May-December Presidents

Aging Presidents, Blushing Young Brides

Here are five U.S. presidents who married women at least 15 years younger than themselves. (Plus four bonus near-misses!)

James Madison, 43-26

Born in 1751, JAMES MADISON remained a bachelor throughout the Revolutionary War and well beyond: he married DOLLEY PAYNE TODD, a widow, on 15 September 1794. He was 43, she was 26.

A decade earlier Madison had been engaged briefly to 16-year-old Catherine Floyd. (That 33-16 marriage would also have qualified him for this list.) Floyd broke the engagement, opening the door for Dolley Madison to become one of America’s most famous first ladies.

John Tyler, 54-24

JOHN TYLER (54) married JULIA GARDINER (24) on June 26, 1844. He was the first president to be married while in office. Their 30-year age difference was the largest gap for any presidential marriage.

Tyler’s first wife, Letitia Christian Tyler, had died in the White House of a stroke in 1842. Tyler had eight children by his first wife and seven by his second (born during the spans of 1815-1830 and 1846-1860). Pearl, his last child with Julia, was born when Tyler was 70 years old.

Grover Cleveland, 49-21

GROVER CLEVELAND was the second president to be married while in office, and he is still the only president ever wed on the White House grounds.

Cleveland was 49 when he married 21-year-old FRANCES FOLSOM on 2 June 1886. Folsom was the daughter of one of Cleveland’s good friends; according to William DeGregorio’s The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents, “Cleveland at 27 met his future wife shortly after she was born. He took an avuncular interest in the child, buying her a baby carriage and otherwise doting on her as she grew up.”

It was Cleveland’s first marriage, although before becoming president he had fathered a child outside of wedlock.

Benjamin Harrison, 62-37

BENJAMIN HARRISON was 62 when he married the widow Mary Scott Lord Dimmick on 6 April 1896, three years after he left office. Dimmick was 37 and the niece of Caroline Harrison, the president’s first wife.

Caroline Harrison had died of tuberculosis in the White House in 1892; she and Harrison were married for 39 years and had two children. (She was actually a year older than the president.) Benjamin Harrison was 63 when Elizabeth, his first and only child with Mary, was born in 1897.

Woodrow Wilson, 58-43

WOODROW WILSON (58) married EDITH BOLLING GALT (43) on 18 December 1915. Wilson was president at the time, and his first wife of 29 years, the former Ellen Axson, had died the year before.The widow of a Washington jeweler, Edith Galt met the president while he was still officially in mourning for his first wife. That made their speedy romance scandalous to some.) Edith Wilson later became known as the “secret president” for the way she handled many of Woodrow Wilson’s duties after he was partially paralyzed by a stroke in 1919.

Close, But Only June-October

Honorable mentions:

JAMES MONROE was age 27 and Elizabeth Kortright was 17 when they married in 1786.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN was 33 when he married 23-year-old Mary Todd in 1842.

MILLARD FILLMORE was age 58 when he married his 45-year-old second wife, Caroline Carmichael McIntosh, in 1858.

RONALD REAGAN was age 41 when he married 30-year-old Nancy Davis in 1952.

JOHN F. KENNEDY was age 36 and Jacqueline Bouvier was 24 when they married in 1953.

Next: Serial Spouses

While some presidents were marrying younger, other famous people were marrying in bulk.

Find out who we’re talking about in our list of SERIAL SPOUSES »

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