; but she moved with poise to the White House
in 1889 to continue the gracious way of life she had always created in
her own home.
During the administration the Harrisons' daughter, Mary Harrison McKee,
her two children, and other relatives lived at the White House. The
First Lady tried in vain to have the overcrowded mansion enlarged but
managed to assure an extensive renovation with up-to-date improvements.
She established the collection of china associated with White House
history. She worked for local charities as well. With other ladies of
progressive views, she helped raise funds for the Johns Hopkins
University medical school on condition that it admit women. She gave
elegant receptions and dinners. In the winter of 1891-1892, however, she
had to battle illness as she tried to fulfill her social obligations.
She died of tuberculosis at the White House in October 1892, and after
services in the East Room was buried from her own church in Indianapolis.
When official mourning ended, Mrs. McKee acted as hostess for her father
in the last months of his term. (In 1896 he married his first wife's
widowed niece and former secretary, Mary Scott Lord Dimmick; she survived
him by nearly 47 years, dying in January 1948.)