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Van Buren, Hannah Hoes (1783–1819)

Van Buren, Hannah Hoes (1783–1819)

Wife of Martin Van Buren, later U.S. president. Born on March 8, 1783, in Kinderhook, New York; died on February 5, 1819, in Albany, New York; daughter of John Dircksen Hoes and Maria (Quackenboss) Hoes; married Martin Van Buren (eighth president of the U.S.), on February 21, 1807, in Catskill, New York; children: five; four boys lived to adulthood, including the eldest Abraham.

Childhood sweethearts, Hannah Hoes and Martin "Matt" Van Buren grew up together in the Dutch settlement of Kinderhook, New York. Intent on establishing a law practice before marrying Hannah, Martin apprenticed himself to a lawyer at age 14, won his first case at 17, and went on to serve his clerkship in Manhattan. Hannah stayed home, tending to her dowry and devoting countless hours to church work, a practice that would continue throughout her life. The couple finally married in 1807, when they were both 24.

The newlyweds began married life in Kinderhook, but as Martin's career blossomed, they moved to Hudson and eventually Albany, where he served as state senator and then as New York State attorney general. Hannah would give birth to five boys, losing one in infancy. Their growing household is said to have bustled with the comings and goings of visiting relatives and, at one time, even included Martin's law partner and three apprentices. Apparently the marriage was a happy one.

Hannah fell ill with tuberculosis soon after the birth of her fifth child in 1817. She died just short of her 36th birthday, on February 5, 1819. Dedicated to the poor and needy even in illness, Hannah had asked that the customary mourning scarves be eliminated from her funeral ceremony, and the money given to charity. Recording her death, the Albany Argus called her "an ornament of the Christian faith." She was buried at the Second Presbyterian Church in Albany, but in 1855 was moved to the Kinderhook Cemetery.

Martin Van Buren never remarried, and although he often referred to Hannah's influence on his life, she is not mentioned in his rather lengthy autobiography. Historians speculate that this is because he believed that political and private lives should remain separate. He stayed unusually close to his sons, even in their adulthood. The eldest, Abraham, became his private secretary and later married Angelica Singleton (Angelica Van Buren ), who served as White House hostess during the Van Buren administration (1837–41).


Klapthor, Margaret Brown. The First Ladies. Washington, DC: White House Historical Association, 1979.

Melick, Arden David. Wives of the Presidents. Maple-wood, NJ: Hammond, 1977.

Paletta, LuAnn. The World Almanac of First Ladies. NY: World Almanac, 1990.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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