Elizabeth Kortright Monroe (1768-1830) was born in New York City, the daughter of Lawrence Kortright, a merchant, and Hannah Aspinwall Kortright. She and Monroe married in New York on February 16, 1786, and moved to Virginia in October of that year. Elizabeth Monroe was a beautiful and elegant woman, but she was plagued throughout her life by poor health. Her approach to her role as First Lady was influenced by her experiences with the American and European diplomatic corps, and she brought a sense of greater formality to the Monroe-era White House. Little is known of her personal insights into the remarkable life that she led as, according to family tradition, she burned her correspondence prior to her death. Only two letters written by her are known to survive, the earliest of which is held by the James Monroe Museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Mrs. Monroe’s life and legacy is explored in the C-Span First Ladies: Image & Influence series and discussed in Monroe Conversations: First Ladies Elizabeth Monroe and Dolley Madison. The only definitive biography of this influential First Lady is available for purchase through the James Monroe Museum.
“It is a remark, which it would be unpardonable to withhold, that it was improbable for any female to have fulfilled all the duties of the partner of such cares, and of a wife and parent, with more attention, delicacy and propriety than she has done.” James Monroe