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The Rare Privilege of the House Floor Awarded to Former First Lady Dolley Madison

January 08, 1844
The Rare Privilege of the House Floor Awarded to Former First Lady Dolley Madison Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
This 1891 print features the ladies gallery in the modern House Chamber.
On this date, the House of Representatives extended a rare honor to former First Lady Dolley Madison. By unanimous consent, the House granted her a seat on the House Floor for anytime she chose to visit the chamber. As a frequent visitor to the Capitol, Mrs. Madison enjoyed the popular pasttime of listening to congressional debate. A committee of two Members, Romulus Saunders of North Carolina and Charles Ingersoll of Pennsylvania, attended to Mrs. Madison on the occasion of her January 8th visit and submitted House Report No. 5. to the House two days later, to which correspondence from Mrs. Madison was attached. “Permit me to thank you, gentlemen, as the committee on the part of the House of Representatives, for the great gratification you have this day conferred upon me by the delivery of the favor from that honorable body, allowing me a seat within its hall,” the presidential widow wrote. “I shall be ever proud to recollect it, as a token of their remembrance, collectively and individually, of one who has gone before us.” It is unknown if the politically astute Mrs. Madison ever utilized her honor. Historically, the former First Lady remains one of the few non-Members who have been granted the privilege of the House Floor. Aside from current Representatives and senior members of their staffs, current House Rules restrict House Floor access to former Members and a few select public officials.

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