A list of preteen girls who lived in the White House

Little girl’s in the White House

So what will it be like for Malia and Sasha? On inauguration day, Malia Obama would be 10 years old, Sasha Obama would be 7. There have been a lot of famous teenagers like Alice Roosevelt and Susan Ford and a long list of famous little boys, like Willie and Tad Lincoln. Have there been any other White House girls their ages? And what can they expect out of life? Here is a look at that short list of all the others and what happened to them.

Those Washington kids

When “Jacky” Custis, the president’s stepson and the birth son of the first lady, Martha Custis, died at age 27, he left his widow with four small children. The Washington’s took in two of them and so became replacement parents to a couple of their own grandchildren. Eleanor “Nelly” Custis was almost 10 years old, and brother George “Wash” Custis 9, when their grandfather began serving as president but they would never live in the White House. The first American capital was New York and then later Philadelphia. Ironically, it would be the next president, John Adams, who would be the first to live in Washington, D. C. and the first to live in the White House.

Martha Custis arranged for Nelly to attend Mrs. Graham’s school for young ladies and take piano lessons. But as in the case of many young and impressionable, preteen daughters to follow, Nelly spent her life in devotion to the president. She tenderly cared for him into his old age. She married one of the president’s nephews whom he had invited to Mt. Vernon.

Devoted to Daddy

The Rutherford B. Hayes family had 8 children and the two youngest almost match the ages of Malia and Sasha Obama. One was a girl.

Like, Malia, Fanny Hayes was a 10 year old, and the country fell in love with her. She was devoted to her father. When her mother died, after the family left the White House, Fanny assumed duties as his official hostess and refused to marry until here presidential father had died. Still beloved by the nation long after leaving the White House, her wedding was a huge event attended by the sitting president and cabinet who traveled from Washington to Ohio on the presidential train. When her husband died, ever the daddy’s girl, Fanny Smith changed her name back to Hayes. Like many children of the White House, her identity was merged with her father’s.

Ellen Arthur, daughter of president Chester Arthur, had two older brothers, but she was only 9 years old when her father became president. Her father shielded her successfully announcing that “my private life is nobody’s damn business.” The press agreed. She married and later died of surgical complications at age 43.

The famous White House Gang

The kid’s side of the White House of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft was dominated by little boys and their famous White House gang that among other things, lofted snow balls from the mansions roof on unsuspecting pedestrians below. But there was a little girl too.

Ethel Roosevelt, daughter of TR, was 9 and she became a public favorite. She married a medical doctor, Richard Derby, they had four children. The nation briefly saw her again in 1960 when she offered a seconding speech for the presidential nomination of Richard Nixon. She died in 1977 at age 86.

“Baby Ruth,” the most popular White House kid.

Ruth Cleveland “Baby Ruth” was a famous and beloved White House child in her day. She was 1 year old when the Cleveland’s moved back into the executive mansion, having been elected president for the second time. Ruth received so much attention that the president and first lady became alarmed and tried to shield her from the media. The clamor continued when she left the White House and when she died of diphtheria at age 12 the nation was shocked and went into mourning. The Curtis Candy Company allegedly renamed one of their favorite candy bars the “Baby Ruth” in her honor.

Esther Cleveland was the first child of a president to be born in the White House. She was four when they retired into private life. Although over shadowed by “Baby Ruth” Esther’s later wedding to Captain William Sydney Bosanquet was held at Westminster Abbey and became an international social event.

Marion Cleveland was born during the second year of the second Cleveland presidency. She was twice married (her first husband died) and extensively involved in the Girl Scouts of America. Her second husband was a U.S. attorney and “racket buster.” He served on the legal staff for the Nuremburg Trials.

Recent Kids

Caroline Kennedy was 3 years old, her little brother 2 months when they moved into the White House. The first lady kept them out of the limelight. The famous pictures of them scampering in the Oval Office was very atypical and only happened because the first lady was out of the country.

