Saturday, January 05, 2013

What Happens When You Get a Democrat as President

Kristine Miller. Ellen and Edith: Woodrow Wilson’s First Ladies. Lawrence, Ky. University of Kansas Press, 2010.

Woodrow Wilson was the only President to have two wives while President. Ellen Axson Wilson was First Lady for 18 months before dying. 15 months after Edith’s death, Wilson married Edith Bolling Gait.

Wilson told Ellen upfront while dating her that he enjoyed being with other women. Still they married, Wilson became a noted scholar and national speaker. Ellen was very religious. Her faith was shattered when her brother, his wife, and their child drowned when a horse on a carriage was spooked and took their carriage off a ferry. Woodrow tried to revive Ellen’s spirits by having her do landscape painting with an impressionist painters artists colony in Old Lyme, Ct.

Wilson’s public speaking led some newspapers to suggest Wilson run for President. Wilson was President of Princeton University.

Wilson started a relationship with Mary Peck. He feel in love with her. Ellen went back to Old Lyme and painted as she recognized Woodrow’s “eternal love for Mary. Ellen and her daughters stayed at Florence Griswold’s boarding house. Ellen studied art from Frank DuMond.

Woodrow ran for Governor of New Jersey. Ellen agreed to support him. Woodrow with to Old Lyme with Ellen and daily carried her stood and easel for her. Woodrow thought wrote almost daily to Mary. He complained the boarding house required the boarding house required both sexes to dine together to minimize embarrassment of the painters having paint on them. Ellen wanted to travel overseas but Woodrow felt Old Lyme “was good enough for him”. Woodrow probably wanted to remain close to New Jersey political advisors and to Mary in New York.

Woodrow received the Democratic Convention’s nomination for Governor. He ran as a progressive.

Ellen was a capable New Jersey First Lady. She attended many events with Woodrow and was well liked Wilson had the House pass some reform bills by persuading the Republican majority in the State Senate to approve them.

Ellen went to Old Lyme for summer art school. Woodrow went on another speaking tour in Western states. He visited Mary in New York and visit Ellen twice.

Woodrow was mentioned for President. A burglar robbed Woodrow and took only a suitcase of letters including love letters from Mary. The letters were never made public and Woodrow insisted they weren’t damaging.

The Old Lyme impressionist artists had varying views on Ellen’s paintings. She was pleased when she won a New York exhibition under a pseudonym, so her name had no influence. William Chadwick, a noted painted, felt “she was not really good.”

Wilson was nominated for President on the 46th ballot. At one point he thought he had no chance and almost released his delegated until he was persuaded otherwise. Woodrow assured Mary this had not changed his feelings for her.

Ellen learned how to deal with reporters and their coverage of her life, including how much she spent on clothing and how se disliked women smoking.

Woodrow was elected President. Ellen became an advisor and they discussed the pros and cons of offering a Cabinet position to William Jennings Bryan before making him Secretary of State.

The Wilsons were not wealthy and they had to borrow money to move to Washington. Ellen continued her art in the White House.

The Wilson Administration kept only two African Americans from the Taft Administration. Government officers were racially segregated, Ellen once wrote the whites were superior. Woodrow mocked the Negro dialect in telling jokes.

Ellen fell ill with kidney disease and died. Wilson felt guilty that his career may have troubled her.

It is believed by some that Edith Galt sought out the widower President. Wilson was depressed and had always needed female attention. Edith became close to Woodrow. Politically, Edith favored helping the Allied nations and did not like the pacifist views of William Jennings Bryan. He told Wilson she was glad when Bryan resigned and suggested getting rid of all pacifists.

Woodrow and Edith became engaged Some advisors wanted the wedding delayed until after the reelection campaign. They feared the wedding would cost Wilson votes. Wilson’s son in law Gibbs McAdoo came up with a scheme. He falsely told Woodrow that someone anonymously claimed Mary was showing her private letters from Woodrow. Woodrow instead decided to tell Edith about Mary. When it was revealed the story was false, the White House aides who knew of the scheme was their powers diminish while Edith’s influence increased.

The U.S. went to war. Edith volunteered with the Red Cross. She had the job of renaming captured German ships that were now in American ports. She also demonstrated wartime frugality.

Edith joined Woodrow as he toured Europe advocating his proposal for a League of Nations. Woodrow began feeling ill yet pressed on.

Several Senators expressed increasing concerns with Wilson’s League of Nations proposal. Woodrow felt head pains that worsened and made him nauseous. Wilson’s left side then went numb from a stroke.

Edith decided to hide Woodrow’s illness. She took control of Presidential papers. She attempted to decide what Woodrow would do and then did it. An exception to this was the League of Nations issue where Edith chose loyalty to Woodrow’s long term plan over any likelihood he might have compromised to get it enacted.

Edith had the White House physician stated Woodrow had nervous exhaustion. Sen. George Moses correctly charged that Woodrow had a cerebral lesion.

Edith claimed Woodrow made dictations and issued orders. Woodrow though could function for a few moments. Edith adopted Woodrow’s style of responding to requests. Routine speeches were drafted by staff.

Members of Congress and others demanded to see Woodrow. Edith arranged a staged visit with Woodrow sitting in the dark and avoiding shaking hands to fool people into thinking he was not seriously ill.

Woodrow’s health improved and Edith was relieved to not take on so much of his duties. The Senate failed to ratify his League of National proposal. This depressed Woodrow.

Woodrow wanted a third term. Yet the Democrats nominated James Cox instead. Woodrow became angry and then depressed when he learned this.

Despite Edith’s involvement in White House affairs, she showed little interest in politics after Woodrow died. She declined an offer to be on the Democratic Party’s Women’s Advisory Committee. She did give a speech in favor of Al Smith for President. She later accepted being Honorary President of the Women’s National Democratic Club, yet resigned that after three years over the commercialism of their charity ball. President Franklin Roosevelt convinced her to endorse his National Recovery Administration, and she agreed by noting that this economic plan was similar to what Wilson had done in 1917. She published her autobiography.

Woodrow Wilson was unpopular when he left office. Yet his controversial ideas gained popularity over time. Edith Wilson’s popularity increased over time as well.


Post a Comment

<< Home