tv First Ladies Influence Image CSPAN December 18, 2013 9:00pm-11:01pm EST
first lady's series feature ellen and edith wilson. later, outgoing federal reserve chairman ben burning key explains plans to ease the federal reserve's economic stimulus. >> this is the woodrow wilson house in washington, d.c., the home of our 20th president and first lady edith wilson. after they left the white house in 1921. you will be seeing more of it over the next two hours as we tell the story of the two first ladies, ellen and edith. >> ellen and woodrow met in their 20s and their love for each other was reflected in passionate letters. to help guide his career from academia to politics, he set an
example for future first ladies, ellen wilson died just a year and half into the president's term. the grieving president soon met washington businesswoman edith galt. they married after a secret courtship and edith wilson served as first lady for more than five years. her unprecedented role in managing the president's affairs after he suffered a stroke remains are the most controversial efforts of any first lady. tonight, the story of the wilson administration's two first ladies, ellen and edith. we have two tragc deaths here to tell you about these two interesting women and the times in which they lived. her book is allen and edith, woodrow wilson's first ladies. john mills cooper is woodrow wilson's biographer. thanks for being with us. we have been telling the stories chronologically, but everybody knows about edith wilson
managing the white house as it is described after her husband suffers a stroke. we will tell that story first because so many people really want to know what happened. john cooper, let me start with you. when in his administration did he suffer a stroke -- >> more than halfway through the second term. it was october 1919. here just returned from a whirlwind speaking tour. he was tried to sell the country on ratifying the peace treaty and going into the league of nations. he had really worn himself out on that and his doctors actually aborted the tour and got him back to the white house.
after about five days in the white house, he suffered a massive stroke. >> the story of the stroke night itself is very dramatic or it can you tell us recently what happened that night? >> there are some conflicting reports about what happened, but i think that the most accurate portrayal is that he got up in the morning, edith had been going into check on him during the night and she found him slumped to the floor and couldn't move his left side. she went out into the corridor and used a telephone that did not go through the switchboard. she did not want to have this universally known. she asked the chief usher to call the doctor from this other phone. the doctor came in and they helped him into bed, but he was paralyzed on his left side. >> a character that is going to be a big part of the story is kerry greeson. >> kerry greeson is the doctor. here been inside the white house first under the taft administration and then shortly, taft introduced him to his successor wilson and pretty soon after the inauguration, wilson's sister fell down and grayson treated her and did a good job.
and he was a virginian which went a long way with the wilson's. he was the white house physician. he was the one who treats him. they called in various consultant specialists, but grayson was the one who treated wilson. >> what was the extent of his condition? how badly had the stroke affected him? >> he had a blockage in an artery leading to his brain and this is usually not a fatal stroke, but it did immobilize him for a while. he probably would have recovered fairly rapidly had he not 10 days later suffered a second medical condition. he had prostate trouble and he had a urinary tract infection with a very high fever.
of course they didn't have antibiotics at that time, they debated whether to operate, but the specialist felt that to operate on a 52-year-old man with high blood pressure and a stroke would have been very unwise. so they just decided to let nature take its course and eventually he recovered, but it really sapped his vitality. this one-two punch really did him in for about a month. >> christie is free to agree or disagree, but i think the worst effect of the stroke on wilson was really on his emotional balance. his judgment also. his intellect wasn't impaired and his speech was an impaired. yes some he could function that way, but so much more goes into being a leader and the president then just being smart and being able to do these things. another thing is, partly because of that other illness that you just talked about, christie, they isolated him. that is when you're supposed to
keep away from stress. now they know it is exactly the wrong thing to do. what you want to do with the person who is had a stroke is get them into social interaction. with the best of intentions they were doing exactly the wrong thing. >> dr. grayson's letters are part of the collection at the woodrow wilson library at stanford about two hours from washington. in putting this program together, we will learn more about wilson threw grayson's letters. >> we have a letter in this box from henry morganthau who wanted to write about experiences. so he was asking grayson if he could use certain information.
the information you gave me about president wilson and you're having come to the conclusion that he should resign and how he was influenced by mrs. wilson to give up this plan. so mrs. wilson was very concerned that her husband would not get better if he did not have something to engage his mind, that he would just deteriorate if he was forced out of the presidency. while president wilson was ill, it has been speculated widely among historians. we have one document here that sheds a little bit of light on that. it is a telegram from henry morgenthau who was the ambassador to turkey and he is writing to dr. carey grayson asking if the president has any
objection to a citizens meeting to protest against turks being left in control of constantinople. and morgenthau has been asked to speak at this meeting. at the bottom of this telegram is edith's handwriting. we are familiar enough with her handwriting to recognize it as such. at the bottom she writes, thinks it well to postpone speaking on such subjects. what we don't know is, did you just take this telegram into wilson, ask his opinion and then write that or did she just come to that conclusion herself. the public was very interested and curious to know the condition of wilson's health.
rumors were rampant in the papers, even congressmen didn't know what was going on. they only knew what they read in the papers. after it was all over, carey grayson later wrote a summary of what happened from the time of the stroke until wilson left the white house. on the last page -- the decision was made to announce that wilson was suffering from nervous exhaustion. there were no other details given as to what was wrong with him. really no one knew the extent of his illness. he really was not capable of doing anything. dr. grayson thought it wise to issue general statements only. further, mrs. wilson, the president's wife, was absolutely opposed to any other course. she did not want it to be known
that he was really suffering. again, she was protecting her husband and she wanted him to be able to fulfill his duties as president. she was worried about his legacy. ultimately, she was concerned about his health and she felt that if you left the presidency, left the white house, he would just waste away and die. >> so how did they react? >> a couple of different ways. robert lansing who was the secretary of state and would have been fired if wilson hadn't had the stroke, there had been a bad break, that is another story. but lansing tried to get the cabinet in on it and i think he even made some communications with the vice president, who stayed out of it completely. he simply said no.
greeted in the constitution. this is before the 25th amendment actually is not as much of a protection as we think in cases of inability. we won't talk about disability this is the inability of the president to do his duties. what does that mean? this means if he were dead the vice president succeeds. this is the one time that we really had a disabled president. how do you deal with it? edith was scared. this was a very scary thing. make it up as you go along. on facebook, david welsh says, what part of personality or intellect prepared mrs. wilson to take over during his recovery? what skills did she bring to this responsibility she was taking on? >> that is a very good question because she had exactly two years of formal schooling and her whole entire life. she came from a large family and had been chosen by her grandmother to take care of her,
to be her caregiver. her grandmother was a very opinionated woman and taught edith, basically, that it was good to have opinions and to make decisions. edith had been widowed relatively young and had inherited gault's jewelers which was like the tiffany's of washington. so she kept the jewelry store and had a manager who made a lot of the decisions, but she was used to having everything her way. so she brought this very decided personality. in addition, woodrow had courted her by showing her a lot of secret papers. henry kissinger used to say that power was the ultimate aphrodisiac. i think woodrow wilson would have agreed. so he was using this entré to the secret papers as part of his court ship pier and she was susceptible to that and so he
shared a great deal of what he was doing, really a great deal of what he was doing, with her. i think john said that she probably knew as well as anyone what he was doing and what he was thinking because he was a real lone wolf when it came to being a president. he did not have a lot of close advisers. >> that is true. >> this is from edith wilson herself. they published her memoirs. in this big controversy about how much power she took upon herself. here's what she said or did "i myself met never made a single decision regarding the disposition of public affairs. today we know, the gatekeeper to the president is really the most important job. >> he or she controls accent to the president is in some regards president.
as she said, it is not just who got to see him, they pretty much embargoed well for well over a month. no one got to see him. but also what the president gets to see. she would decide what was best for him to see and what not. to me, one of the raps on edith in this was that she was putting her husband's health ahead of the good of the country and that somehow the priorities were wrong there. well, i don't think that is entirely why she did what she did. she knew what he wanted. if he couldn't express himself, she knew he would not want to resign. he would want to hang onto this. as christy said, she knew his mind better than anybody else. if anybody was going to act as a substitute, she was the best. >> the secretary of state got lakhdar the cabinet members very thickly. wilson's secretary plus the loyalists like eaker and daniels
in the cabinet put a kibosh on that very quickly. >> there were two senators who were detailed to come in and assess the condition of wilson because it came out when lansing went up to capitol hill that he hadn't spoken to the president about a very volatile situation in mexico. they deputized one democrat and one republican and edith and dr. grayson really stage-managed that very well. accounts differ on exactly what they did, but whatever it was him it was enormously successful, including the republican who would have been most anxious to show that there was something wrong with wilson, set to the press afterwards that the president grasped his hand with both of his.
but that was impossible because a president could not move his left hand. but he was so taken with his apparent animation. he made a lot of jokes, because that part of his thinking came back for quickly. he loved to make puns and he loved to tell jokes and stories. that came back relatively quickly. but as john said, the judgment was really what took a hit. >> we have a timeline of the president's incapacitation. as john cooper told us it was september of 19 19. it was in march of 1920 when he left the house for the first time. by the way, we have to talk about all of the political intrigue and important decisions going on in the aftermath of world war i. his beloved league of nations was rejected by the senate at that time for the first time. in april of 1920 the president had his first cabinet meeting, eight months not meeting with the cabinet. it is almost unthinkable. how could the cabinet continue?
