Lucretia Hart Clay

Lucretia Hart was born on March 18, 1781 in Hagerstown, Maryland. Lucretia was well educated in Hagerstown until 1794 when her father Thomas Hart moved the family to Lexington, Kentucky where she finished her education.  

Lucretia Hart and Henry Clay were married on April 11, 1799 at her parents’ home. Shortly thereafter, Lucretia and Henry moved into the home next door. They lived in that home for about seven years before moving to Ashland around 1807. 

Lucretia had eleven children, and eight of them died before she did. She relied on her faith to get her through the difficult times in her life. And according to Lucretia’s family and friends, she preferred caring for her children and home over other roles. Women in Lucretia’s social circle were expected to care for their homes and serve as the moral anchor of their families. Later in life, Lucretia also raised some of her grandchildren. 

Lucretia was supportive of her husband and his career. She traveled regularly to Washington, D.C. with him until their last daughter died in 1835. She also hosted several events for Henry. She and Dolley Madison, wife of the fourth President of the United States James Madison, alternated throwing weekly parties.  

When Lucretia did not travel to Washington, she managed Ashland and served as the go between for Henry, his overseers, and the other men who managed the farm. As manager of the estate, Lucretia also managed the people she and Henry enslaved. She assigned work, meted out punishments, and participated in the buying and selling of enslaved people. 

After Henry’s death in 1852, Lucretia went to live with their son John at his home located on the other side of the Ashland estate, named Ashland at Tates Creek. She died there on April 6, 1864 at the age of 83. Lucretia left behind little record of herself: just a few letters to her husband, a will, and the letter she wrote in response to public criticism of her son James and his decision to tear down and rebuild the mansion at Ashland, which was highly republished. This letter demonstrates how far Lucretia, a very private person, was willing go outside her comfort zone to protect her family. 

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