Wednesday, December 28, 2011

On December 28

On this day in ...
... 1961 (50 years ago today) , 105 years to the day after her late husband had been born, Edith Wilson, 89, died at her home in Washington, D.C. In 1915, she'd married President Woodrow Wilson; the 1st spouses of both had died before they met. (credit for 1917 photo of the couple at his 2d inauguration) Over time the President came to rely on her advice, she attended political and governmental meetings and saw classified information; he "share[d] a secret wartime code with her." In public, she raised funds and urged self-rationing to aid the United States' efforts in World War I, and campaigned against the spread of venereal disease among servicemembers. She accompanied the President to Europe after the war and watched him signed the Versailles Treaty; thus:

Her presence among the queens and other women royalty of Europe put the position of First Lady on an equivalent standing, thus helping to define the uniquely American role in an international context.

But her interpretation of her role had its detractors, especially after the President suffered a stroke in 1919. She hid the extent of his disability, acting as "the sole conduit" between him and his government. Some say he was so sick that she was, in effect, the United States' 1st woman President.

(Prior December 28 posts are here, here, here, and here.)

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