>> i routine. and also, wilson was a great delegator. except in foreign affairs. other than that, he gave his cabinet secretaries lots of leeway. so they were used to running things on their own. it is just very lucky and maybe something of a tribute to that that the government function as well as it did. not all that well, but it did keep going. >> there is a story about edith. all during that time, what really was her role? >> i think one aspect of her role that was overlooked is the extent to which she tried to make woodrow give way on some of his intransigence about the league of nations. in her memoir, which is fanciful in places, she says that she asked him leads to compromise with the republicans in congress
to try to get the treaty passed with the league of nations. she said that he turned to her and said, little girl, don't you desert me. she was about five foot nine. she says in her book that she never try to change his mind again. but, we have evidence that there were at least two other occasions on which she did try to change his mind. she and his chief of staff had discussed some of the places where they hoped woodrow could give a little ground and where the republicans could give a little ground and they hoped to find some compromise. she took some notes very hurried, almost shorthand notes of what is obviously a speech that she was going to give to wilson that wound up saying and for the sake of the country and
the peace of the world, please consider this. it didn't work, apparently, because he didn't change. she was not a woman to take notes on something and not do something about it. a little bit later, she had some conversations with ray standard baker who is very close to wilson and later became his official biographer. he gave edith some suggestions, again, some talking points, to try to get wilson to change his mind. but he didn't and by the time he refused, by that time the republicans were also heartening their line. some of the hardliners were reeling in the republican leadership. >> so donald on facebook asks if edith ever spoke out publicly on the league of nations. >> she did not speak out on anything. this is again to correct a big misperception of edith. i do not think she was at all power-hungry for herself. she wanted what her husband wanted.
his agenda was her agenda. she used to say to people, i never make speeches. i think she made a few, years after woodrow died, but during the time he was in the white house, she was asked to present something innocuous like a bouquet of flowers to the girl scouts and she said i'd like to make a speech, but i never have and i won't. she did not even approve of voting for women. or women's suffrage. >> let's go back in time, but before we goes up the section to reviewers, we thought you'd all want to get this out because it is such an interesting aspect historically. what is the bottom line of this. in american history? how did it affect how we view the role of the president, the role of the first lady and the constitutional issues? >> the role of the president, i
mean, woodrow follows theodore roosevelt and these two together acting one after the other, made the president the center of the government, the active part. and even presidents later such as calvin coolidge, especially, who wanted to retreat to the sidelines, couldn't do it trade that is what really changed their. the first lady role probably in terms of -- i think ellen had more to do than edith did. >> that is a great segue because we are now moving into the ellen story. >> tonight is a special two-hour program because we have to first ladies to talk about. our lines will be open and you can reach us if you live in eastover central time zone. you can be part of the facebook conversation, go to c-span on
facebook and finally you can tweet us using at first ladies and be part of the conversation. we're going to roll back the clock and talk about the long marriage of woodrow wilson to his first wife ellen. to sit the stage for that we're going to visit the wilson house. it is available for you to visit if you come to the nation's capitol. inside right now in the drawing room is peter. >> we are here with law and home who is the executive director of the house. this is a house where president and edith wilson lift post- presidency. how did they acquire this house? >> they moved here literally the day they left the white house in 1921. this home cost $150,000 and they managed to scrape together the money i assembling both president wilson's winnings as
the nobel peace prize winner and also donations from canada's wealthy friends and political supporters. >> edith wilson lived here until her death in 1961. that is 40 years. also them expired in this home. >> in 1924 for president wilson. although it is edith wilson's house a mother is the presence of ellen wilson, isn't there? >> we try at the woodrow wilson house to remember the president's years which include both first ladies, both ellen wilson and edith wilson. it is important when you are considering figures in history to remember that they had childhoods and experiences that led them to the places that they were. >> so what are we looking at here? >> this is a painting painted by ellen wilson who was a painter of considerable talent. even as a young girl she knew that she was a good painter and
enjoyed it. it is interesting that when president wilson proposed marriage to her she said yes, but i'd like to go to the art students league in new york, which is where she went to school for a year before they were wed. it is interesting that president wilson at that point in his life accepted that and married this woman who was independent and really laid the groundwork for and understand during of the role of women in society. his last wishes included the wish that this painting hang over his casket before he was laid to rest at the national cemetery. >> we are about a mile from the white house. we will show you some more a little bit later. >> thanks so much. edith was born in georgia in 1860. tell us about her early life. >> her father was a presbyterian minister and he served in the civil war, but he had to leave because of some stress-related conditions. he died in a mental institution, possibly a suicide.
allen was very close to her mother, but her mother died in childbirth with her fourth child when she was 43. so ellen really had to take over the family, first after her mother's death she had to take care of her father and then after her father's death she had to take care of her brothers and sister. so she became a very competent manager. she was very well educated for a woman of her time and place. she would have gone to college if she had had the money. when her father died she had the money to go to the art students league in new york for one year. she was very unsure that she would ever meet a man who could be her intellectual equal which she felt was necessary for her marriage. in fact, she had plans to open up a boarding house for women and supported with her artwork
and people around town started calling her belly the manhater because she was so clearly not going to be satisfied with anyone in the town. but then woodrow wilson came to town. he was a lawyer at the time, he had a case, he went to church where her father was preaching and he met her there. >> how important was it that both alan axon and thomas woodrow wilson, with the children of ministers? >> in some ways that is the world they grew up in. not so much the u.s. of the south, but the presbyterian church which in many ways is a world unto itself. what it didn't make them though, either of them, and i think this is true of wilson as much as it is of ellen, it didn't make them religious zealots. it did not make them obsessed with religion. in some ways, religion was so central to them that in many ways they could take it for granted.
it is in the background. it is always there, it is important, but of the two of them, he was more the good strong believer. she is the one who had the religious doubts. especially because with the various family troubles depression ran really ran in the axon family. probably one brother, eddie, who died in a tragic accident as a young man, was about the only one who wasn't touched with depression. ellen in some ways metaphysically and philosophically she was more curious than wilson was. wilson was much more interested in the affairs of the world, but religion is a background. >> he was interested in the affairs of the world, but he is so easily smitten with women. he falls. and this is an important character of his personality. he knew instantly that he loved this woman.
women have played an important part throughout his biography. what do you understand about women and his psychology and the role that they play with him? >> i wish i could say that he was a man of great enlightenment and forward-looking views. he wasn't. he wasn't bad though by the standards of that time, he really comes off pretty well as having, believing strongly that women are very bright and very capable. generally, i think he still likes the subordinate role. basically, he just liked women and more so than men of that time he enjoyed the company of men very much, but he just generally enjoy the company of women and he enjoyed their intellectual companionship. >> but he is so passionate. he is very passionate and very eloquent and so when you marry those two traits and the letters that he wrote to ellen after
they were engaged, they are just the most astonishing love letters you will ever see. and she was quite eloquent, too. >> some of the love letters of woodrow wilson to ellen are preserved at princeton university's manuscript library. we are going to learn about them next. >> here on the shelves are the correspondence between woodrow and eleanor. they are love letters. it has to be the largest collection of love letters exchanged between any present and future first lady. these letters were sealed. when the woodrow wilson family moved, they were sealed. it is a time capsule shedding extraordinary life on the wilson's life together. woodrow is living in baltimore going to john thompson's. he wrote to ellen in 1894. when you come into my study,
stitches me as i sit at my desk. it is odd how this attachment of viewers to me seems part of the force of my mind. my darling, i trust it is not wrong to worship you as i do. my darling, i trust it is not wrong to worship you as i do. you are the presiding genius of both my mind and heart. and in that fact, this the happiness and strength of your woodrow. i think we see the extent to which woodrow wilson not only loved ellen, but acknowledged in a very clear way his intellectual debt to her. how many cases can you say that the first lady and her husband, that he is stepping forward and saying i acknowledge that you are the source not only of my happiness but of my intellectual development? you introduced me to literature, to wordsworth, to browning. they would sit together on the campus and read wordsworth together sitting in the grass.
