tv First Ladies Influence Image CSPAN December 17, 2013 9:00pm-10:36pm EST
will have someone from the center for strategic international studies. have comments from the 113th congress. you can see washington journal each morning at seven eastern on c-span. teenager, helen taft wanted to bash wanted to live in the white house. she got her husband williams have to turn down his job of being a supreme court justice and so we can focus on a run to the presidency. taft. -- like of helen the life of helen taft. later, a conversation with supreme court justice ginsburg.
>> helen taft was more ambitious about getting to the white house that her husband william howard taft and was willing to get personally involved with politics to get him elected. illness toe a series directly manage the white house, invited top classical musicians to perform their, and supported causes that matter to her. she also has one of the most visible legacies of all of the first ladies. trees thatcherry bring tens of thousands of visitors to washington every year. good evening and welcome to first ladies. the life of helen taft. her husband served in the white house. here to tell us about her life is her buyer for -- biographer lewis gould. you open the book by making the case that of the 20th century
first ladies, she is the most of your that you say she deserves better from history. --my why she deserves better tell me why she deserves better. >> and she did things that were very constructive. the cherry trees, bringing classical musicians to the white house, and generally trying to make washington the cultural center of the nation. it didn't work out because of medical reasons, but she had an agenda that would have made her rank with eleanor roosevelt or lady bird johnson. she >> and she seemed to have an agenda to have her husband in the white house. she visiteded when the white house, she wanted to do it as well. it is kind of overdrawn. sometimes she is oh -- portrayed
as a cross between a mommy dearest and lady macbeth. she was a nicer lady. >> helen taft had a very interesting story and we have -- we bet many of you and the audience will be hearing it for the first time. you can send us comments on facebook. we have robust discussions there already with questions about her already. you can send us a tweet. we have phone lines which we will put on the screen and get to your calls in a few minutes. first we need to tell you a little bit more about her early by durfee. -- biography. how does she get to the white house at the age of 16? >> her father and her family were friends with rutherford b. hayes and they went to the white house. hadwent only once but she
not yet made her debut so she could not participate in the social activities but she was bare and president hayes said it was wonderful to have her there. lore, she wasmily supposed to have said, i will come back. it is not clear that is really what she said that -- but she wanted to marry a man who would become president. >> she came from a political family. >> her family -- her father was a friend of benjamin harrison and had been involved in ohio politics. there was a congressman and her mother sighed -- in her mother's side of the family. she had the ability to play the piano which she studied quite vigorously. she had a salon in cincinnati which was a very culturally rich city in those days.
they had seven hills so they thought of them -- thought as themselves as the rome of the middle west. >> she was from a political family and had his ambition -- and this ambition -- how did she choose will tap dancer made -- william cap as her mate -- taft as her mate? from was when he came back yale and went to cincinnati law school is when their lives begin to intersect and he began to court -- they began to court. she was in her mid-20's and he was almost 29 and by the time he gets married. they started going out to some of the beer halls and gradually fell in love. he was much more smitten with her originally and she was with him but he proposed, she rejected which was the standard thing in those days.
the woman never accepted the proposal right off. they had a rather lengthy courtship ir standards -- by our standards. in those days, she made him wait a while but then they got married in june of 1886. >> we should give a little credit to her alma mater. >> she did not go to college. she studied a little bit at the university of cincinnati but she was all most self educated. she never got a degree like her husband did. >> how common was it for women to go to beer halls in those days? >> it was not the done thing. the german community and the it was where young people went and young people in the 80's had the same impulses they have today. they did not date quite the way they would later in the 20th
century. >> william howard taft was not intending a career in politics when he proposed to nellie taft. >> he wanted to be a lawyer. he wanted to get to the supreme court. he would later say he had his bowl turned upwards. he definitely wanted to be chief justice of the united states almost from the time he learned about the law. >> william howard taft made good on his wish. he is the only president that also serve as the role of chief justice of the united states. we will learn more about his later career as the program progresses. he did not does as the soul of up politician, how instrumental was alan and moving him into int direction -- was helen moving him into that direction? judge andmes a state
then he becomes solicitor general of the united states and is appointed to the court -- court of appeals. she watched him do that i think the big turning point came in early 1900 when president mckinley told him to come to washington and often the chance to go to the philippines and establish a civilian government. she says, take it. she says, by all means, this will give my husband the sphere of power and influence. i think that was the decisive moment in their lives. >> we have two quotes -- one from each of the tafts. you can tell how much this reflects their overall attitude. from helen taft, she writes of her husband --
we have a 1906 quote from william howard taft and he says -- >> some of that was for public consumption. i think he pursued a political career with more zest than we sometimes realize. thatnellie was saying was he had a way of getting people to push him in the direction that he wanted to go. i think she is a knology that -- acknowledging that she moved her as much as he moved him. >> you mentioned the two that were in the law. take a look at the political positions that william howard taft held over his lifetime. 1890, he served as solicitor general. he was governor general of the
importants and an part of that country's development and our relationship with them. in 1904, he was secretary of or -- war. and then his term as president. his life's wish to become chief justice of united states came true. -- whichtary of war was most helpful in setting his experience in the white house? >> i think the governor general of the philippines made him a national figure. when he goes into theodore roosevelt cabinet, he presents himself to roosevelt as the logical choice in 19 away -- 1908. roosevelt looked over the cabinet to see who might be his successor. ohio, as will taft from
state that really matter to republicans in those years. he became the logic of the situation. >> why does the united states have the ability to appoint a governor general of the philippines? >> as a result of the spanish- american war and the treaty of paris, spain ceded the philippines to the united states and the became a possession. >> one of the hallmarks of this program is that we have been taking you to the storage sites -- to historic sites. route the program, we will be taking you to the william howard taft national the storage site -- historic site in cincinnati. we hope those of you getting interested in this series will visit some of these places. up next we will meet the superintendent of the site, and he will tell us more about the time that the tafts spent in the philippines. >> she loved to travel.
