October 01, 2003

Presidential Fun Fact of the Day

Edith Wilson.

Edith was a widow and a friend of Woodrow's cousin when she met the president seven months after Ellen's death. Edith was having tea with her friend at the White House, and Woodrow arrived unexpectedly. He joined the ladies and began seeing Edith shortly thereafter.

Immediately, Edith was filling the void of Woodrow's confidante...he shared the intimacies of his various political dealings with her. In December, 1915, the couple was married quietly in Edith's home. Following the end of World War I, Woodrow's workload increased and his health deteriorated. In October, 1919 he suffered a massive stroke which left him paralyzed on one side. Edith believed he should resign the presidency for the sake of his health, but his doctors insisted his mind was sharp and his best bet for recovery was to have something to work for.

Edith now shouldered a great deal of responsibility, but she was helped by the fact Woodrow had always discussed political matters with her. Every day she carefully read through the president's papers, chose the most important ones, and took them to her husband. She would then relay his instructions to his associates. The First Lady was an intermediary between her husband and everyone else, including the Cabinet and foreign diplomats.

Woodrow never completely recovered from his stroke, but even his political enemies admitted he was mentally fit throughout his presidency. Eventually he was able to get around with a wheelchair, and even considered running for a third term in 1920, but Edith strenuously objected to that idea. In 1921 they retired to a house in Washington. Woodrow passed away three years later.

Posted by Jennifer at October 1, 2003 07:00 AM