Spot of Parchment April 2019

Those of you who know me, know that I’m obsessed with animals, especially dogs. One of my favorite recent discoveries has been learning about First Lady Grace Coolidge. She absolutely loved animals of any kind, especially her dogs. Her official portrait, painted by Howard Chandler Christy in 1924, is my favorite of the first lady portraits. It featured her dog, Roy Rodgers, and is one of two first lady portraits with the White House in the background. Her other dog was named Prudence Prim (how delightful is that?).

This portrait of First Lady Grace Goodhue Coolidge was painted by artist Howard Chandler Christy circa 1924, during Calvin Coolidge's presidency. Mrs. Coolidge poses with her white Collie, Rob Roy. The portrait hangs in the White House China Room, which was decorated in a shade of red to match Mrs. Coolidge's dress. Calvin Coolidge was president from August 2, 1923 until March 4, 1929. Mrs. Coolidge held a Bachelor's degree in teaching and taught at a school for deaf children before her marriage.
White House Historical Association/White House Collection

She also broke social norms. She had a bachelor’s degree and was a teacher at a school for deaf children before marrying Calvin Coolidge.

This photograph shows First Lady Grace Coolidge with one of her dogs, Prudence Prim, at a garden party on June 3, 1926. Prudence Prim is wearing a bonnet, and there is another dog (likely their white collie, Rob Roy) in the background.
White House Historical Association

But one of the most unusual things she did related to her soft spot for animals. In 1926, a supporter gave the Coolidges a raccoon for Thanksgiving dinner. Grace decided to keep the raccoon as a pet and named her Rebecca. Rebecca lived at the White House, in the Octagon House, for a short time in Rock Creek Zoo when she couldn’t mind her manners, and vacationed in the Black Hills of South Dakota with the first family. Rebecca also played a star roll in the Easter Egg Roll on April 18, 1927.

This photograph shows First Lady Grace Coolidge holding her pet raccoon, Rebecca. In addition to many dogs and cats, Rebecca was one of several non-traditional pets the Coolidges kept at the White House, including geese, donkeys, and a bobcat, though it is uncertain how long these rare animals stayed at the White House. Other more exotic animals were gifted to the Coolidges by foreign dignitaries such as lions, a wallaby, and a pygmy hippo.
White House Historical Association

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