she jumped at the chance and encouraged her husband to take a job in the philippines. they took the family to the philippines where he was governor general. she got a chance to introduce your children to this travel -- her children to the travel. before she and the children got there, william taft went to the banquets that he was invited to. she like to incorporate the philippine people and these are some programs from the different banquets that were there. the filipino people loved william howard taft and his family. they treated him just like equals. mrs. cap invited them to .inner's vast task -- mrs taft invited them to dinners.
entertainment was a big part of the things she did over there. into theout to go collection storage area will be keep some of our valuable artifacts as well as things that are not on display. as we come in we see a philippine test. she collected a lot of filipino items. this is a storage chest that they bought while the rover there -- they were over there. what i had here is some photographs from some ladies in the philippines. they took some formal photographs. they wrote inscriptions and gave them to mrs. taft. this goes to illustrate the admiration the filipino had for
the taft family, especially mrs. taft as she worked to make them feel integrated into greater society, make them feel equal to the other people, invited them to parties, put on musicals. them andly loved to this day we still get people coming from the philippines that happens connection with the family. alexa joining us on the set is jane hampton cook. -- >> joining us on the set is jane hampton cook. how important was that time in the philippines for the development of helen taft and her role as first lady? >> it was very important. aen she returned, she met military wife in the army who had known her in the philippines. she said, in the philippines you were clean, here you are nobody.
philippines,in the she was not a queen in a royal sense. she invited people to her table. she really brought those two cultures together. she served her husband very well by doing those things. stillre were sterile -- colonial powers. in the piece that we heard that she treated the filipinos equal, we were in their country. how unusual was this outreach? >> the army in the philippines drew the color line which meant they did not socialize with the filipinos. to dance with them was seen as quite radical. there were elements in the military that were not thrilled with what taft was doing. he would not have been able to do this in the united states at the same time.
the philippines counts in part to his endearing -- enduring popularity. they wanted us out as soon as possible. presidential ponderings want to know what the philippine -- what she thought about the filipino people. view that she the had in her heart and it was something that she had -- by reaching out she could see the benefit of bringing the cultures together. it was something that she was using her executive social skills. she would go out horseback riding. taft ordered a band for the filipino people and they went to this big open space and had concerts. this was something that meant a lot to her. you can see when she wears the filipino former brown -- formal
gown. she started that in the spring of 1909 before the stroke. it was a space in manila where the aristocracy would gather and they would go around and had concerts. it was the social setting for the high society in the philippines. she wanted this to be a place for washington would do that. it was very popular the first couple of times. after the stroke, she cannot personally manage it. >> those of you who have been watching us know that our goal is to teach you more about each of america's first ladies. we are going to devote time in this series to the 20th century first ladies. we did it starting with martha
washington. we want to help you understand more about the president administration and also all about our country and how it changed. there is lots of talk about. we will give you the telephone number to join in the conversation. if you live in the eastern time zone -- if you live in the mountain time zone -- we will love having your calls and your questions. we have developed a website for this series. there is one special item attached to the first lady that we don't talk about during the program. if you go to the site, you learn more about a chair that she cherished that she acquired in the philippines. philippines, talk to me about a very important is hisnship -- that
relationship with theodore roosevelt. >> william taft and tr get to know each other in the early 1890's. almost from the beginning, there was not the same rapport between edith and nellie. nellie would say she never really liked edith was roosevelt -- edith roosevelt. there was competition between them that pulsed. when they got back to washington -- i wish i knew more about what exactly happened but they seem women whoen two struck odds. you had these two men who were very close but their intimate families, not so much. there was not a strong underpinning of the tr, will taft relationship once the two women got in close proximity. it had something to do with
cincinnati versus new york with edith roosevelt being from an aristocratic family and helen taft of being from cincinnati. >> we learned during the edith roosevelt program that mrs. roosevelt had regular salon sessions with all of the cabinet wives which was required attendance. what was the effect of those on helen taft and her own thinking about how she might approach the job as first lady? >> edith did have these weekly meetings. they met in the white house library once a week. she thought they were a little too gossipy or the topic is a conversations bored her. she made it known to the press before she became first lady that she would not be continuing them. edithas quite a slam to to say that publicly. she could've been more genteel.
they supervised some of the women in the washington community. if you're with somebody that without your husband, you would hear from the white house. there was a mouth bass a certain amount of nitpicking that haven't -- it was a certain amount of nitpicking. she was not like edith roosevelt. their roosevelt wanted mores to be in washington? >> yes. they had a standard of sophistication. -- edithsevelt roosevelt wanted to pull the higher moral standard. >> kip, you are on. >> hello. i have a question to mr. gould. in your research about mrs.
taft, i wanted to know specifically if you are familiar with the miniseries back stairs of the white house that aired on nbc in 1979. it started julie harris. if youd to ask mr. gould are familiar with -- that was my first awareness of mrs. taft. was that an accurate depiction of her? >> i think the back stairs at the white house was generally accurate but it had some fictional elements. i don't think most historians regarded as something you should take to the bank. it was dramatized for television purposes. it is a useful source but i would use it with caution. askedodore roosevelt william taft to be a secretary of war.
