The woman known as Rachel Jackson was born Rachel Donelson on June 15, 1767, in
She was among the first settlers of Halifax County, Virginia and was considered to be
"beautiful" as a young woman and "quite vivacious." She had an unhappy marriage in Tennessee with Captain
Lewis Robards due to his irrational fits of jealous rage; she separated from
him in 1790. Kentucky
Andrew Jackson migrated to
in 1788 and boarded with Rachel's
mother, Rachel Stockley Donelson.
Rachel, the daughter, apparently went home to live with her mother when
she separated from her husband. At any
met the beautiful Rachel, and the two of them fell in love and married in 1791. Jackson
The couple married on the belief that Robards had obtained a divorce. Historians discovered that a friend of Lewis Robards had planted a fake notice in his own newspaper of the divorce being finalized. Andrew and Rachel did not discover the problem until after they were married. The fact that Rachel was not yet divorced made their marriage technically bigamous and invalid. Rachel took the necessary steps to ensure that the divorce was completed - the first divorce in
history. Then she remarried Andrew in 1794 after the
divorce was finalized. Andrew and Rachel
"enjoyed a genuine love match." Kentucky
Rachel and Andrew apparently did not have any children together but adopted three sons: Theodore (an Indian about whom little is known), Andrew Jackson, Jr. (the son of Severn Donelson, Rachel's brother), and Lyncoya (a Creek Indian orphan adopted by
after the Creek War; he died of tuberculosis in 1828 at age 16). Jackson
were also guardians for eight other children.
Three of them - John Samuel Donelson, Daniel Smith Donelson, and Andrew
Jackson Donelson - were the sons of Samuel Donelson, Rachel's brother who died
in 1804. Andrew Jackson Hutchings was
Rachel's orphaned grand nephew. Four of
the children - Caroline Butler, Eliza Butler, Edward Butler, and Anthony Butler
- were the orphaned children of Edward Butler, a friend of the Jacksons . Jacksons
When Andrew Jackson ran for President in the 1828 campaign, supporters of his opponent, John Quincy Adams, accused Rachel of being a bigamist and other things. Some historians consider the 1828 election to be "one of the most notorious in terms of campaign insults." Since
had been a popular
military hero after his victory in the Battle of New Orleans (War of 1812), he
won by a "comparative landslide."
Rachel went shopping to purchase a new dress for the inauguration and dropped dead in the street. She died of a sudden heart attack on December 22, 1828, at age 61, two weeks after the election and two months before
took office as President. Since the Jackson Adams team had repeatedly ridiculed Rachel during
campaign, Andrew blamed John Quincy Adams for hastening her death and never
Andrew was "inconsolable" at her death. "He refused to believe she was dead and insisted that blankets be laid on her body in case she woke up and needed warmth." He built a tomb for her in her flower garden and wrote the following epitaph for her: "Here lie the remains of Mrs. Rachel Jackson, wife of President Jackson, who died December 22nd 1828, aged 61. Her face was fair, her person pleasing, her temper amiable, and her heart kind. She delighted in relieving the wants of her fellow-creatures and cultivated that divine pleasure by the most liberal and unpretending methods. To the poor she was a benefactress; to the rich she was an example; to the wretched a comforter; to the prosperous an ornament. Her pity went hand in hand with her benevolence; and she thanked her Creator for being able to do good. A being so gentle and so virtuous, slander might wound but could not dishonor. Even death, when he tore her from the arms of her husband, could but transplant her to the bosom of her God."