he acknowledged that profound role that ellen plays in his life. she says, how can i thank you dearest for the sweet things that you say in today's letter. how happy it makes me that you think such things as me, even when i feel with a heart ache how sadly unworthy i am of it all. i too trust it is not wrong to worship you as i do. i had as well question that it be wrong to breathe. for i am in every breath altogether your own ellen. often, she doesn't respond to them quite as passionately as he writes to her because she does tend to be a bit melancholy. but in this is an exuberance that is really delightful. ellen was so devoted to him, you sense she puts herself second to his needs again and again
throughout their life together. she is serving him and helping him. that was her conception of what her role was as woodrow wilson's wife. as she is dying in the white house, that tragic summer, august 1914 with the world about to enter into great international convulsion with world war i about to break out, she is dying in the white house and she grabs the hand of dr. grayson and whispers to him, doctor, if i go away, promise me that you will take good care of my husband. >> it might be hard to answer this question, but are listener on visitor ranks asked us where we would rank them on the loves twitter asksn us where we would rank them on the loves of presidential couples. >> it seems to me it would be hard to come up to their level. as john cooper pointed out to me
lying in arthur links' collection of woodrow wilson's letters. >> arthur linked was the greatest wilson scholar there ever was. in the volume that covers august 1914 and ellen's death, the editors, here it is, this is the introduction of this very stately monumental scholarly thing, with the editors bid a fond farewell to ellen wilson, whom we have all come to love. that is over the years that it had affected them so much. >> woodrow wilson asked her to marry him just five minutes -- months after he met her. they got married when? >> they got married two years later. woodrow had a great strategy. he had had a girlfriend before and she had refused his offer of marriage and so i think he was once burned twice shy.
so he had decided that he was going to propose to ellen just before getting on the train to go to baltimore and attend johns hopkins in political science. so that if she refused him, there would be no awkward lingering as he later said. so they had met each other by chance in this town where neither of them lived. they were just passing through and he persuaded her to stay for a couple of extra days and meet his family. when he proposed to her, she was so startled that she blurted out yes. she had not meant to, but she blurted this out and they had hardly known each other. but he was going off to study for two years, so they had a two-year engagement, since they didn't know each other very well, it was the marvelous letters through which they became intimate. >> mary kay is watching us in san rafael california. you are on the air.
caller: thank you so much for the series. i was wondering what the first lady and president thought of the pickets in front of the white house for suffrage in 1917. >> this would be back to edith. they were very indignant, especially edith was very indignant. she thought they were rude and at one point woodrow offered to send -- to have them come into the white house and get warm and have hot coffee and they were -- and they refused. she did not believe in suffrage for women and thought all this was quite foolish. there were two suffrage organizations and one of them was trying to go about amending the constitution in a state-by- state way, in other words have suffrage passed in the various
states and then get more people in congress to support it. woodrow receives the members of the national association of women suffrage -- national american woman suffrage association, and some people believe it was the extremism of the national women's party that allowed the more conservative group to make progress because they were seen as a lot less threatening. >> we are going to come back to his early years with ellen and his life before politics. he is the only president who moved from the presidency of the university into politics and to the white house. how does he get to princeton and how does he get to the presidency? >> first of all he was a presbyterian minister son and princeton had sort of severed its official ties with the church, but it was still a very
presbyterian school. if you are a bright young man, princeton was a place to go. he wanted to step out from the south, too. he went to hopkins briefly, his first teaching job was at bryn mawr, a brand-new college for women. he actually like teaching there. he liked the women at bryn mawr better than ellen did. she objected to the modern woman that he did. he got back to princeton in 1890, became the most popular professor there. basically, he was one of two real stars of the faculty. there was some intrigue among the trustees and everything to get him to the presidency, that he got chosen president in 1902. then he tried to reform princeton and succeeded a bit and failed quite a bit and
really got stymied when the new jersey bosses came along and offered him the nomination for the governorship heard he took it from them and then turned on them immediately and became a reformer. a lot of things made him a front runner quite early, so he made a remarkable transition. in two years he went from being a university president to being president. the governorship was just a small interlude. wilson is one of those people with the exception of the law, who succeeded in everything he did. he is one of the great lyrical -- political scientists. he was a great scholar, a great university president. he was the best-known and most effective university president of his time. he is ranked among the best governors and he was one heck of an effective president, two. -- too. >> we love the interconnections here.
grover cleveland after he left the white house went to princeton to practice law because it was difficult for a former president to do much else. is it true that the families knew each other and that the children even played together? >> i don't know about the children playing together but i do know that they knew each other. >> we are going to show your prospect house which was the house at the wilson's lived in on the time that the presidents house. today is use for social functions. as we look at it we are going to learn about ellen and woodrow wilson's political partnership and how that develops. >> this is the study of prospect house and it looks very much as it did when woodrow and ellen wilson lived here. this would have been woodrow wilson's office. his desk would've been right here and here he would have met with students, faculty, university presidents, visiting people from across the world. it is here that he and ellen might've met to confer about university business. ellen wilson was highly involved with woodrow wilson's career. she gives him advice on what
jobs he should take, what jobs he shouldn't take. when he was up for a post at arkansas industrial university she suggested that was a bad career move. she was very involved and a tremendous help to him. behind-the-scenes him throughout his academic career. i find this room, this study so evocative because it is right here that we can see woodrow wilson making that transition from academic figure two -- to political figure. ellen wilson helped with all of this. constantly advising woodrow, helping them out and then he decides to run for governor and the reporters descend on prospect. it reporters descend on his study. in the interview him right here in this room. they photograph him in the garden and ellen wilson is quite alarmed. she begins to sense that she is going to lose any privacy she might've had. she is going to lose that carefully constructed, very close-knit home life that she had valued so much with woodrow.
that is going to slip away when they plunge into politics. so they moved into prospect house, the young academic couple full of dreams, full of ambitions when she leaves prospect house. they are almost driven out by the trustees in 1910. when she leaves, she is better, -- bitter, she is exhausted and what awaits her is the political life's to check a tremendous toll on her, personally, in terms of her exhaustion, in terms of her energy, and psychologically. >> as his supportive spouse, how did her responsibilities change as she moved from university presidents wife to the first lady of new jersey and then ultimately into the white house? >> she was building on each of the things that she had done before. she had been involved in the small way with social outreach during the time that she was a private person.
then when she became first lady of new jersey, she became very interested in social welfare. she actually took woodrow on a tour to new jersey to look at state welfare institutions like the home for the insane were the prisons. -- or the prisons. she had an early record of activism among social welfare groups. she also had to do a great deal of entertaining during the dinner that was given after woodrow wilson's inauguration in 1902. she invited booker t. washington to the horror of her southern aunt. she had a great deal of entertaining to do as the president's wife, more of course when she moved into the governor's mansion. at one point they were down in the summer home, they didn't have a governor's mansion, but the state of new jersey supplied a summer home. a little boy got lost and
wandered into the house and came out afterwards and was asked if he met the governor. he said, yes and she gave me a piece of cake. [laughter] >> what was her role in 1912? >> i don't think she did enough in the campaign. >> what's interesting about the campaign was that she was, i believe, the first future first lady to go on a campaign before the convention. she and wilson went down to the south, especially in georgia where she was hailed as much as he was. unfortunately, they lost georgia. they didn't get the delegates from georgia. she had a hand in trying to get woodrow to patch up relations with williams jennings bryan to head three times in the democratic nominee. he was kind of the leader of the democratic party and he was very keen on helping woodrow get the nomination.
