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Ellen and Edith

Ellen and Edith

Kristie Miller

Publication Year: 2010

An authoritative dual biography of the two wives of Woodrow Wilson. Presents a rich and complex portrait of Wilson's marriages, first to the demure Ellen Axon Wilson and then to the controversial Edith Bolling Wilson, as well as his relationship with a "dearest friend," Mary Allen Hulbert Peck.

Published by: University Press of Kansas

Series: Modern First Ladies

Series Page, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Editor's Foreword

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pp. ix-x

Alone among twentieth-century presidents, Woodrow Wilson had two first ladies during his eight years in the White House. His first wife, Ellen Axson Wilson, died in August 1914 after eighteen months as the woman in the White House. ...

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pp. xi-xii

Woodrow Wilson is among the most admired presidents in our nation’s history.1 He was an intellectual, author of many well-regarded books on government, and president of Princeton University. In his first term as president of the United States, Wilson promoted a progressive legislative program that ushered in the Federal Reserve, tariff reform, and the income tax. ..

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pp. 1-2

On the second Sunday in April 1883, in Rome, Georgia, a small, slender woman of twenty-two entered the First Presbyterian Church for morning service. In mourning for the death of her mother, she was dressed severely in black and wore a black crepe veil over her head. ...

Part 1. Ellen Axson Wilson

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1. The Scholar's Helpmeet

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pp. 5-49

Ellen Axson, by background, training, and temperament, was almost ideally suited to be Woodrow Wilson’s wife. She was intelligent and well-read, devoted to family, passionate and ambitious for a life of service to a higher goal. ...

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2. The First Lady

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pp. 50-94

Ellen Wilson could not look back for long. She had to face the future as the wife of a prominent political figure. Privately, she may have entertained misgivings, and even a few regrets, but she was prepared for her new role. At Princeton’s Prospect House, she had welcomed large numbers of diverse people. ...

Part 2. Edith Bolling Wilson

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3. The White House Bride

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pp. 97-132

Ellen Wilson’s death threw Woodrow into a bleak, unfamiliar world. He wrote to Mary Hulbert, “I never dreamed such loneliness and desolation of heart possible.” Because Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States, his loss was not merely a personal tragedy; the United States, and a world at war, needed his leadership. ...

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4. The President's Partner

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pp. 133-171

Edith and Woodrow Wilson arrived back at the White House on January 4, 1916. Very few first ladies have had to assume their duties in the middle of their husband’s term of office. Edith inherited a household staff that had been functioning for two years, and social obligations that were scheduled well in advance of her appearance. ...

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5. The Regent

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pp. 172-207

On the morning of April 28, while Wilson was signing letters, his handwriting suddenly deteriorated. As the day went on, he appeared to write with “extreme exertion.” During the next two weeks, his writing “grew increasingly awkward, became more heavily slanted to the right, was more and more heavily inked, and became almost grotesque,” the editors of his papers later observed. ...

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6. The Mainstay

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pp. 208-241

No further efforts on Edith Wilson’s part could have made any difference. The window of opportunity was already closing. Republican hard-liners, hearing of the bipartisan meeting on January 22, protested against any compromise on Article X. One of their leaders, Senator William Borah of Idaho, denounced the negotiations as “a cowardly and pusillanimous enterprise.” ...

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7. The Widow

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pp. 242-263

Woodrow Wilson now belonged to history. Edith Wilson was determined to shape that history. She had been Wilson’s confidante and partner for four and a half exhilarating, triumphant years. She had been spokeswoman, companion, and nurse to an invalid for nearly as long. ...

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pp. 264-268

Edith Wilson undeniably had an impact on history. She took over after Woodrow Wilson’s stroke, enabling him to remain in office. Had he resigned, the United States probably would have joined the League of Nations, subject to certain conditions. ...

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pp. 269-270

This book—indeed, all of my books—could not have been written without the encouragement, guidance, and help of Lewis L. Gould over the last quarter of a century. I am grateful to him for asking me to work on this project, and for offering many suggestions to make it a better book. Any errors or shortcomings are mine. ...


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pp. 271-330

Bibliographic Essay

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pp. 331-338


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pp. 339-348

E-ISBN-13: 9780700620456
Print-ISBN-13: 9780700617371

Page Count: 360
Illustrations: 22 photographs
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Modern First Ladies

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Wilson, Ellen Axson.
  • Wilson, Edith Bolling Galt, 1872-1961.
  • Presidents' spouses -- United States -- Biography.
  • Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924 -- Family.
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