Caroline is now a Columbia Law School graduate, bestselling author and an attorney. She married Edwin Schlossberg in 1988. She is 50 years old. John F. Kennedy, Jr. was an attorney and publisher, married to Carolyn Bessette. In 1999, they died in an airplane that he was piloting. He was 38 years old.

Amy Carter was 9 when she moved into the White House. She won the hearts of the American people from the first day, when she walked with her father in the inaugural parade. She will forever be famous because of her father’s reference to her in a presidential debate. “I had a discussion with my daughter, Amy, the other day, before I came here, to ask her what the most important issue was [and she said it was nuclear proliferation.”] The president was trying to show that even his young daughter could see the importance of the issue but it was an awkward moment that didn’t quite work. Amy went onto graduate from Tulane with a master’s degree in fine arts and history and is today a 41 year old wife and mother.

Chelsea Clinton was 12 when she moved into the White House and turned 13 within days. At age 20, while her mother, the First Lady, ran for the U. S. Senate, Chelsea took on some of the duties as White House hostess. A graduate of Stanford and Oxford, she worked for three years at McKinsey and Company, a consulting firm in New York City. These past two years she helped in her mother’s presidential campaign and is now back into post graduate university studies. She is 28 years old and single. Friends describe her as “scary bright.”

(Some information and some quotes taken from All the Presidents’ Children, Atria Books.)

You Tubes: Malia and Sasha in the white house


Malia and Sasha’s first day at school



Published by Doug Wead

Doug Wead is a New York Times bestselling author whose latest book, Game of Thorns, is about the Trump-Clinton 2016 election. He served as an adviser to two American presidents and was a special assistant to the president in the George H.W. Bush White House.

9 thoughts on “A list of preteen girls who lived in the White House

  1. Dear Doug,

    Speaking of kids…

    I enjoyed your ‘parental’ insights from your chapter ‘In the Name of the Father’ (All the President’s Children) highlighting our only (2) American kids (J.Q.A. & G.W.B….so far…) to successfully follow their parent’s path to the Presidency. When you get a chance, it would be a pleasure to hear you update that chapter with what we know now.

    Such as the irony of their ‘success’ is highlighted by their low approval ratings, which opened the doors to your ‘reset’ years, & that both were ‘lucky’ to win the Presidency without winning the Popular vote.

    It will be interesting to watch how W’s after-office career & the lives of his children will compare in the years to come. Quincy apparently is a true politician by entering Congress after his Presidency while being a leading ‘opponent against slavery & a champion of women suffrage’…but also proved to be a poor father indeed.

    I also liked the way Sue Shellenbarger depicted YOU in her article ‘Is a Dysfunctional Family a Presidential Prerequisite?’

    (…begin quote…)

    Mr. Wead undertook his 2005 book, “The Raising of a President,” hoping to discover “some little key” to parenting children who rise to leadership, he says. But, he found the presidents’ parents “were as neurotic and possessive and awful as anybody’s,” he says — a discovery he found “very liberating” as a parent. Instead, the unifying thread was “how these presidents were able to transcend these experiences or re-invent them as inspirational.”

    What’s the takeaway for parents? “Love is the key,” Mr. Wead says. Even in families that lacked discipline, future presidents were often able to find it elsewhere, in the military or school. But with enough of the crucial ingredient — parental love — Mr. Wead says, a child can realize, “I do not have to be a prisoner of my past.”

    (…end quote…)


    Thanks for being you!

  2. You can remove your lips from Doug’s tuchus anytime now, cbsure.

    I think that an article on the Presidents that used the White House to conduct their philandering ways would be very interesting and would remove some of the unnecessary sheen applied by Doug’s overly glossy view of the office.

  3. You mean like the philadering ways of FDR? Doug mentions it…in his book…’All the President’s Children’. You should read it some time. I know you’ll love the part when Doug confirms, per his own research, that T.J. did sire a few illegitimate kids with Sally…what’s her face…Hemmings.

    …you know how much you loathe the Jeffersons…

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