>> she saw an opportunity. wilson had come from a different wing of the party. he had said some things about bryant that some of his enemies had publicized to try to make trouble for it she saw a chance to mend fences. she brought them together and they hit it off very well. brian and wilson had a good relationship down to some things in world war i. she is playing the same kind of role that she played in his academic career heard a very shrewd tactician, a very good facilitator. not out in front or in public, she didn't particularly like that role, either. but she was awfully shrewd. >> theodore roosevelt's challenge to his own party by forming the bull moose party that split the republicans and helped bring woodrow wilson into the white house.
if you have to capitalize his political philosophy, what would you say it is? he called himself a protective a progressive democrat. he felt it was a government that made it possible for people to do things for themselves. he said i don't want a government that will take care of me, i want a government that will make sure that other people take their hands off me to that i can take care of myself. it is updated liberalism. is the individual's happiness, the individual self-realization. that is a great contrast with you to roosevelt. that campaign of 19 12 as the -- 1912 is the best we've ever had by far. what you get is really a debate of political philosophies between these two men. >> lee is watching us from durango, colorado. guest: thank you for taking my call.
i have a question about the bill that was so important to ellen wilson and did such a wonderful thing for the city of washington dc. i would like to comment on youth wilson. -- edith wilson. she was more of a hindrance than a help. joseph, a major advisor to the president, wrote numerous letters during his illness and they were discovered unopened until after her death. >> thank you so much for your call. she asks about ellen's alley bill. >> when they came to the white house, ellen felt that as long as she was in the white house, not a place for she particularly wanted to be, she would use her position to do as much good as she could. she connected with a group called the national civic federation that had been around for 10 years or so.
they were very interested in trying to clean up these little alleyways in between the bigger streets of washington where there were tumbledown shacks, great squalor heard they wanted to tear down all these buildings and do what we would now call urban renewal. ellen was so interested in this project that you took some of the congressman any white house car through the alleyways to show them the conditions of these houses that were right in the capital. she lobbied them to pass a bill that would enable this because at that time washington was run by congress. they didn't have their own government. she was i think the first lady
to lobby for a cause that wasn't her husband's, outside of the white house. she was very effective at doing this. i don't know if you want to talk about all of what happens here >> we will come back to the story because it is connected with her passing. wilson decides not to have an inaugural ball, why is that? >> it was partly because of ellen. ellen thought it would really be a commercialization, something frivolous. it should be a solemn occasion. she was a very thrifty woman. woodrow did not make a lot of money in his early days and she had a habit of frugality. somebody once said mrs. wilson looks sweeter every year in that brown dress -- and that brown dress she wears looks sweeter as well. she prided herself on being thrifty. she just thought the inauguration, the not real balls were frivolous. >> will you miss watching us in --william is watvhinh
watching us in new york city. guest: in new york there is often mention of the wilson girls in society. can you tell us a bit about their growing up and entering adulthood? >> he brought three daughters to the white house. >> yes and they were all roughly marriageable age when they get into the white house, so they go to balls and parties. ellen is on record as saying that she doesn't approve of modern dances like the turkey trot. somebody else writes and says that ellen morris slaton who is a gossipy wife of a congressman. she kept a diary and said that they had been seen down at the military barracks turkey trotting with the best of them. she tried to keep a rein on her daughters, and two of them did get married in the white house. considering that she was only in the white house for 17 months before she died, that is quite an accomplishment. she had a very big wedding for her first daughter, who was
married in november. she had a very small, quiet wedding for her third daughter, who got married in may very shortly before ellen was bedridden. >> chad is in baltimore. guest: i wanted to know, after eleanor passed away and before youth arrived. is it true that margaret became the de facto first lady? >> i think she became the hostess. there has to be an official hostess. one of wilson's cousins helped her out. margaret did not much want to be the official hostess. she wanted to be a singer. she preferred to go to new york which is where she thought there were more opportunities to be a singer. i think the two of them tried to cope with the social duties.
the social season was curtailed on the advice of ellen's social secretary ritchie felt that been a precedent stringy harrison administration when his wife had died they had curtailed the social season, so there wasn't too much entertaining that margaret had to do. >> despite her short tenure in the white house, ellen wilson also brought on the rose garden. we will learn more about that in our next video. >> we are in prospect garden here in princeton new jersey. this is the garden that ellen wilson originally designed when she was resident of prospect house from 1902 to 1910. i think that here we see the full expression of ellen's aesthetic vision. she is an oil painter, very competent. she knows a lot of the american impressionist painters of the
day. she loves to paint landscapes, and as a corollary to that she laid out this extraordinary people garden at the prospect house. she plans to cedar trees, she plans all sorts of flowers. loves this garden so much that she hates to leave it when wilson enters politics and he enters princeton. she brings the white house gardener back to this garden at prospect house and says to the white house gardener, thus re- create the rose section of this garden at the white house. ellen wilson could look out of her bedroom window in prospect mansion and look right down and see the flowers all day. similarly, she wanted the president of the united states to be able to see roses when he looked out of his window in the white house. this becomes a famous rose garden at the white house. ellen tragically doesn't live to see the rose garden completed, however. she is dying in the summer of 1914. she is wheeled out into the space outside in her wheelchair
and she watches as a gardener works, but she doesn't live to see the completion of this vision she had for roses blooming at the white house. that is a vision that really begins here at aspect of art and in princeton. -- that begins here at prospect garden in princeton. >> here is a photograph of what it looks like you're in the wilson administration and here's what the rose garden looks like today. >> we have for short tenure in the white house, she did during the 17 months. we talk about the alley clearance bill heard we talk about the rose garden and the fact that she was a professional artist, one of the first ladies who brought her own profession to the white house. how significant was that in setting the standard for future
first ladies? >> i don't think it really set a standard for future first ladies hurried ellen did earn money from selling her paintings that she donated to charity that she had set up for her brother in memory of her brother who had died. i think the only first lady who earn money while she was in the white house was eleanor roosevelt. it did not become a first lady tradition and just as well. >> next is aaron in greenfield, california. guest: thank you for taking my call. i have enjoyed your show very much. as is my second time calling. the last time i called was through your first season when you were talking about the two wives of john tyler. i very much enjoyed your show so far. my question is about woodrow wilson's first wife ellen. when she passed away, where was she buried and when her husband passed away he was an attorney
in the washington d.c. area. was his first wife's body reinterred to be buried next to him and also where was his second wife buried when she passed away? >> thank you. >> the answer to that question about whether she was reinterred, the answer was no. she is buried in the family plot, the acts and plot in rome georgia. when woodrow died, edith was pretty determined that he was not going to be buried with ellen. then the choice was he had been a president of princeton and the presidents of princeton are buried in a very nice cemetery. there have been some ill feeling and still was, so that was out.
in the meantime a very ambitious bishop of washington, mr. friedman wanted to get famous people buried in the cathedral so you do have gotten admiral dewey. this is when washington cathedral was still very new. he approached edith about this and she liked the idea. he wanted to make the cathedral washington's westminster abbey and i was told that william howard taft granddaughter told him that when taft heard about this he said, don't let those bodysnatchers at the cathedral get me. [laughter] i think this is wonderful. this presbyterian president was buried in an episcopal cathedral. edith is buried with him. >> was she sick the entire time that she was in the white house for 13 months?
>> she was. you saw the pictures of her leaving princeton and even being in princeton. she had first developed kidney trouble in 1889 when her third child was born. the wilsons decided at that time to have no more children. they used birth control. she probably had been suffering from kidney disease for some time before she got to the white house, would be my guess. >> she was diagnosed with something called braces disease. >> that is an archaic term for kidney disease. i don't think they had a sophisticated tests as we have now. i was impressed that they were able to diagnose it as early as 1889. >> theodore roosevelt first wife also died of kidney disease as well. she died quite early in their marriage. woodrow and ellen had been married for quite a while. >> dennis mccarthy wants in on twitter, digg woodrow wilson -- did woodrow wilson become consumed with ellen's illness?
did it affect his performance as president? >> not till the very end. by and large it was kept secret from him. so, that was ellen's wish. she did not want to burden him. >> i think everyone was in denial. i do not know that she knew how sick she was. doctors kept telling her she would get better will stop i think the doctors were in denial. i do think woodrow knew she was dying until the day she died. hearst --ast days of bed when he is at her sick every minute while the world is falling apart before world war i, it is terrible. it is terribly affecting. and the funeral? >> to have a funeral in rome and out of the church were woodrow had met her. the townspeople were there.
there was a state funeral here in washington. there was a little ceremony in the white house. >> there was a ceremony in the white house. finished our first hour. i told you this would go by quick we. here -- quickly. guests.e our -- read thisut paragraph. you talk about her contributions to him. death dealt him a clear blow. overd a solitary influence -- she had a solitary influence over him more than anyone else. she had seen will some through and forgiven him for his infatuation. andn had given him so much
he was a far better man for her gift. he had gone further and accomplished more than he could have done without her and he knew it. is it there to state without ellen wilson there may not have been a woodrow wilson? this man brothers somes. he met her as he's about to depart for john's hopkins. he had been crying to write, trying to find himself and love concentrated his mind wonderfully. >> it's extraordinary. he's either writing these letters to her, long involved wonderful letters and writing his first book. it's amazing. all along, as christi said, the advice to him and how to handle it. any academic would love to have
helen as wife and i think conversely a male with a husband. she's such a help, support, such a terribly shrewd advisor. again, such an emotional support to him. it really is extraordinary. >> we have a debate raging about woodrow wilson's legacy among detractors. whether you love him or hated him, ellen wilson's base contribution was getting that man to the white house? >> absolutely. >> time to move on to chapter two of our story. what happened after our death. >> we're going to talk a little bit more about the >> sure. >> part of the closing days of her life. >> so as she's dying, the day she's die, she tells you to congress and say she's dying.