they had an opportunity to see the world. how did that affect them? --they both love the travel loved to travel. he became a troubleshooter diplomatically for tr. hen tr would go a funding would say, i left taft sitting on the lid in washington. lot.d mrs. taft traveled a a story that illustrates her ambiguity about this, when she and very nearly missed the train and she said to the station master you have to help me out, i am mrs. william howard taft. no response. i am traveling with alice roosevelt. instantaneously, the station madison -- stationmaster got her on the train.
the taft family teased her about that. was there a lot of traveling going on at that time? point with trains and steamships, it was more common. was oftenary of war called the secretary of peace in the newspapers because he was going and putting down conflicts in cuba. he was more of a peacemaker than he was focusing on defense. there is a great story about his time at secretary of war when the empress of japan gives helen a tapestry. she loves it, she wants to keep it. taft says that we have to give it back to the smithsonian. she wanted to keep it so she takes it to roosevelt. roosevelt says, you can keep it.
that shows the difference between taft and roosevelt. taft was very much by the law. roosevelt would push the envelope a little bit. >> that become a fundamental difference -- became the fundamental difference between how they do the president's -- viewed the presidents. it had to be explicitly allowed before we can do it. the two views were very vivid. >> that is a good study of leadership. facebook, this person want to know how she got the nickname of nellie. >> she had a number of brother it -- brothers and sisters and that was just one of the family names. her husband refers to her as nellie. i don't think she ever calls -- their daughter was also named helen.
>> did she call them will or mr. taft? >> she called him will. most people that knew him will -- nuven well call -- new him well, called him will. >> next is john in houston. >> i love this show so much. i have two questions. the more modern first ladies of the 20th century, who were the more aworthy? my second question is, what was nellie's inspiration for the cherry tree? farleanor roosevelt was by -- and lady bird johnson -- she
became delegate of the united nations. she and lady bird johnson would be the two. >> hold the cherry tree question. we will show some video later. next is the call from leroy. >> hi. i have enjoyed this program so much. i have a question for ms. cook. board president taft and his wife, were the christian people -- they christian people? did they know jesus and study the bible? >> she grew up in the episcopal church. he was a unitarian. the difference was mostly about the trinity or not the trinity.
it was more traditional christianity. there was a story are read about prime minister -- about a minister who went to the white house and talk to taft and he was very confident in his beliefs. it was important to them. it was something that was a part of them. >> taft was talked about to be president of yale in 1900 and you decided not to do it -- he decided not to do it. brother, hehis said, i do not believe in the divinity of jesus christ. it never became known in the campaigns. he was attacked for being a unitarian and being too friendly to the catholics in the philippines. tr and taft were very cautious
about how they handled the religious issue. >> michael is next from washington, d.c. let me move on to calvin in georgia. >> alabama. i was going to ask you about the connection that ms. taft had with the other first ladies that came from ohio, especially lucy hayes. >> we talked a little bit about that earlier. the herrings were very friendly -- the herrons were very friendly with the family. herron washat ms. there almost every weekend. that was very overdrawn. >> theodore roosevelt make the decision that he will not run for you real action -- for reelection and has the of -- has the opportunity to anoint a successor.
how does that become william howard taft? >> it is a complex issue. -- elihu root is too old although you outlive both of them. he was also a corporate lawyer which was not going to be the appeal that you wanted at that time. when you look over the republican party, who was the most sympathetic, available candidate and here was will taft from ohio. roosevelt begins to convince himself that he and taft agree on more than the agreed on. -- they agreed on. that theya courtship invested in each other to have the qualities they want to have. 1908, roosevelt
becomes a backer of taft. taft, very serious lobbying up theodore roosevelt to select her husband. because of his known attitudes about politics and his desire to the supreme court role, may be indicated he was a bit hesitant. here is the quote from helen taft. she is working both sides here. she is working her husband to act the part more. how influential was shooting? -- she? if there wife thinks you can be president of the united states, that is a big boost. she did meet with theodore roosevelt at least on two occasions to talk about this. -- onceed to offer taft
when he wanted to offer taft the position in the supreme court. the moment that you are talking about, roosevelt did not see the passion and taft so he was trying to nudge taft and tell him there was other men who wanted this. he needed to be more grafted -- more aggressive. >> did helen taft meet personally with theodore roosevelt to make the case? 1906,, in the fall of taft is out on the road and she had a luncheon with the president. taft and tr both believed that she had misinterpreted what he was trying to say which was, you need to be more aggressive.
he was not threatening to support governor hughes who would later become chief justice of new york. it was late -- very unlikely he would support them. she was so sensitive to any variation that she interpreted this kind of gentle warning as a threat that he might support the soon-to-be governor of new york. >> what was the election like for the republicans that year? >> that they held onto the house and senate except for some losses. basically, taft came out as the front runner and would get a first ballot nomination. >> how much did he win by? >> in the general election? he beat william jennings bryant, forget offhand. it was a decisive victory.
