First Ladies Take the Spotlight in Canton
By Dominique King

First Ladies Take the Spotlight in Canton

Behind every President is a great First Lady.

First Ladies National Historic Site in Canton

There are many tributes to our nation’s presidents and a holiday dedicated to them, but what about their hard-working and supportive spouses? There are seven presidential spouses who called Ohio home, more than any other state can boast.

And with March being Women’s History Month, why not check out the National First Ladies Library and historic Saxton-McKinley home in Canton to learn more about these fascinating women and their place in our history?

Ida Saxton lived in a spacious brick home with her family in Canton. Her father was a prominent local banker who stressed the importance of education and independence to his daughters. Ida worked in the bank as a clerk and cashier who often managed the bank when her father

Ida married William McKinley in 1871. The couple had their wedding reception in the Saxton family home and lived there off and on as William’s political career advanced and he became the nation’s 25th president in 1897.

Ida continued to live in Canton after President McKinley’s 1901 assassination, visiting her husband’s grave nearly every day until her death in 1907.

The home deteriorated through the years until the grandson of her sister Marsh Belden, Sr. saved the house from demolition, restored the exterior and got it placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Congressional spouse Mary Regula spearheaded establishment of the First Ladies’ Library in 1995. Belden donated a seven-story 1895 bank building he also owned to the library in 1997.

The organization restored the home’s interior, secured Congressional Authorization of the First Ladies’ National Historic Site and opened the facilities to the public as part of the National Park Service in

Costumed docents lead hour-long tours of the home, telling stories about the first ladies and life at the Saxton-McKinley home. The Education and Research Center is in the old bank building one block north of the Saxton-McKinley home.

The original banking room with its restored marble and 1890’s architectural details is the library’s reception center and exhibit hall on the building’s first floor. The library has a 91-seat Victorian-style theater, research facilities and an archive that features about 150 dresses and other items worn
or used by First Ladies, as well as books, videos, photos, speeches, manuscripts, scholarly research papers and other artifacts.

Check the First Ladies’ Library website for details about tour times and admission. Researchers and students can also find a wealth of free resources at the library’s site.

For more historical travel ideas and Ohio Women in History, check out #OhioFindItHere on


Thanks to the Canton-Stark County Convention & Visitors Bureau for their assistance with planning the visit and arranging for comped media passes to the museum. This piece originally published in 2013. 

About the Author

Dominique King is a metro Detroit writer, hockey fan and frequent visitor to Ohio. She began her writing career as a freelance writer for local newspapers, covering business, art and regional travel topics for the Mirror Newspapers, the Daily Tribune and Hour Detroit Magazine. She has a degree in Communications (M.A.) from Detroit's Wayne State University and an interest in history. You can find Dominique writing about Midwest travel at or connect with her on Twitter @midwestguest.