the senate takes action in time for her to learn about it before she loses consciousness for the last time. the house passes it later but never implemented because of orld war i breaking out. they don't have the money. the whole issue is dropped in the 1933. there was a young woman whose husband was in the wilson administration. the assistant secretary of the navy, franklin delano roosevelt. roosevelt went to the white house many times and met ellen ilson. it was said no one could move in polite society unless they could talk to her. she made the whole issue fashionable. the first week she was in the white house, she went back to the national civic federation of women, the same women that had worked well len wilson. and she began to lobby for an alley bill.
she lobbied for a great many different causes. but i firmly believe that ellen set an example to eleanor and ellen set an example for many first ladies who came after her. >> one of the interesting debates about it is wood row wilson seeking out african-americans. >> much as i can tell, i loved ellen as much as the editors did. he was a southern woman. i don't think we could honestly say she believed in equality in african-americans.
that's just -- she was a wonderful warm loving person. but i think african-americans occupied her place. this is in a maternalistic way she does want to help there and also to beautify washington too. that's not just to be -- not just to be helpful. it's all news -- i think his having grown up in the south really has less to do with his views there. the wilson administration record on race is bad, simply bad. he allowed his southern cabinet ecretaries to attempt to introduce segregation to the federal work place. they made stabs at it.
the n -- newly formed naacp protesting id. they backed off. they did it informally. that's bad. there's also that very unfortunate incident of showing the birth of the nation, the movie in the white house which blew way out of proportion of what happened there. >> that's the time for edith. >> that's in the -- that's shortly before he met -- he met edith. that's the worst time in wilson's life except for the the stroke. because he was absolutely devastated by ellen's death. he was in bad, bad shape emotionally. >> when gary robinson asked on twitter did they get any bump or passes on it, was he thinking of the affairs of state or the month out there? >> he had to. yes, he was. that's what -- he said that's what held it together. he had do this, he had to be president. he had to pay attention to these things. otherwise, i think the man could have really deteriorated badly there. if he had just been on his own. the presidency is his crutch at this point. his attitude to me, he's like a white northerner. he wants the race go away.
oh, yeah, that's the problem down to the south. booker t. washington, we'll make progress, a bit of benign neglect. wilson is more like that. they want to make sure blacks are in their place and want to push segregation. . >> before we leave, we want to tell you we have a well populated website. it's filled with all of the video and the programs we've done so far in the series. each week, we have a special feature attached to the first lady we're looking at. and this week, it's on ellen's artwork. so if you go to the website and you want to learn more about her work, the' sell, one of her paintings on display at the
white house while she was there, this is the featured item this week on first lady, the c-span.org website. i'm talking about research. i want to tell you about one other. our partners of this series, the white house historical association. they have for many years published the biography series of first ladies. it's a special version of it. we worked with them to publish it and make it available to you. that same website has the link. we show this hard cover book at 12:95, our cost, so you can learn about the women. there's a short biography and we'll get them to you so you can learn more about the women in the programs and the rest of the series. this is lleyton in rome, georgia. is that her birthplace? >> and her burial place. >> hello, how are you? >> fine. >> i would like to say that
rome, georgia is watching tonight. and, of course, we are the hometown of ellen wilson and we're very excited that you're doing a program tonight especially on ellen. christie miller has graciously accepted our invitation to come to rome as we celebrate not only the life but also the art of ellen wilson beginning in august of 2014. and you know, it's kind of interesting that in 1914, rome, georgia raised $10,000 in 2014, we'll mark the anniversary of the homecoming that never ccurred. >> any final thoughts on ellen before we move on? no? okay. so let's do that. he was devastated. but we've talked about his
connection with women and his love of having women in his life. he was a widowed president. so lots of women were probably interested in him. how did he approach this period of his life when he was a widower? >> i don't think there was a great rush of women to meet him. but his doctor was very concerned about it. and he thought that a friend of his is goal might be somebody that might cheer him up. so he arranged for helen, the woman who was serving as his official host just after ellen's death to go walking with edith because helen herself was having some health problems. he thought it would benefit her to go walking with this nice hearty vision rowels woman. they took a number of walks together. that led to a meeting in the white house between edith and woodrow.
and they were immediately drawn to each other. just like well len. he very quickly fell in love and quickly proposed to her. >> edith bowling goff was found in virginia. there's a map of virginia. you can see where it is in the southwest part of the state. there's 300 miles way from washington, d.c. we visited there in preparation for the series. you'll see that next. >> this is the birthplace and childhood home of edith bowling wilson. today it looks very much like it did when the bowlings lived here from 1866 to 1899. originally, in the 1840s, this was two houses, they were joined together, which connected the upstairs bowling home, the downstairs was used as retail space. the upstairs was the home of the bollings. this is the original front door to the bolling home. this is where the bolling family
would have entered. let me take you inside. this is the birth room. this is the bedroom of her parents. she was one of 20 family members who lived upstairs in the boling home. this is the cradle that the children would have slept in. this is a child's chair that was up here in the bolling home. we can imagine the children sitting in the chairs. he cover is original and we're so pleased it hasn't been recovered over the years. this is the bedroom of grandmother bolling. and we know that edith bolling as a little girl slept in the room with her grandmother.
her grandmother was an invalid and had back problems. and she was quite spoiled by her grandmother. she was her grandmother's favorite. but along with that came the responsibility of being her care giver. this is the back sleeping porch. this is where edith would gather with her family where they would enjoy evenings together. i think one of my favorite pictures is the picture of young edith at age 13. she's actually sitting on a stool and in this corner, she has her books in her lap and very fortunate to have this picture of her. we see what she's dressed like, we see her books, we see how her hair is fixed. we see her in a place where she was very comfortable and spent a lot of time as a young girl.
this is the library of her father, judge bolling. they sent her to washington, d.c. to keep her away from a gentleman who was courting her. they sent her to washington, d.c. she met and married her first husband. it really changed her life. >> we learn more about the life of edith billioning goff wilson. on facebook, a question -- what did his daughter who served as hostess before the marriage think of his new wife and what did his other daughters think. i think the daughters were very happy to see their father married again. because as don said, he was in deep despair. they were very worried about him. they were happy. they were among the happiest people in washington about the marriage. >> what about the press? what about his cabinet? they tried to keep it out of the cabinet as long as they could. he reactions were mixed. we're getting the beyond the
generation that widowed people shouldn't marry. well, they shouldn't remarry soon. and clearly for the president to e courting and want to marry again so quickly, a lot of them worried about it. several of them tried to hatch something to warn him off there. that backfired very badly. by the way, edith took an instant dislike to colonel house, this advisor of wilson's. and wilson patched it up or had them get together. but i don't think house realized what an enemy he made of edith
wilson. he had something to do with this too. >> back to carl from georgia. hi, carl. >> good evening. thank you for taking my call. i heard the gentleman say there was a bit of dissension between colonel house and edith. was this personal differences, colonel house had live-in quarters in the white house. was he commanding too much of the president's time as far as edith was concerned or were there political difference s? >> well, actually house did not have living quarters in the white house. he spent a lot of time there. but he didn't have living quarters there. it's a bit of both. edith as christie pointed out very well, wilson courted the widow gault with the presidency and the secrets of state and she ate it up. there's no question about t.