it was big enough for all practical purses -- purposes. taft, who was a better campaigner than anyone thought, did very well. >> there are several parts of the story. helen taft seem to want this all her life. the non-christian -- the inauguration day itself, it was a blizzard. that made the ceremony go indoors as opposed to outside. video next about the inauguration and will come back and talk more about that day. 1909, mrs. tapscott to realize her dream -- mrs. --t got to realize her team her dream as she got to be the first lady to come back with her husband to the white house. are a couple of programs from the inauguration ceremony
here. a little dance card from the inaugural ball with a little pin that you can write down who you were dancing with. invitation to the inaugural ball that would've gone out to the different folks that the tafts wanted to come. we have quite a few of these things in our collection. this is a bible that was used for swearing-in when he was inaugurated. it was also used when he took the oath of office of chief justice of the united states. nellie would have been right by his side during both of these ceremonies. this isn't -- an interesting artifact. the inauguration was the of our biggest dream
to become first lady of the united states. she had pushed her husband through a lot of different positions and even though there this blizzard, snowstorm, ceremony had he pushed inside the capitol building. this was one of the biggest days of her life. what are some of the stories you would like to tell the public about integration day -- inauguration day? to roosevelt knew it was going to be a cold day -- theodore roosevelt knew it was going to be a cold day. she went back to the white house. it was the night before that with significant to the roosevelt and taft relationship. tr invited the tafts to spend the night. mrs. taft later said that she
did not think her mrs. roosevelt would've agreed to it if they had known in advance. later, when the subject came up about having the wilson stay over, he said to his there for thatere funeral and we don't want to do that again. there was already a great deal attention between them -- great deal of tension. >> one of our viewers said i detect a smug look on her face in that picture. what do we know about her emotions as she made this decision to get into the car, break all president -- break all precedent, and ride back? >> this was really her proudest moment. she was seen by her husband 's sdieide.
she set a precedent. it was something she was excited about. she did have an effect -- a fashion emergency the night before. her hat caught on fire. >> that was really the high points of her time as first lady and was a lost all downhill after that because too late -- two months later she had a stroke. busy twod a very months and we are going to learn more about her approach the white house. transition contributed to the management of one family moving out and the other family moving in. you referred to this as the oil and water of these two women. what about that transaction -- transition that with the relationship?
>> there was no transition in those days and there hadn't been a transition from one first lady to another in that way before for almost 25 years. they were making it up as they went along. helen was eager to get started and so she talked about changing who the footman would be. edith had a gentleman who was white who greeted people. she wanted to have african- americans. mrs. roosevelt brought about that -- bridled at that. kevin wanted to make changes right away -- hal and wanted to make changes right away -- helen wanted to make changes right away. mrs. roosevelt said, not so fast, wait a while. -- in the taftbe
family, be your own king. you need to take over. the roosevelt people who put taft in because they would extend roosevelt ideals, they said, what's going on here? what about the cabinet? the friendship began to erode when taft wrote tr letter saying, you and my brother charlie are responsible for making the president. charles taft was a newspaper owner and tr was infuriated by that statement. he talked about it for the next two years. writes aoor taft, he thank you note, and it dooms his presidency. edith roosevelt and helen taft would not -- were not bff. horace ino philadelphia.
>> thank you for taking my call. i was anxious. i had a question i wanted to start -- to ask. -- tell use to know the resting places of these first ladies. it helps us to realize a once lived -- they once lived and not just on paper. >> we will tell you right now because it is another one of helen taft's and her husband's first. >> arlington national cemetery. she is the first first lady to be buried there. she got to be there because -- >> i want to spend a little more time understanding the
personality and what you brought to the role of the white house -- first lady of the white house. you mentioned she was very intellectual and even though she did not go to college, she was self educated. how important was this in shaping the role of first lady? washingtoned to make the cultural center of united states. this may people in new york very uneasy. there were some new super columns saying, what are you trying to do? washington do not have a symphony orchestra. she wanted to bring those musical things here but she also wanted to have this city and body american values. values.y american this was a very specific agenda.
that was partly what the luneta was about. --was all part of our vision of her vision of what washington could be. she hit the ground running and she also started going to see congress, visiting the supreme court, advising taft on the cabinet. she was going to be a very activist first lady for two months. wise, onelity biographer described her as abrupt and determined. >> i would agree. she could be quite blunt. when she was this young teenager visiting the white house and followed the magic of it and had this idea that she could one day be there, i think she sensed he had the skills to do it. you see her as this young woman craving the salon groups where
she brings friends together and performances.eur you see her in the philippines using her executive skills. she was determined to bring what she had an use it to bring people together socially in washington. >> she had been president of the cincinnati symphony so she had won an orchestra -- ron and orchestra -- run an orchestra. she demonstrated she had executive qualities. >> mark is watching us from minneapolis. >> i just have two questions. the first is can you tell us how -- what helen's thoughts work toward segregation between
blacks and whites in the south? can you tell us what she felt about black men being able to vote and not her being able to vote during her time? >> very timely question because that is the next two things on my list. some people have 6 -- have suggested that she disdained racism. would you agree with that characterization that she really was open in her attitude towards other races? >> she definitely seemed opened. it is hard to -- for me to know what she felt about it. her actions brought african- americans in as employees of the white house. that is the best testimony that we have of her attitudes on race. she also -- >> as servants? >> that is true. when you read her memoirs, she
uses the language of the day. she uses the term colored. it is hard to fully -- she was a woman of her time. when it comes to the suffers question -- suffrage question, she was not sure if women were ready to vote because they were not politically active. they were not like her. she was very potent -- very focused on politics. that was her position. >> you said the language of the day. we referenced your scholarship on the fact that edith roosevelt had some personal letters with racist terms. taft''sa lot of nellie writings -- nellie taft's writing. s. >> i did not find in her writings terms like the tar
brush. both tafts observed segregation what they did not go as far as woodrow wilson in instituting them -- it's in the government -- it in the government. i think helen taft is not a crusader for racial justice but she was not a bigot either. she fell in a broad range of where american society was. born during both the civil war so did not live through it. >> ironically, edith and helen were born in the same year -- 1861. >> jennifer sherman once to go back to that overnight stay. today's preview of
outgoing president hosting the outgoing president for coffee on the day of? >> not so much. it was initiative -- if it was in initiative, it flopped. transitionons of the -- we cannot look at them to see is a helpful precedent. they did not think through what the transition would be. earlierve a photograph that you referenced. she was more modern and her approach to things like enjoying alcohol and playing cards. we have up a graph of her playing at the card table that we will show. she smoked, drank, and played cards. how much did that connector to the public?
