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Presidents' Daughters: Then and Now, After the White House

Thelma Raker Coffone is an award winning non-fiction writer. She enjoys sharing information about America's presidents and their families.

Many United States presidents have been fathers of daughters during their terms in the White House. Some of the presidents' daughters had accomplishments that made them noteworthy in their own right. Being daughters of presidents opened many doors that may have been closed otherwise. In addition to grand opportunities because of their names, they also had access to excellent educations, travel, and chances to meet some of the most important people in the world. The extent to which they took advantage of those benefits varied, just as their personalities varied.

The Two Daughters of President Nixon: Tricia Cox and Julie Eisenhower

During President Nixon's troubled presidency, he was the father of two daughters who stood by him during the turmoil leading up to his resignation as president, and the years afterward.

Patricia "Tricia" Nixon was named after her mother but preferred the shortened name of Tricia. She traveled extensively with her father, representing the United States around the world.

Tricia married Edward Cox in the White House Rose Garden in 1971. She was recognized by many as being one of the most beautiful White House brides. Tricia and Edward have one son. She has led more of a private life than many of the other presidential daughters.

Julie Nixon was the youngest daughter of President Richard Nixon and his wife, Pat. Julie has been in the political spotlight most of her life as a presidential daughter and as the granddaughter-in-law of President Dwight Eisenhower.

Prior to her father's resignation from the presidency, Julie traveled across the US defending his role in the Watergate conspiracy.

She and her husband, David, have a son and two daughters including Jennie Eisenhower, an actress who has performed in the movies, "Arthur," "Mona Lisa Smile," and "Head Space."

Julie lives in Pennsylvania where she is active in public service and has become quite an accomplished author.

Nan Britton (left) and her daughter, Elizabeth Ann Harding

Nan Britton (left) and her daughter, Elizabeth Ann Harding

President Harding's Illegitimate Daughter

Warren G. Harding was president of the United States from 1921 to 1923. He was commonly recognized as a womanizer, even though he was married to First Lady Florence Harding. Nan Britton, a teenager whose father was a friend of Harding, claimed that she had a continuous affair with Harding until his death in 1923. According to a best-selling book written by Britton after Harding's death, "The President's Daughter," the affair resulted in the birth of a daughter, Elizabeth Ann. The book states that Elizabeth Ann was conceived on the couch in Harding's Senate office just prior to his election as president. It also reports sexual relations between Harding and Britton in a closet just off the Oval Office which is reminiscent of another presidential tryst many years later, perhaps in the same closet.

During Harding's presidency, it is claimed that he arranged for Secret Service agents to deliver money to Nan for the care of the child. After his death, the payments stopped. Britton lost a 1931 federal court case to declare Elizabeth Ann as Harding's daughter because she was unable to prove paternity.

Nan Britton died in 1991 at age 94 and Elizabeth Ann passed away in 2005. Elizabeth Ann's parentage was never conclusively proved. The grown-up Elizabeth Ann refused DNA testing and her children (presumably Harding's grandchildren) have also refused to test. Understandably, the Harding descendants just want the entire matter to go away. Time will tell if this is the end of this unsolved story.

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The Johnson Daughters: Luci on right and Lynda on left. Lynda is looking very much like her mother!

The Johnson Daughters: Luci on right and Lynda on left. Lynda is looking very much like her mother!

The Johnson Girls

President Lyndon Johnson and his wife Lady Bird were the parents of two daughters, Lynda Bird Johnson, and her younger sister, Luci Baines Johnson, all family members having the same initials: LBJ.

After a romantic relationship with actor George Hamilton, Lynda married Charles "Chuck" Robb who would go on to become Governor of Virginia. Their relationship endured an affair by Chuck while governor, with Miss Virginia who would later become a Playboy nude model.

Luci married Patrick Nugent in 1966, while her father was president. They would have four children prior to divorce in 1979. Luci would later marry a Canadian businessman. She was diagnosed in 2010 with Guillain–Barré syndrome. Her doctor expects her to recover fully.

Both Luci and Lynda have followed in their mother's footsteps in the area of public service and have received numerous awards. Both are very active in fundraising for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

President Jimmy Carter and daughter Amy on cover of People magazine.

President Jimmy Carter and daughter Amy on cover of People magazine.

Amy Carter: Not Your Typical President's Daughter

President Jimmy Carter's daughter was considered by some to be awkward and stand-offish during the time she lived in the White House. This was not unusual for a girl of just nine years of age who was from a very small town like Plains, Georgia. She was criticized severely in the press, especially when she was seen reading a book during a state dinner, which was very offensive to the foreign guests.

Amy attended public schools in Washington and high school in Atlanta. She was dismissed from Brown University for academic reasons.

She participated in a number of demonstrations in the 1980s and was arrested with activist Abbie Hoffman in 1986 at a rally against the CIA.

Ever the non-conformist, Amy refused to let her father "give her away" at her wedding to James Wentzel in 1996. She stated that "she belonged to no one."

Amy lives in Atlanta with her husband and one son. She keeps a very low profile and does not participate in public ceremonies or give interviews. She, probably more than any other presidential daughter, has not taken advantage of the opportunities that would be granted to her as the daughter of President Jimmy Carter.

President Carter and daughter Amy

President Carter and daughter Amy

Susan Ford Bales

Susan Ford Bales

President Gerald Ford's Daughter, Susan

Susan Ford may not be as well known as some of the presidents' daughters, but she is certainly an impressive lady. She represented her family well in several official functions and has proven to be an effective speaker.

Susan and her mother created National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in 1984. She currently serves as Chairman of the Board of the Betty Ford Center.

During her White House days, Susan was a target of the Symbionese Liberation Army, an American revolutionary group in the 1970s. She was protected by the Secret Service and later married one of the agents, with whom she had two daughters prior to their divorce.

Susan is in the process of writing a series of mystery novels with a setting in the White House. In the first book of the series, "Double Exposure," a body is found in the Rose Garden!

Susan lives with her current husband, Vaden Bales, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Susan Ford Washing Her Car at White House in 1976

Susan Ford Washing Her Car at White House in 1976

The Future of These First Daughters

These "first daughters" and their accomplishments are as varied as their public profiles. While some have a joy for the limelight that was probably instilled in them by their famous fathers, others enjoy a private life with some degree of normalcy.

In either case, it is probably safe to say that we haven't heard the last of these ladies. What the future holds for them is uncertain, especially in the case of the young, intelligent, and beautiful Chelsea Clinton. She may someday follow suit with her politically famous parents and run for president. Wouldn't it be interesting if her opponent turned out to be Amy Carter? Or perhaps Chelsea's more likely competitor would be Ivanka Trump.

Ivanka Trump

Ivanka Trump

Next Generation Presidential Poll

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: What is Caroline Kennedy doing? Is she still married?

Answer: It's hard to believe that Caroline is now 60 years old! Yes, she is still married and is mother to 3 grown children. She serves on the Board of several companies and also non-profit organizations. Under the Obama administration, she served as US Ambassador to Japan. There is speculation that she will run in the presidential primaries in 2020.

Question: Where are the Obama daughters?

Answer: If you are asking why they aren't included in my article, the focus is on the older daughters of presidents and what they accomplished in their lives. I didn't include the Obama daughters for the same reason I didn't include the Bush daughters.

© 2013 Thelma Raker Coffone

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