and she admits frankly admits in her memoir later that this was a good bit of her attraction to wilson. and attracted to him too personally. that's the way -- this may be a much more glamorous figure to her. so she's okay, she's going to be the advisor. a lot of it at the beginning is to resent house. resent house. there's just enough to get him out of the way. house was concerned -- house saw wilson as a very valuable property to manage and to keep, you know, to keep healthy and to keep in power. and i think he was worried about the effect on this. now, he very quickly backed off when he saw how determined wilson was to marry edith. he turned tail very quickly and then he tries to make up to her a lot. but she never -- no, she never -- she masked her dislike of house up until the time of the conference. >> so he proposes very soon after. she says no, saying you hardly know me. there's a wonderful quote that
most biographers refer to alking about how time is compress in the white house. what did he say? >> i don't remember the exact words. but he said time is much quicker here than it was on the outside. her at a it to call it a ploy. one fact that he ployed it out to all three of the women he was involved with was that he needed them so much. and it was a real genuine need as john has pointed out. he often said he couldn't do his work unless he was assured of their love. so that was definitely one of the things that she said to edith. to know you would have need of me is very sweet. that's a successful courtship tactic. although she refused him the first time, two months later, he proposed again and she accepted. >> as i recall, the refusal, hat's what they're supposed to
do anyway? she got taken unawares really. that was the convention. >> i think it was. >> turn it down and, you know, of course the guy comes back and -- >> she had every right to turn him down convention or no convention. they've known each other about six weeks when he proposed the first time. >> i must say, we both read all of that correspondence there. i'm impressed that edith's refusal looked to be pretty pro forma. she's going to accept this guy. >> one of my favorite quotes is from the secret serviceman, colonel starling who said the lady was retreating. how fast and what intention, we don't know. >> he would go over to her house, you know, he would spend the evening there. >> icing, jack a completely different air. a fanaticism about baseball in
this town, the first public date was a baseball game. >> wilson was a great baseball fan. he played -- never played on a college -- he played on a college team at davidson. the first college he went to. that's something. he's a great fan of princeton and wesley and prince ton, he's a tremendous baseball fan. go to that and that is the first public appearance together. just beaming there. i think she turns into a political asset. >> we have to move on, the time is going to evaporate. very quickly. what did the general population think of wilson remarrying so quickly. >> fortunately, not as his advisors feared. the public loved it. they went on a tour about six weeks after they were
married. to drum up interest and preparedness in case america got in the war. she was seen as a great asset. the press loved her. the crowds loved her. they loved the idea of the two of them being on their honeymoon. it was a great public relations. >> throughout this program, we have been taking you to the wilson house, the place where the first couple met after they left the white house. we're going to return there right now. >> we're current will i in the dining room of the president wood row wilson house in northwest dc about a mile from the white house. standing guard over the dining room is an official poit rate of edith wilson painted and finished in 1920. 93 years old. bob inholm is the executive director of the house. what can you tell us about this dress she's wearing in this portrait.
>> president wilson in his second term presented a provision of the world of peace, a plan in this provision. he couldn't have found a better help mate, dynamic and strong, edith wilson. this is not a 19th century portrait. she's wearing a dress that's fashion forward in the 1920s. at her waist is a broach, a gift to her from france. >> some of the other artifacts from the white house years set here at the table. you have the place setting? >> this is the wilson china. edith had a hand in designing this. so while some of the china relied on designs, patriotic symbols consistent with the nation at war. there's a funny story. the historians can tell about this.
when edith was learning how to ride a bicycle in the basement of the white house, the china was stacked there. one of the reasons they created the china room was so she would have room to ride the bicycle without crashing into the china. >> this is lennox. you have an outfit she wore as first lady. >> we remember president wilson was the first president to go to europe at president but we need to remember as well edith wilson was the first lady to go to europe as the first lady. it was important for her to figure out how she should comport herself in meeting kings and queens of europe and heads of state. she bought this suit at the house of worth in paris. let me pull this back and show some of the detail. the lining spectacular. gives you some sense of the level of detail and attention of the clothing that she purchased there. >> bob -- president wilson left here three years after she left the white house. was there a purposeful effort to make this house like the white house? >> very much so. that's part of edith's doing as well.
she realized the president would be more comfortable in a settle in which he understand where things were. so when they put together this bedroom here, it emulated the white house bedroom he'd been in down to the detail of getting the lincoln bed that he had enjoyed and building a replica of the room here. >> the next time you come back to us, susan,er with eel be in the library. >> thank you very much. a reminder, the wilson house is available for public tour. make it part of yourself when you do a history tour of washington, d.c. the wilson presidency, the two terms were very momentous years. for the country and for the world. it's hard to boil down important things that went on in a couple of places but we're going try to do it. n the wilson presidency, the 17th amendment to the constitution which called for direct election for the senators was passed.
major tariff bill that was so much an important debate in this country, the federal reserve act, i can tell you our facebook community is talking a lot about the federal reserve. the role of the federal trade commission. then the war. the u.s. declaring war on germany. after the war, wood row wilson winning the nobel peace prize. the 18th amendment bringing prohibition. the 19th amendment calling finally for women suffrage in this country. what was edith's role in this period of time, legislateively, public affairswise. how involved was she in the substance of what he was doing. >> very little. she didn't have ellen's acumen for understanding these things. he liked to show her the papers but she would get fired up and would say you need to put this note to germany more strongly or
to the secretary of state william brennan to be stronger. he encouraged her to be fiery. she didn't have understanding. a lot of people thought she had influenced him to lobby as he finally did for woman's uffrage. that wasn't the case at all. she didn't approve. so i wouldn't say she had any effect on his legislative -- >> he did not support the 18th amendment. he did not like prohibition. he vetoed the act which passed over the veto. >> how difficult was it for him to make a decision to bring the u.s. into world war i. >> very, very. we went to the war after the zinging of the lcitania, almost two years. the zinging is a great wakeup call on how we might be involved in the war. it's not comparable to pearl harbor and 9/11. it was this shocking event.
two years to struggle to try to get the germans not to sink ships and kill people on the seas. yet, not to get involved in the war. he got the germans to back down for a while. so the election of 1916 in the lull in foreign affairs and this notion he kept us out of war with this great cry. well, yeah. but it was -- he kept us out of war with mexico because the threat of war in europe had receded at that point. then the germans reopened and it was a very, very difficult struggle. he actually unburdened himself confidentially to a newspaper editor, frank cobb of the new york world. and he predicted all of the terrible consequences that happen in this country if we went to the war. that's the most eloquent case of coming from the war.
>> how would you answer sheldon cooper when asked which wife provided political clout for woodrow. >> i think it was ellen. ellen was involved. she lobbied. ou spoke with the tariff ill. she read it. she lobbied for having reduced duty on books and art supplies. and when it was actually tasked, she celebrated. it meant a lot to her. and i don't think either of them had a great deal to do with it. but i think ellen had more than edith. >> david is in her hometown. >> thank you for the segment. i want to invite your viewers to visit and join us in our efforts to restore a birthplace and childhood home. but my question is when mrs. wilson visited during europe,
how was she received by the royalty of europe and how can you tell us about her relationship to pocahontas and other families? >> she's a direct descendent to pocahontas. it was played up a great deal by the newspapers in europe when she went over there. i forgot, what was the other part of the question? how she was received in europe? >> they were received joyously over there. they looked to wilson to be a savior. edith drove home and said they felt like cinderella. they were received by the king of italy. there were thousands and thousands of people reading them in paris. it was a magical time for her. >> here's a question of a similar ilk between edith and ellen, which has the greatest influence on america today? i'd say ellen, although edith had the handle the country in
the crisis of presidential disability. and i think she set a pattern for how not do it. it was a cover-up. so i think it was one of the segments that said that grayson -- we're not going to admit he had a stroke. they never -- the white house never admitted that, one of his consulting physicians let it slip out of the bag later. but they never admitted that. and in some ways this uncertainty about -- about what the president's condition was really contributed to the political downfall that comes. >> justin, plainfield, indiana, you're on. go ahead. >> hi, thank you for taking my call. thank you for doing this. my question is, how would edith received in the time leading up
to her marriage to president wilson by the media? did she kind of get the princess diana reception or more from rachael jackson reception? >> thanks so much. >> dave really as don said tried to keep it very quiet. and the announcement was made at the beginning of october. they got marry in the middle of december. so they really only had to endure the -- the attention of the press for about two months. and again it was a very, very different time and nobody was expected to get out there diana style and be father christmas. >> wouldn't you say the caller talked about rachael jackson. there was an undercurrent of a little bit of scandal or whatever that he was involve in this woman. >> there were several scandals, ne of which and we haven't
really addressed it. but woodrow wilson was involved with another woman during the time he was married to ellen. he met mary allen holbert peck in 1907. by 1908, he had scribbled on a little note somewhere. my precious one, my beloved mary. i don't think he sent it to her. i think he was venting her eelings. ellen was upset. she accused him of emotional love for this woman. but she tolerated mary and tried to protect woodrow from the scandal. there still was some scandal. theodore roosevelt was invited in the 1912 election to make use of this. somebody said that they had letters between woodrow and mary. and although they were never as ardent as his letters to ellen had been, they were simply compromising. and roosevelt said, no, that would be wrong. and also that nobody would believe him. >> yeah. because that was -- that was
very noble of theodore roosevelt. but you said -- you said, what -- i can't believe that somebody who looks like the apoth care's cud could be romeo. i don't believe that. >> doing the best t.r. invitation on the program. >> no. this momentous on the united states and those who enter world war i. what happens in the white house in terms of their social, they're entertaining. what does she do to support the war effort. that's an important part of her story. would you talk about that? >> poor edith gets pitched into the white house in the middle of the war, in the middle of his term without any preparation whatsoever. and she was -- she really rose to the occasion. and she was, as i said, very pop yue wlar the press because of ellen's ill health, the press had not been very taken with her. and edith had the doubly trying situation of having to have two receptions because she couldn't
have all of the warring ambassadors with each other. so she had to have a party for the outlies and the party for the central powers. she really was terrific and everybody was impressed with her ood firm hand shake. nd very impressed with her sense of style, no poor little brown dress for edith. >> she was a wealthy washington socialite and a business executive. >> i wouldn't say she was a socialite. her husband had been in trade, meaning he was a businessman. and that was not the creme de la creme of washington society. so there was a certain amount of dubiousness about that. but as john said, there were scandals also to the extent to which she and woodrow had been intimate. later on she makes a big protest, a big international scandal, really, out of refusing to accept the designated british ambassador because the assistant
was telling naughty stories about him. >> back to the wilson house on s street in washington, d.c. >> we are in the library at the wilson house with bob inholm, the executive director. you can see some of the artifacts in this room from wilson. but there are a couple of things in here that are very related to edith and woodrow wilson. why don't you tell us what this is on the desk. >> we display the pen that was used to sign the declaration of war in 1917. what i think is interesting is that it's edith wilson's pen. we've been discussing on the program that it was very much with the president participated in his dligss on a variety of issues.