-- connect her to the public? >> i don't think the public knew much about that. she would sometimes play and win $10 if you put that into today's perspective, that was about $300. if that had come out, it would've been another political difficulty for her. theomeone once asked the president what you would like to drink and he said anything with alcohol and it. that was a contrast to lucy hayes who -- their family did not drink alcohol because of the temperance movement. >> lemonade lucy. >> did roosevelt drink alcohol? andfather was an alcoholic he ran through the entire family. the male roosevelts were the only two who truly escape the
effects about all is him -- of alcoholism. edith roosevelt was not thrilled with the idea of champagne. >> colleen is in ohio. what is your question? migrate on used to be personal secretary of president taft and my grandmother used to go with them and meet the president. they became really good friends and president taft considered that my grandmother would be the --st carpenter anded
charles hillis was a relative -- your relative? >> charles hillis was his personal secretary. >> he was the most efficient secretary and he got -- helped him get the nomination. >> as we get more into current times, we will have more and more connections that people will be able to make to the family. julie is in virginia. what is your question? ask -- helen was such a vibrant first lady, i just wanted to know what is her transition from being a first figure being a private in terms of being married to a supreme court justice. how did that work for her?
>> she had eight years of transition. after taft left a presidency, he became oppressors -- a professor at yale. tafts quite nice for mrs. because she could get on the train and go to new york, go to the theater, have a nice meal, do some shopping, and come back at night. she enjoyed that part of it. washington andto the role of the chief justice was very much less social than had been the president. she took the veil in the 1920's. enforceted to prohibition and mrs. taft, not so much. >> one thing we should talk william howard taft is his
size. his highest weight was what? >> about 350 pounds. he neglected his health. he had not been -- to a dentist in a couple of decades. there were many stories about his weight. fuller, chief justice said the president got up out of a streetcar and gave his seat to three when -- women. >> that was a time when the press was really following the white house and the resolver to the for satire. how did mrs. taft feel about his weight? saysere is one person who this was a source of some marital tension. she wanted him to reduce his weight. this is an area in which he did
not take much dictation about the weight. i think emotional stress operated here. he was at a cabinet meeting and there was a bowl of fruit and he picked each one off until the bowl was empty. he did not find the presidency very enjoyable. >> and stories about the fact the white house needed up -- needed an extra large bathtub to accommodate him. >> the idea that they needed a big bathtub installed -- there is a picture of the -- of it. stories not those done in the way they talked about. >> he was a big baby. i was reading how his mother wrote when he was seven weeks not but she could
nursery down on him that had belts because he was growing so fast. his metabolism -- the data just how he was. -- that is just how he was. >> he was a very good dancer. taft was very light on his feet. >> one more important thing -- what was a relationship like with the press -- a relationship like with the press? >> she had a good relationship with them. andloved public life thought that was the position that her husband should have. commented reporters that she would be in intellectual. fears in onehese package. what a great opportunity for america to have helen in the white house.
>> there was a performance of canceling rental -- of cancel and gretel -- of hantzel and gretel. she didn't believe a woman should appear in the newspaper when they died or were married. was quite willing to share her opinions on a lot of issues with the press. she did not give interviews. she did not speak out on every issue that came up but it they -- her- if they asked husband was throwing the first baseball at a game -- washe american public wildly enthusiastic about the young roosevelt family. what did the public think about the tafts? older taft family was
when they came to the white house. robert was in jail -- yale. he finished first in his class at yale. helen, was at school in washington. at the taft school that taft's brother ran. they were not as charming and as the roosevelt children. >> we promised you more about the cherry blossoms. let us learn more about how she brought them here. >> when helen taft became first lady in 1909, one of the first thing she did was address having cherry trees around the tidal basin of potomac park.
