First Lady Abigail Powers Fillmore began teaching at a country school house in Cayuga County, NY when she was 16 years old. In the winter of 1818 a self taught teenager named Millard Fillmore enrolled her class. They were engaged a year later, although the wedding was delayed until 1826. For three years of their courtship, they were 150 miles apart as Millard trained to be a lawyer. As Millard explained, she was “eight years my sweetheart, twenty seven years my wife.”
Abigail taught for two years after their wedding, making her the first First Lady to hold a job after marriage. She retired from teaching after the birth of her first child Millard Powers Fillmore.
Abigail was a proponent of libraries and founded the first public library in Sempronius, New York. As First Lady, she worked to create a permanent library in the White House. Prior to the Fillmore administration, US presidents had brought their own books to the White House, retrieving them once they left office. Through her husband, Abigail obtained a special appropriation from Congress to create a small library on the second floor of the White House which still exists today.