when the declaration of war was passed by congress, the president was with edith and not near a pen of his own and she offered one of hers to sign that historic document. we have that here. we know that edith was part of the president's regular routine in dealing with the policy issues and the business of government. every day after dinner, he would retire to the office in the white house, the president's office. and go through his drawer, i might think of it as an inbox. you can see this is a box with the lock and key with the president's important papers to be delivered to him.
and then he would be able to go through them. the president and mrs. wilson would go through the papers tofgt. it was her habit to put them in order. they would decipher together coded messages. so it's interesting that this lays the groundwork for her role as steward of the presidency when the president was -- >> our guest back on the set had been talking about edith and ellen wilson. what do you think of the legacy on edith wilson? what is the legacy of edith wilson? >> i think the most important thing that edith wilson did was to bring the role of the first lady into the modern era in the sense that she supported the president and was aware of some of the issues that he was involved with. and my take on her role in the
stuartship is a little different from some, because i think that her -- her authority within the government relied almost entirely on the president's affection for her, trust for her, respect for her. i think you wouldn't expect that she would betray that trust in order to go to the cabinet or the vice president or someone else. so i think she had that important role of being the help eet to the president in a very modern way. >> we're at the wilson house in northwest d.c. this is where edith wilson lived postpresidency until 1961 when she died in this house. we've got one more visit here. and it's kind of a special guest that we'ref going to introduce you to in a little while. >> thanks, bob for bringing us to the wilson house tonight and showing some of it to the viewing public. well, we should say that when woodrow womenson makes a decision to the war, he goes all in. you write about a fact that what america could contribute was manpower to this?
>> yeah, well, i mean, it was a stalemate. although russia collapsed. and the bolsheviks when they came in, lennon's policy was peace at any price. he paid a terrible price. but this meant that the germans could finally fight the battle they wanted to fight, the war they wanted to fight. they do the frank oppression war over again. so they could throw everything at france. that's what they had a chance to do in the spring of 1918. and it's a race against time for us to get the dough boys there. now, the british and the french, bless their hearts, held on that one last time and locked that german offensive. but they were able to do it because they knew that the yanks are coming. that materiel money, we bailed them out. they were bankrupt at the time, we were able to bail them out. >> provided the dough boys, the foot soldiers, and the "dough". >> yes. >> how many casualties in the war? >> 140,000. >> and what was our -- when was in a?
> november 11, 1918. >> and then wilson moved from war president to peacemaker. >> eacemaker in chief, that's right. he decided early he was going to go parls and be our chief negotiator because he wanted to shape the peace as best he could there. he knew we had come into the war later than the others and for different reasons. and he knew there were real differences. >> is travel with him on that trip. want to take a call on it and have you come back and talk to us about how that was staged and how important it was ultimately to the peace that was shaped. lewis, los angeles, you're on the air, welcome. >> yes, my question is what was or how was the league of nation
s a -- was it a triumph for the president or a failure to the president wilson and how did mrs. wilson take it? because she left it a little longer. she went a little longer than president wilson. how was it on their legacy that the league of nations failed? thank you. >> it's both, a triumph and a failure. it was terrific. and then we never joined the league of nations. that's what happened in world ar ii, there is a prophet of oodrow wilson. there's the prophet we did not heed. here was the man who predicted this. f we had listened to him, we wouldn't have had this terrible second war.
i think that's quite overdrawn. but still there's a kernel of truth to that. i mean it's hard to imagine that we wouldn't have played at least some kind of more constructive role in world affairs if we had gone into the league of nations. >> and edith was after woodrow's death very active with the league of nations herself. not in the leadership way, but she used to go to geneva every year for her meetings and she would go to any country in the league that wanted to honor woodrow for his work and bringing it together. >> united nations week. we're going do this. all of the world leaders are gathering in new york city. >> if it had not been for edith and woodrow had resigned, we might have joined the leaping. >> yeah. the warped judgment of his that would not compromise. if he had resigned, some kind of something to get him out of the ay, we would have joined the league. we would have joined it on a onditional basis with a lot of
hedging. it would be openly stating what all of the other nations were oing anyway. but it would have gotten us into a leadership role in world affairs, a generation before we did. that's what was lost. a generation of experience and world leadership. >> we hope you saw the beginning. edith wilson made a critical decision with the advice of the doctors to keep him in the white house and to serve as the gatekeeper as to him and keep the affairs of state going during the years when really this month he was very, very critically ill. i don't think it was with the doctors' consent. >> no. >> not a bit. >> and in october, he wrote a -- a memo that should he be subpoenaed to congress, he wanted to have something on paper early on saying that he
did not -- saying exactly what was wrong with the president. >> her memoirs, i read citations that doctors advised to him. >> of course to you, i said to you the memoirs were fanciful. she was her on public relations expert. >> edward winestein, a distinguished neurologist wrote a medical biography of wilson. e said in there takes it straight on, edith said, the doctors said, no, keep him in office. he said no responsible physician would have said that. she was making that up. >> how about that. i asked about her -- if their trip to europe as the great peacemaker -- they travelled by ocean liner to get there on a very specific day in december. what was the wilson as presidential couple arriving there. how were they received by heads of state. how was it that went on there.
>> they were received in england in terms that would have been accorded to royalty. and everywhere they went, they were cheered by the pop pop yue ace. but in the beginning, it was wonderful. but once the negotiations got under way, she went from a fairy tale existence to being extremely concerned for wilson's high blood pressure. he had had some kind of episode when he was 39 years old where he had a lot of numbness in his hand. he had very high blood pressure. all of his adult life or at least from the age of 39 on wards. kerry grayson was insistent he get a lot of exercise and rest. in the negotiations, he couldn't rest or exercise. edith would try to get him to go for a walk. nd the woman who was with her,
her secretary, said that she eres would never go out if there was a possibility that she would be able to take woodrow for a walk. but it was not enough. >> came back, he embarked on the multi-city tour the the united states to the concept of the league of nations to the people of the united states, ultimately leading to his exhaustion and the stroke we spoke about earlier. we have only 15 minutes left in our program. so we're going to have to compress a lot of history in that time. we're going to return to the wilson house and introduce you to a member of the family. >> kerry fuller from westchester, new york. what's your relationship? >> my great aunt. >> how much time did you spent in the wilson house growing up? >> a lot of time, not only visiting my great aunt, but my randfather and my great uncle. >> only relatives of edith ilson's still alive.
>> right. >> what was it like to visit with aunt edith. >> it was called playing cards. we came over, we had a good meal. we played cards. prompted by my mother to let her win every once in a while. she was a fierce woman in terms of winning. >> kinasta? >> that was the game. that was easy to let her win if i held the cards and let her go out. >> these are the card boxes that you would use. >> the cards are on the table. he table is over here. >> over here in the library. kerry fuller, did she talk about being first lady, what it was like? >> no, it was very interesting. she rarely referred to the past. if she did, she would refer to woodrow wilson as the president. but there were no past memories, really. it was interesting.
