American Socialite. Margaret "Peggy" Eaton, as the wife of John Eaton, United States President Andrew Jackson's Secretary of War, made a place in American history for her part in the "Petticoat Affair" or the "Peggy Eaton Affair," which cause Jackson to replace his cabinet. Born Margaret O'Neill, the daughter of a Washington, D.C. tavern keeper, she was a beautiful young lady, who had helped her father with his business serving customers. At seventeen, she first married John Timberlake of the United States Navy, who was twenty-two years older than she. The couple had three children together, including a son who had died in infancy before her husband's sudden death while being on a four-year deployment to the Mediterranean Sea. A rumor that her husband had died of suicide related to her being unfaithful was proven to be false. Her husband was a friend of Tennessee Senator John H. Eaton. Before being a widow for a full year, she married Eaton on January 1, 1829, a friend and political ally of Andrew Jackson. Eaton became Secretary of War in United States President Andrew Jackson's cabinet later that year. Although she was beautiful, a pianist, and educated more than most women in this time period, she lacked the social graces of some of the other cabinet members' wives. For this reason, she was socially ostracized by them with Floride Calhoun, the wife of Vice President John Calhoun, leading this crusade and claiming she failed to meet the "moral standards of a Cabinet Wife". Although she did not have the purest reputation when she came to the White House, President Jackson had compassion for her, remembering the ordeal that his own wife had faced. This led to a rift between Jackson and Calhoun along with members of his cabinet, and as a result, Jackson requested the resignation of all of his cabinet except one. After her husband resigned, the couple returned to Tennessee where he failed in his attempt to regain his United States senate chair. He served as the 2nd Territorial Governor of Florida from April 24, 1834 to March 16, 1836, serving during the difficult years of the Second Seminole War. She and Eaton spent two years in Madrid, where he served as Minister to Spain, before returning to Washington in 1840. After her husband refused to support Jackson's choice of Martin Van Buren for the candidacy of President of the United States, her husband changed political parties and never became politically active again, resuming his law practice until retirement. Van Buren had resigned his cabinet post as Jackson's Secretary of State as the result of the "the Peggy Eaton" incident. Three years after Eaton's death, she married for a third time at the age of 59. This time to a nineteen-year-old Italian music teacher and dancing master, Antonio Buchignani, who within a few years defrauded her of her property and eloped with her granddaughter. She divorced her third husband. Upon her death, she was buried with Eaton, using his surname on her marker and taking her final resting place among the graves of other leaders of Washington society.
Bio by: Linda Davis