the tidal basin was a mass at that time -- mass at that time -- mess at that time. there was nothing to draw people for people to gather in enjoying a certain -- enjoy nature. one of the first thing she did was askme first lady for the trees to be planted. the japanese heard about her interests and they decided to give 2000 trees to the united states in her honor. it was honoring the american support in japan. of0 trees arrived in january 1910. everyone was shocked that the trees were older and very tall and bug infested. it was decided they would have to be burned. presidents have made the decision himself. were veryse
accommodating and understanding and decided to send 3000 trees which arrived in 1912. it is those we still have a few up around the tidal basin. this is the north side of the tidal basin where many of the original trees have been planted. you can tell the normal -- the original ones because they are wider. this is where helen taft would've planted the first cherry blossom tree. these trees would not be here because of helen taft. while many people were enchanted with all things japanese, they l it ishe architecture, because of her the trees are here today. -> properly transporting - permanently transforming the capital city. >> taft was not pro-japanese in
his foreign-policy. japaneseeen more pro- figuring there is no way to stop them in asia by intervening in the mainland. it did turn out to be one of the great beautification moves. your mother's work is now coming to blossom to make the city better than it had ever been. >> taft had one term in the white house. it was a momentous time in american history. >> he had one term in the white house but it was a busy one at this time in american history. here are a couple of the important things. much of his presidency seem to be a huge debate about tariffs. in 1909.f act passed .he 16th amendment
[inaudible] two more states admitted to the union, new mexico and arizona. helen taft's role in all of this we will talk about it how long was it after the inauguration, you have referenced a few times that she had a stroke. >> may 17, 1809. they went out to take a cruise on the potomac on the presidential yacht. one of the cabinet members noticed that there was something wrong with mrs. taft. they realized she had some kind of seizure, and they turned around and took the presidential observerk and one noted he had the face of the stricken animal, saying his wife with the seizure. that transformed
the presidency and their lives. >> at the time they did not know what a stroke was. they called it a nervous disorder she was telling -- having. how impaired was she and for how long? rex she had never early trellises in her limbs. it was her voice. she had to the point where she could speak fluently and could read something allowed but you could not understand her fully because she lost that articulation and it took a long time for that to come back. i do not know if she ever fully was the same. the nerves earlier that morning that she had a stroke, her son had surgery. wreck thatervous particular day. very uptight and very worried about this operation. she had this obligation to go down to mount vernon on the boat. she was quite tense to begin with. >> charlie's operation had a
good deal of load and stuff so it was very -- he was her favorite son. bright theywas so did not have to worry about him. she centrally off to prep school she said i will never have him again back in the same way as a mother and son. was a him go through this terrible trauma for her. the nice thing about what the president did his there are stories of him sitting on the couch with helen saying, now say so he was running a kind of rehab in the white house for his wife while he was also being president. >> was able to do his duties as fully as he should have? rex he carried forward the duties of the white house. what is striking to me is the emotional stress that it must
offend. any moment she could have had inther stroke that she had may 1911. the concentration and the distraction of knowing that your wife is upstairs vocally impaired and suffering i think is an element of the taft presidency that even in the book i wrote i do not think i gave it enough importance. criticalt comes at a time in his presidency where they are debating the tariff act on he loses her input to him the political ramifications. this was highly stressful time for him and her. he had no other close friends. friendbeen that close but none of his brothers were good at giving him an bias. there was no structure in the white house. s, chief of staff, no aide
just the secretary and clerks. he had no friends in the world that he could confide in. she was his most intimate adviser and in an afternoon she is gone. >> not a natural politician to boot. >> roosevelt had left him in a tough position. he delayed the tariff until he lamp --ped into taft's lap. nor --ess i can tell more about a person by their likes or dislikes. knowing that she was a spearheading for cultural change in washington and trying to somede everything which is of the luminaries she favored. even -- either actors or writers. i would like to get a better picture, name drop, if you would. theou actually list
performers she brought to washington. click she had charles coburn who would become a famous character actor in the 1950's but he took shakespeare around and i performances of shakespeare on the white house lawn. edith roosevelt had done a little bit of that at these were full-blown productions of shakespearean plays erie it she had artists like olga and fritz chrysler and efrem zimbalist senior. the guy in the "fbi" series of the 1960's. fanning linfield. the who's who of classical music move through. it was a stunning a group of artists as would later become and the kennedys or later on in the 20th century. >> didn't have cultural and/or political impact on society? >> it was more cultural. she did not see this as moving
the poll numbers. first the -- what the lady did to bring the finest music to the white house and generally that is what altra aspects of the white house do. >> if she wanted washington to be the social representative city of the land. have video and audio and 'sotographs of jackie kennedy conference that she had but we do not have that. visual and cherry trees. we do not know what those concerts were like in the white house. and archie would play them and he enjoyed going to the musical performances. 30 seconds ofhad helen taft playing the piano, i would certainly listen.
the president had a military aid in those days. there is a much more larger panoply of people. archibald willingham butt. are three volumes of his letters. he was a great gossip. he recorded everything that anybody said. some of it may be right, some of it may be wrong but it is a source historians have used her years, the archie butt and taft letters. he died on the titanic. >> a great loss to the tafts. >> it crushed cap. archie had started out pro-tr and had moved over to taft.
this emotional dependency. , he he went off to europe did not want to be around with -- when taft and roosevelt had their battle. he made his way back in april 1912. supposedly was correct -- quite heroic on the titanic. making sure woman got into the life boats at the cost of his own life. >> one of the highlights of this for years that the tests were in the white house was a celebration of their 25th anniversary. we will learn more in this next video. >> she enjoyed being the first lady. shortly after she given to the white house she suffered a stroke and she was not able to attend to all of those things so it was a little bit disappointing. in june of 1911 they were able to celebrate their 25th and i -- when he anniversary. they had a big party with the white house open, thousands of guests came in. they had music.
they received tons of silver. just embarrassing amounts of silver. some of it expensive from not just friends or corporations, all types of people. we have some of that silver here. then they would have been presented. small from things very and they would have little inscriptions on them. this is the taft inscription here. -- we have a very large silver tray. it would have the dates of 1886 to 1911. just as simple as having tea inscribed in them. some of the pieces were very large which had the inscription.