>> there were special visitors while you were here? >> no, not while i was in the amily. she loved her family so much. she spent a lot of time with them. >> here in the house, the postpresidency house, she would take in the family. >> yes. my grandfather, husband, and her sister died here in the house. >> did she ever talk about ellen? >> never. but i mean that wouldn't have come up. you know, seeing ellen wilson's icture in the house is sort of funny. it just -- it was not a part of what we would have discussed. >> what about jackie kennedy? >> i was close to jackie kennedy, sitting in the car and let manage i mother and aunt in the house. i was not here. i was waiting to pick them up afterwards. >> that's when she was first lady, is that correct? >> she was first lady.
edith is what she wanted us to call her. he was so excited about john kennedy and that presidency. she got to live to see it was, you know, wonderful. >> kerry fuller, we're here on the main level of the house, up one staircase from the entrance. where would you sleep when you were visiting here. >> upstairs. only twice did i stay here for the night. there's a room between her room and the president's. there's two occasions. >> so three of you are left. is there any -- are you active in an edith wilson family at all? i mean is there any -- >> not so much with the family, but certainly with the wilson house and also with the birthplace so i'm involved with both of those, which is wonderful. >> kerry fuller of westchester, new york is here with us. upper northwest dc. nd we want to thank bob inhome and his staff for allowing us to come in with the cameras and showing you a few of the artifacts here. >> thank you so much.
she made it to john kennedy's inauguration? >> made it to 1961. she was going to dedicate the woodrow wilson bridge that all of us who live in washington noel. she was going to dedicate it on is birthday. she was 89 and contracted pneumonia and she couldn't make it. she died on his birth date. > woodrow wilson center that's active in this town, when did that get started. >> that gets started -- excuse me, that gets start in the 1960s -- i think it was authorized under kennedy. >> yeah. >> he -- he authorized the commission? >> right. >> and that it gets started -- the late 1960s. he was in the old smithsonian building. it was oddly enough the little
reagan building. and there -- i think that's a very fitting memorial to wilson. it really does bring together scholars and policy makers. and wilson was no ivory tower. he believed that scholarships, that learning should be brought to bear in public affairs. that was himself. i mean, this man took the lessons that he had learned, the insights that he'd gotten from the study of politics and put them in to practice. this is a man who got a chance to practice what he had been preaching all along. and i said this a number of times, people think it's hyperbole, it isn't. i don't know of any other career in american history or any other history that i can think of, that better justifies the study of politics as a preparation for he practice of politics than woodrow wilson's.
>> in chill relsz, virginia, you're on the air? >> yes. yes. i'd like to make a comment. this woman, edith bolling wilson, is a appalachian woman. the first -- the first and only appalachian woman to become first lady. nd i wonder if the experts would be interested in ommenting on her appalachian role as care giver and the fact she was a care giver for the president and on to his legacy and really might be responsible for a lot of the legacy that president wilson has in our national history? >> i don't know that being an appalachian woman made her stand out at that time in america. i think men and women to a certain degree are the principle care givers of family
members. edith -- ellen came from rome, georgia which might nickly be called appalachian also. she was interested in the ppalachian mountain craft. she remodelled part of the white house, the president's room with quilts and hangings and fabricings. she set up a scholarship fund there in memory of her brother with her earnings that she got rom her paintings. i kind of feel she was the one who focussed more on the appalachian 2345i chur or characterern more than edith did. >> as we finish up here, i want to frame her life. she met woodrow wilson just
shortly after ellen died. he proposed very soon. she became first lady. very quickly, without much preparation for the role. how soon after that did he become ill? and then how well did she take care of him? >> well, she was president -- she was first lady to a functioning president about 4 /2 years and she feels nurse aid to a president another 4 1/2 years. >> then he lived for how long also incapacitated after he left the white house? >> that would include the time she was incapacitated. >> just under three years all together. >> he dies when? >> february 4th, 1924? >> and then how is he memorialized at his death in this city?
was there a big public funeral? >> oh, yeah. it's really quite lovely. they had -- they -- edith, president coolidge offered at the capitol to have a state funeral. she declined. they had a service at the house. presided over by the presbytarian clergymen and the bishop, the washington bishop. edith is episcopalian. she did not change to be a presbytarian when she married him and he made no push for her to do that. the procession up massachusetts avenue to the cathedral. there's the interment there. in those days, there wasn't too much in that cathedral. his tomb was moved up interestingly enough in the centennial year of his birth, 1956, up to -- then finished -- finished a principal part of the cathedral. so it's a -- it's a -- it's a lovely ceremony. and to me one of the nicest touches was that when the funeral was -- at the end of the service, a bugler played "taps. they had a hookup to arlington. they knew the exact moment so that the bu galler from arlington also played "taps". >> she lives how long after she died? >> 37 years.
an extraordinarily long time. he dies in 1924 and she dies at 1961. >> what was her life like? >> she spent the rest of the life being woodrow wilson's widow. she tried to interhis legacy. she chose the first biographer. she controlled the access to papers very, very closely. she controlled how his image was portrayed. she wrote her own memoir. as i said, with her own spin on it. she collaborated with darryl to make the movie about wilson. she really had the tight rein on what he feels allowed to do. but to me the most important thing that she did was she supported something that he had supported during his lifetime, the woodrow wilson commission, is it call? >> foundation? >> foundation. >> and they helped to create the united nations and they also collect these papers that arthur link and his team edited so there are 69 volumes of woodrow wilson's letters and other significant papers, many of the letters in the first ladies, even letters from mary peck. and i think that's -- that's her biggest legacy.
>> we have video that was film of francis cleveland and edith at a prince ton university. you tell us the story? >> i don't know the story about them. at the bicentennial of prince on, 200 years. they gathered all of the living first ladies together. and mrs. cleveland, who whuz much younger than grover cleveland had lived in prince ton. so she was there. and there was edith and that's truman. i don't know if eleanor roosevelt was there. they tried to have them all. but there's a president of president truman with these three first ladies. yeah. >> i know that ellen wilson had to entertain theodore roosevelt at an army-navy game when woodrow was president of prince ton. and she did contact frances cleveland for advice on how to entertain ex-presidents.
> did she go back to the white house? > who? > edith. did she ever go back to the white house again? >> i don't know. >> with the kennedys. >> yeah. >> and i think with the roosevelts. >> one thing i thought was very interesting is that when fdr went to congress on september 8 the day after the bombing at pearl harbor, he invited edith wilson to come and sit in the gallery as she had sat in the gallery when wood row wilson called for war in the first world war. >> your question? >> i have a question here about the president's illness when edith was covering up or not letting the nation know about his illness, was she being investigated or did she commit a crime by doing this? >> i don't know that it was a crime. i think it was a big
mistake. no, there was no congressional investigation. i mean, that -- christie mentioned the smelling committee sending the senators up to check on him. that's as far as they are when they got with it. >> as we close out here, first of all, james m. wants to know about edith wilson's funeral in 1961 when she died. what was that like? >> i had no idea. was there anything special about it? >> the quiet people. she was buried with him in the cathedral. >> we talk about them, they were the first and only presidential couple to be married in the national cathedral in washington, d.c. those of you who went to europe to see many of the famous people. they got to one president and the first lady. that's it. so in the -- in the close of your book, i want to show a christie miller on screen so people can see the biography of two wives. ellen and edith, woodrow wilson's first ladies.
if people can see the cover, i'm going to open it like i did the last time you had conclusions. e did wilson undeniably had an impact on history. she took over after his stroke enabling him to remain in office. had he resigned in the u.s., he would have joined the league of nation. you write regardless of whether edith wilson had an effect on international relations, her actions changed constitutional law. her assumption of power for woodrow wilson's illness was well known on presidential suppression. this is the part i wanted to go to. edith wilson did not use the power of presidential spouse as constructively as she might have. she made no effort to model better notions between the races. her personal style did warm up woodrow's stern image in the public eye and the leadership in world war i, knitting, selling bonds, working in a canteen, provided a good role model for american women in wartime. so wrap a bow around all of
this. what we shouldn't think about edith wilson's tenure in the white house and the contributions to the role of first lady and to the country. >> i think as john suggested, unfortunately, her biggest contribution is what not to do, even as late as 1987, william sapphire was writing to nancy reagan writing a column that even as late as 1987, william safire was writing today at the to nancy reagan, don't you be in edith wilson. don't you battle in presidential politics. i'm afraid that is, in some ways, her greatest legacy. >> what an interesting story. take you for being here and telling us about the two first ladies in woodrow wilson's life. thanks. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013]