Ellen and Edith

Ellen and Edith

Woodrow Wilson's First Ladies

Book - 2010
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The wives of Woodrow Wilson were strikingly different from each other. Ellen Axson Wilson, quiet and intellectual, died after just a year and a half in the White House and is thought to have had little impact on history. Edith Bolling Wilson was flamboyant and confident but left a legacy of controversy. Yet, as Kristie Miller shows, each played a significant role in the White House. Miller presents a rich and complex portrait of Wilson's wives, one that compels us to reconsider our understanding of both women. Ellen comes into clear focus as an artist and intellectual who dedicated her talents to an ambitious man whose success enabled her to have a significant influence on the institution of the first lady. Miller's assessment of Edith Wilson goes beyond previous flattering accounts and critical assessments. She examines a woman who overstepped her role by hiding her husband's serious illness to allow him to remain in office. But, Miller concludes, Edith was acting as she knew her husband would have wished. Miller explains clearly how these women influenced Woodrow Wilson's life and career. But she keeps her focus on the women themselves, placing their concerns and emotions in the foreground. She presents a balanced appraisal of each woman's strengths and weaknesses. She argues for Ellen's influence not only on her husband but on subsequent first ladies. She strives for an understanding of the controversial Edith, who saw herself as Wilson's principal advisor and, some would argue, acted as shadow president after his stroke. Miller also helps us better appreciate the role of Mary Allen Hulbert Peck, whose role as Wilson's "playmate" complemented that of Ellen--but was intolerable to Edith. Especially because Woodrow Wilson continues to be one of the most-studied American presidents, the task of recognizing and understanding the influence of his wives is an important one. Drawing extensively on the Woodrow Wilson papers and newly available material, Miller's book answers that call with a sensitive and compelling narrative of how private and public emotions interacted at a pivotal moment in the history of first ladies This book is part of the Modern First Ladies series. -- From publisher description.
Publisher: Lawrence, Kan. : University Press of Kansas, c2010
ISBN: 9780700617371
Branch Call Number: 973.91309 MILLER
Characteristics: xii, 348 p. : ill. ; 25 cm


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Jun 01, 2019

Since middle and upper class women had no options other than wife and mother or spinster it fell to them to cater to husbands and these two women certainly did that with their whole beings. Ellen managed to still have her art at times and even sold some paintings while First Lady but mostly sublimated her desire to paint professionally because in the late 1800's women couldn't be artists. She carried out the required social duties of being a First Lady and seemed to enjoy her many different roles even while Wilson carried on an affair of many years with another woman.
Wilson seemed to bowl over Edith with his adolescent longing for her and she committed to him and was his partner in every way. She became part and parcel of everything he did and was quite devoted to him. After his strokes she became nurse and CEO of the nation. Thankfully in 1925 there was an amendment to the Constitution laying out what happens when a President is unable to perform his duties.
Interesting but a bit dry, we will always wonder if WW2 would have happened if the US had ratified Wilson's League of Nations.


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