September 29, 2003

*Presidential Fun Fact of the Day

Helen Taft.

When she was seventeen years old, Helen visited the White House and declared she would return someday as First Lady. She married William Howard Taft, a lawyer whose ambition was to be a judge rather than a politician.

When William was appointed a judge, Helen was displeased. She lamented the fact that a life on the bench relegated them to social circles of "old men." William's biggest dream was to join the U.S. Supreme Court, but when President Roosevelt offered him an appointment several times, Helen persuaded her husband to decline.

The Tafts, of course, ended up in the White House for four years. In that time, Helen alienated a large portion of the mansion's staff with her controlling nature and the changes she made. Chief Usher Ike Hoover complained, "She seems to have forgotten entirely that the White House is, in a measure, a public institution, and made an effort to conduct it along the lines of a private household."

Some of Helen's projects were met with praise, however. She sponsored dramatic and musical performances on the White House lawn. She also arranged for thousands of cherry trees to be planted in an effort to beautify Washington, D.C. Today those same cherry trees are a tourist attraction.

After leaving the White House, William finally accepted the Supreme Court appointment he had longed for...and Helen was happy to live out of the public eye. She didn't miss the excitement of politics as much as she thought she would.

Posted by Jennifer at September 29, 2003 05:41 AM