Although she was born into a rather prosperous New Jersey family, Anna Tuthill Symmes Harrison lived most of her life on the frontier. Her husband, William Henry Harrison, had a long military and political career in Ohio and Indiana, which was the western frontier at the time. While William was away for long periods, Anna took care of family business and raised their ten children.
Clashes with Native Americans were an ever-present danger, but Anna still cooked and served meals for soldiers, dignitaries, and American Indian leaders alike. Councils with local Native Americans were frequently held in her home, and their encampments set up on her front lawn.
Having attended the best schools for girls in the northeast, Anna Harrison was the first presidential spouse who had a formal education. She loved learning and avidly read any political journals and newspapers she could find on the frontier.
President Harrison died only one month after he gave his inaugural speech, before Anna could join him at the White House.
Children and education were central to Anna Harrison's life. On the frontier, she educated her children herself. She and her husband started the Jefferson Academy (named for Thomas Jefferson) in Vincennes, Indiana, in 1801, for students 8 to 17 years of age.
The school charged $15 a year in tuition, but Native Americans were allowed to attend free of charge. After they moved to North Bend, Ohio, the Harrisons started a school there as well. The back of the Anna Harrison First Spouse $10 gold coin depicts Mrs. Harrison teaching her students.