Woman of the Century/Sarah Childress Polk
POLK, Mrs. Sarah Childress, wife of James K. Polk, eleventh Governor of Tennessee and eleventh President of the United States, born in Murfreesboro, Tenn., 4th September, 1803, and died in Nashville, Tenn., 16th August, 1891. She was the daughter of Joel and Elizabeth Childress, of Rutherford county, Tenn. SARAH CHILDRESS POLK. She was educated in the Moravian Seminary, Salem, N. C, and on 1st January, 1824, she became the wife of Mr. Polk, then a member of the legislature of Tennessee, of which during the previous session he had been clerk. They took up their residence in Columbia, Maury county, where Mr. Polk had for some time practiced law. The following year he was elected to Congress, and she accompanied him to the National Capital. There she became noted for her quick sympathy, ready tact and graceful manners, for a lovely and inspiring womanhood, and for her devotion to her husband, whose ambition in political life she seconded. Theirs was a union of heart and life, full of strength and blessing to both, growing in tenderness and devotion. Mrs. Polk stamped herself on the social life of Washington and impressed all with whom she was brought into contact as being a woman of deep piety and profound convictions, a noble character made up of strength, individuality and gentleness, clinging love and single-hearted devotion to her husband, relatives and friends. Her experience in the National Capital prepared her for the duties that devolved upon her as the wife of the governor of the State in 1839. In Nashville she became at once the social leader. She was as successful as Mr. Polk was, though he was then declared to be one of the most statesmanlike, prudent, thoughtful and conscientious of the governors of Tennessee. After a brief season of rest from official cares he was elected President of the United States. In 1845 they again became residents of Washington. During his term of office Mrs. Polk achieved her greatest successes as a social leader. As the mistress of the White House she set an example of American simplicity that has become one of the traditions of the presidential mansion. Gentle, dignified, courteous, approachable and bright, she was esteemed equally by the high and the lowly. Well-informed, thoughtful, vivacious, her conversation had a charm for all, while she kept strictly within the sphere of a true and noble womanhood. In domestic life she did not neglect the little duties of the household, while she kept in sympathy with her husband's deeper cares. She banished dancing from the President's mansion and wine from the table, except at the State dinners, and it was all done so kindly that none were offended. Upon the close of his term they journeyed homeward by way of New Orleans and the Mississippi river, stopping in Memphis for a day or two. There the ex-president in a speech to his friends predicted the greatness of our country and stated it to be his intention to cross the Atlantic, accompanied by his wife, and pass a year in foreign travel before settling down in the home he had purchased in Nashville. A few days after his arrival in Nashville, Mr. Polk was seized with cholera and survived but a little while. He died generally regretted. His widow since then and until her death lived faithfully devoted to the memory of her dead. She gave herself with earnest purpose to the work of malting others happy. She was a center of social attention in the city, and with gracious tact and unfailing kindness she made her circle bright. Having no children of her own, she took a little niece, two years old, and reared her with motherly care. From her she received the dutiful and loving devotion of a daughter, and her age was gladdened by the voices of children and children's children gathering about that daughter and her child.