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Lucretia Garfield – 1881 (by Mathew Brady/L.C. Handy – LOC)




Debbie Weinkamer

First Lady Lucretia Garfield


Skip Trombetti, Van’s Photos, Mentor, OH

Deborah Weinkamer as Lucretia Garfield

Debbie worked for 6-1/2 years as an Interpreter/Educator/Researcher at the James A. Garfield National Historic Site (“Lawnfield”) where she gave tours and created programs for students and adults.  She edited published material about the Garfields and their home in Mentor, OH for diverse authors and answered hundreds of visitors’ questions through Lawnfield’s comment cards and on-line via her “Ask President Garfield” e-mail for students.  She has also been featured on various television programs.

Debbie’s extensive research into the life and times of the Garfield family provides a comprehensive background for her portrayal of the First Lady.  Having an education degree, she strives to make history meaningful to audiences of all ages.    

Together, Ed and Debbie have created an accurate portrayal of President and Mrs. Garfield.  They have been honored to be personal friends with the great-grandsons of the President and their families.

To read an interesting guest blog spot "written" by Mrs. Garfield titled, “The Vanishing First Lady” – or Am I?" click the following link below:



“Dear Wife and Mother”

The terrible tragedy of President Garfield’s assassination in 1881 shattered Lucretia’s world.  First Lady for only three months, she was suddenly thrust into the spotlight during his suffering after the shooting, staying constantly by his side.  She was admired and respected by her fellow Americans and people abroad as she publicly exhibited strength and courage.  However, her shy and private nature resumed after her husband’s death when she returned to Mentor, Ohio.

Through her own words, learn more about Lucretia Garfield’s dedication to her husband’s memory and discover how she occupied her remaining 36-1/2 years.  Debbie’s portrayal of the Widow Garfield at the turn of the twentieth century will explain how her children achieved their own destinies and why James had said that Lucretia “rose up to every occasion.”

“A Conversation with Eleanor & Lucretia”

with Linda Laronge as First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt

Two American women – from different generations – sharing their differences and commonalities.  Eleanor Roosevelt and Lucretia Garfield meet over tea and discuss their paths to the White House and beyond.  You will be surprised about the experiences they had in common.  Discover how they dealt with troublesome, and possibly terminating, marriage difficulties.  Hear them expound on interesting topics such as mothers-in-law, children, and politics.   

These two educated, intelligent women also examine their early self-esteem issues and how they grew beyond them into strong, independent, and formidable widows.  One becomes the “vanishing First Lady” (or does she?) while the other transforms into “First Lady of the World.”

Join us for a conversation that was never in your history books.  It’s also a perfect way to celebrate Women’s History Month!  

Following “A Conversation with Eleanor & Lucretia” at the Peninsula Library Tea on May 9, 2012:

“Wonderful program… You two made quite the pair discussing your lives with a couple of Presidents!  And didn't you set all the ladies a twitter with your discussion of Presidential philandering!!!  It makes people realize a lot… Presidents are human.”




“Letters from the Front”

with Ed Haney as Major General James A. Garfield


James and Lucretia Garfield exchanged approximately 1,200 letters during their courtship and marriage in the mid-19th century.  Many of the letters chronicle James Garfield’s service in the Civil War – 28 months that saw him rise from lieutenant-colonel to major general, from relative obscurity to national prominence.  These letters contain candid commentary that spans history.  They could have been written at any time in history: from Valley Forge, the Mekong Delta, or Mosul, Iraq. 
Listen, learn, and experience a view of the past as Ed and Debbie give a first-person reading of the timeless accounts of the Garfields’ wartime thoughts and home front activities – the details of their private lives, from the suffering and carnage brought on by war to the domesticity of their first “real” home and toddler’s first words.

Debbie Weinkamer is a member of the National First Ladies Library in Canton, Ohio.



What people say about Debbie...

James R. Garfield II, the great-grandson of President James Garfield, used to say, “If I want to know anything about my ancestors, I ask Debbie.”



Interacting with the audience

The widow

First Lady Lucretia Garfield shows some girls her fan.

Garfields chat with guest

Lake County Historical Society's Dine-Around held at Rider's Inn, April 2011
General and Mrs. Garfield dined with the members and then discussed their correspondence during his military service

Lucretia R. Garfield

photo by M Brady


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We Made History- a group of living historical re-enactors who are more than impersonators of historical figures-they are serious portrayers of U.S. Presidents and First Ladies

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Last modified: 08/23/2018