in addition to the gifts of silver, many telegrams were sent to the family from all over the world. this is the memento that showcases all those telegrams. they kept those and collected those. some from washington, d.c.. buffalo, new york. have south orange, new .ersey, pittsburgh, chicago this one says permit me to enjoy [inaudible] one was looking forward to
25 more years. this was the recognition of all the people that appreciated the .resident and mrs. taft it was a strengthening affair as she moved through her years in the white house. is a nice way to come out of that. how did the stroke impact the marriage? we have them celebrate your anniversary and you talked about how much he tended to her personally. strengthened -- it strengthened the powerful union they had established a cousin caregiversident as and doted on her and worried about her and was constantly solicitous about her. they were very devoted couple to begin with. i think -- they would have passed but it did bring them
closer together. the letters he wrote, he returned every day and she was away. these were hand written, six or seven or eight page letters. it was taft at the end of a very busy day sitting down and reading two or 3000 words to his wife, that his devotion. >> she was away recovering at a seaside house. >> she could not be in washington at in the summer without air-conditioning. that is why the british made washington a hardship post. he would dictate some letters and she said please handwrite them so he did that. >> what is your question? fromlive two towns over .here they vacationed
my grandmother relived some stories of seeing taft in downtown beverly and heading over to play golf at the country club in hamilton and had returned for a couple of summers while they were in the white house. i thought it would say i enjoyed your show and passing that information along. >> we have a photograph of the place where she would recuperate in beverly, massachusetts. even with her stroke to my here is a comment from the chief usher observing her in action in washington. uncommonit was no thing to see her taking part in political and official conferences. the speaker of the house consulting jointly with the president and mrs. taft.
she attended almost every important conference in the white house proper. she would walk in on private conferences unheralded and unannounced. >> i was brought up in 1964. her daughter wrote a letter to time magazine saying this is much overdrawn. my mother after the stroke could not do that anymore. ike hoover is a very well-known memoir and the white house but historians regard him with deep skepticism and he did not like helen taft. he was no fan of hers. take it for what he says trade have are -- we observations of how deeply she was involved in consulting on policymaking. >> in reading her memoirs she downplays her role. had moreto me that she of an advanced role than a lot of first ladies up to that point. not nearly as advanced as we have today. she was very washington-centric in her outlook as first lady. we talk about first lady influence. she was not going out and about making stops in different parts
of the country. she might have traveled with him had she not had that stroke. that might have been the influence that we're missing on his presidency. >> in no cents were they co- presidents. >> no. >> the last year when the risk he comes -- rift becomes great between taft and roosevelt, how did that play out for the two men? >> it was a disaster for the republican party that still echoes in its dna to this day. compose theiry differences more than the democrats is there is this ancestral memory over the trauma they went through in 1912. tr is goingnvinced on march my which -- 4.
clear thatwas roosevelt was being pushed very hard to get into the race and so she kept saying i know he is going to do it. i know he is going to do it. when he announced she said i knew he was going to do it and will said my dear, i think you have been predicting it for so long that you're happy now that your prediction has come true. trust theodore roosevelt one minute in their whole relationship. his decision to do that brought woodrow wilson into the white house. what were the last months of the presidency like? >> taft took his defeat with unusual grace. he was not a bad loser. press said dohe you feel disappointed, he said
the american people gave me the gift of the presidency for four years. how many men have had that gift given to them. i would be and in great and the loser if i said i was angry at this point. to one of his relatives or friends in cincinnati, you have to put up with the vagaries of democracy. the american people have made their decision. i have to live by it. i cannot being agree about it. he went out on a kind of wave of goodwill. wayomebody who show the democracy, small the should operate. he was disappointed but he was not embittered. that resounded to his credit over the long haul. >> what mattered most was the law and the rule of law and the people had spoken. he could accept that much more easily. >> you're on the air. >> i was wondering if you could
abouts a little bit more her three children and what became of their lives and their families? >> her oldest son ran for the senate and was a successful senator. so was his son and his son robert was the governor of ohio. her daughter went on to earn a phd. she married and had children and son was the mayor of cincinnati. mr. cincinnati was his nickname. they had their own legacy. >> he becomes mr. republican and helen, the daughter becomes the bryn mawr.more --
he tried to move up to be governor, a did not work out. it was -- he was probably the most liberal and helen was post- suffrage at a time when her becomes- president taft pro-suffrage because it is a way enforcing probation. he did not like probation but the american people wanted it. >> we have a list of some of the first. as we learned she was the first to ride in the inaugural parade. attend ahe first to political convention but not of her husband's party. she went to the democratic invention in 1912. >> the melted -- met in baltimore which made it a road trip for her. she went with some democratic women. it lived up to its billing unlike the tall routine political conventions of our time which have been drained of all significance. woodrowthat nominated
wilson went 46 ballots. it had drama that lasted a week and she went there and william jennings bryan was going to introduce a resolution attacking him and he withdrew it. he said i do not want to embarrass the first lady by having her become -- she is sitting in the galley -- gallery. >> she was the only one who attended the opposite political party. >> imagine that happening today. she was the first to donate her inaugural down to the smithsonian and started that which is the most popular exhibit in the absence -- exhibition. first first lady to publish her memoirs. as we said the first first lady along with her husband to be buried at arlington cemetery. one of our viewers tweeted to us that they have been following along in our book. we're doing the series in
partnership with the white house historical association. they have published a book called the first ladies which contains a biography of each one of the first ladies. atare making it available cost. first. i referenced there is a way to buy this book and read along and learn about each one of these first ladies as we make our way through the series. that is a research -- resource available to you. we have video about the inaugural gowns. that's what's the next. >> there are few people -- helenthat belong to taft. she was a woman of firsts
