September 25, 2003

Presidential Fun Fact of the Day

Ida Saxton McKinley.

Ida was a beautiful young lady, working in her father's bank when she met William McKinley. They fell deeply in love and wed in 1871. She was cultured and headstrong, and he was an ambitious young lawyer with a new practice. Upon their marriage, Ida's father bought the couple a beautiful home where they could start a family. Soon they welcomed a little daughter named Katie into the world.

Unfortunately, this idyllic beginning was soon overshadowed by tragedy. In their second year of marriage, Ida's beloved grandfather passed away, followed by Ida's mother. Soon after her mother's death, Ida gave birth to another daughter. This baby lived only five months.

Ida was heartbroken over her losses, and convinced herself God was punishing her. She became ill, developing phlebitis (inflammation of the veins, most commonly in legs due to blood clots) which left her unable to walk by herself. She probably suffered brain damage as a result of the phlebitis, because she would have headaches and seizures for the rest of her life. Ida became obsessed with young Katie's well-being, afraid God would take her, too. Sadly, Katie died of typhoid fever at age four. Her mother was destroyed.

William became his wife's caretaker, and by all accounts was tender and completely devoted to her. The year after Katie died, the McKinleys moved to Washington when William was elected to Congress. He spent all his free time with Ida, taking her for carriage rides and the theater. Gradually her health and spirits seemed to improve.

Fifteen years later, when William became Ohio's governor, the McKinleys moved into a hotel across from the Capitol grounds. Every day at 3:00 he would stop work and wave his handkerchief out the window, waiting for his wife to wave back from her window in the hotel.

When President McKinley was shot in 1901, Ida took the news bravely, hoping her husband would recover. He didn't, and after his funeral she slipped into a deep depression. She prayed to God to let her join William. The federal government made plans for a memorial McKinley Mausoleum, and Ida decided she wanted to live after all. She wanted to see the completion of the memorial. She passed away in 1907, four days before the dedication ceremony, and was laid to rest at William's side.

Posted by Jennifer at September 25, 2003 05:57 AM


I love these things you post! Thanks. In this one especially, you bring the first lady to life. Very tragic.

Posted by: Ted at September 25, 2003 07:49 AM