Oxford celebrates former First Lady

Kelsey Kimbler - For The Register-Herald

OXFORD — The 4th annual Caroline Scott Harrison Day in Oxford is set for Sunday, Oct. 2, as declared by Mayor Dr. Kate Rousmaniere during a Sept. 20 city council meeting.

Caroline Scott Harrison was a United States First Lady married to President Benjamin Harrison. Her life spanned from 1832-1892. She was born on South Campus Avenue in Oxford and went to school at the Oxford Female Institute. She was married to President Harrison in her parent’s house in Oxford.

While President Harrison is nationally recognized, Caroline Harrison does not seem to get the same attention.

That is why several Oxford residents began The Caroline Scott Harrison Day Committee, to ensure Caroline Harrison is recognized for her own achievements, and not just as the wife of a former President.

“Harrison became an advocate for women in an era when women’s suffrage was still decades in the future,” the committee explained.

The public is welcome to celebrate Caroline Scott Harrison Day on Sunday, Oct. 2, at 3 p.m. at the Oxford Community Arts Center. The program will include Rousmaniere, Elaine Sholty (Caroline Scott Harrison re-enactor), Caroline Coley (wife of Senator Bill Coley), Jarrett and Celene Hawkins (sculptors), and The Caroline Scott Harrison Day Committee.

Caroline Harrison was active in charity work, focusing her time on the Board of Management for the Orphans’ Asylum in Indianapolis, Indiana. She worked to prepare bandages, mend uniforms, and distribute food and medicine during the Civil War. When First Lady, she became director of the Washington City Orphan Asylum. She also served on the Garfield Hospital Board.

She started several traditions, according to historians, including standing for the National Anthem, the White House China and Antiquities Collection, and decorating the White House Christmas tree.

She helped establish the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) when women were forbidden from joining the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR).

In 1889 she agreed to raise funds for the Johns Hopkins Medical School, but only if they agreed to accept women into the program on the same basis as men.

She even met with Susan B. Anthony and agreed to do her best to help.

The Caroline Scott Harrison Day Committee has been working for years toward different goals regarding recognition for the First Lady, but ultimately they hope for Oxford to become a hub for knowledge regarding First Ladies.

The latest goal in the quest for recognition is a “life-size bronze sculpture of Caroline.”

Kelsey Kimbler

For The Register-Herald