and combinations. this to me symbolizes all that. helen taft's inaugural gown. she had the dress embroidered to wear for the inaugural ball. the inauguration was very important to helen taft. as her husband coming self the white house and her coming into the white house. occasion, nots only her entry into the white house but added it as a mark of first ladies on the united states when she became the first first lady to do donate her inaugural gown to the smithsonian institution. she happened to be the first founders of the first putting the collection together in the mid-helen taft at a lunch commemorating. madison. they asked her if she would be interested in this new collection they were putting together. acquiree trying to
something from every first lady. she generously offered to lend and donate her down to the collection. she is the founding patron and she established the tradition that first ladies would donate their gowns to collection. had anirst lady who inaugural ball had an inaugural down. she has donated it to the smithsonian institution. >> many of you have been through that exhibit. >> he goes to teach at yale. >> coming back to yale he tells the yale daily news. >> how did he become chief justice? >> he played things very carefully for eight years. hoping that the republicans would come back in. he was very disappointed,
when wilson was reelected. he had come to hate wilson. they were repudiated in 1920 and harding becomes president on new year's eve -- christmas eve of 1920. taft is in., ohio and he goes to see the harding's. arding says, would you like to be on the supreme court? says i can only be chief justice. harding says we can work it out. chief justice edward douglas white dies and taft said he would make way for a public in any way. white did the honorable thing and expired at the right time and taft is appointed chief in 1921.bout july 1 >> and served for how long rest of our >> until his within early 1930. givingas responsible for
the supreme court its own home. until that time it met in the capital building. how to get that done. he never lived to see the court work in the supreme court building that he is the one that really got that underway and give the court its own place in washington, d.c.. like being first lady more than william taft liked being president? what was her lifelike -- life like after he became chief justice rustem or >> very quiet. the wives did not have a public role. they did not entertain. hes -- taft's view as that issued opinions and help to get the supreme court building. that was about it for society is
follow -- as far as the supreme court was concerned. >> being first lady is what she wanted to do. she did not have a big ambition other than to lead a quiet life. i was channel surfing and iq upon your program. wonderful, congratulations. i will be tuning in for all the episodes. >> thank you. work going. thank you. >> thank you for the call. appreciate it. she was a lucky lady healthwise even though she suffered two strokes. she outlived her husband and lived until the ripe old age of 81. how did she spend those years? >> interacting with her children and grandchildren. murrayntinued going to bay. cabin and it grew
into a taft complex. he would have made it the summer white house in canada but the president in those days by tradition could not leave the continental he united states during their time in office. his presidency would have been happier. >> can you imagine the fallout of having a summer home in another country? >> it was impossible. murray bay soe -- much, he loved to get away from the heat of washington. >> right after the white house, she did write an autobiography with a ghostwriter. that was the first published. adams wrote an autobiography but it was not published in her lifetime. >> she said if you are interested -- if you're
interested in her life we have a link to her autobiography on our website. it is in the public domain and you would -- you can read that. trying to put lots of resources on there for those of you who are interested. >> more about the philippines in the white house. the white house is the last 15%. it is unique even though it was ghostwritten by a writer from magazine and her daughter. she did not think he was dignified to write it herself. >> you brought a letter that you found on the internet of her and white house years. why did you find this interesting? >> i enjoyed collecting the actual letters of people. this came up on ebay and i bid on it and i was lucky to get it but she is writing about the transition. taft had been on the national war labor board. that was coming to an end and they were moving back to new haven. she talks about that we can go back in the summer to murray b
ay. both of them loved the place. like she was invited back in 1940. click she was. that is a quiet tradition first ladies had. invited frances cleveland and they were three years apart in age. the got married the same year. ladiess a club of first and to share and talk about their experiences and to invite a previous first lady back is a nice, quiet tradition. click she died on main -- she died on may 22. one of two first ladies buried at arlington cemetery and you see some video thereof arlington national cemetery. taft burial place. as we close out here in the final few seconds, i want to go where we started. we have introduced people to helen taft. why should she be remembered among the pantheon of first
ladies? rex because of the cherry trees and the musicians that she her rolebecause of in making taft president. because of her role in the split r and her husband. she was a consequential first lady in a cultural and political, marital cents. this is -- she deserves much more from history that she has received. firstould say all of the that she did but also she made it ok for a woman to have an interest in politics. we can look back and see that she was ahead of her time. ladiessee that first that came after her, more of them have that natural interests. for helping us one of themore about 20th century's most obscure first ladies. thanks for being with us. >> thank you. ♪
>> we will bring you more first ladies all this week. first lady for less than a year and a half. president wilson wrote after heard death, god has stricken me almost more than i can bear. th america on the path to world war i, she met edith through mutual friend. they got married a year after his previous wife's death. a reminder. --will have more first lady first lady's programs in the new year. by lauragan followed bush. span -- live here on c-span and c-span radio.
and with our partner, the white house historical association, special edition of the book to my first ladies of the united states of america that provides a biography and portrait of each first lady. available for $12.95 plus shipping. at c-span.org/products. panel heard from law enforcement officials about the september mass shooting at the washington, d.c. navy yard. routine people died during the shooting including the gunman. several others were wanted. the building where the incident took place is slated to receive repairs and modifications. committeend security is two hours 25 minutes.
>> good morning. >> good morning, mr. chairman. >> how are you doing? you sound in good voice today. welcome, everyone, thank you for joining us and some of you, thank you for joining us again and again. it is nice to see you all. it is an important year. the second in a series of hearings that will enable us to take a closer look at the federal security for federal facilities. three months ago as we know, aaron alexis reported to the washington navy yard with the intention to inflict day in and suffering on anyone in his path. we do not now now and maybe we never will be e