It is still shocking to the majority of Americans to learn that President Wilson had a massive stroke in office. But to tell people that his wife, Edith Wilson, was the acting President for almost two years is unbelievable. The motivations among historians and the people at the time is simple. If you say Edith Wilson was President from 1919 to 1921,then you diminish the impact Woodrow Wilson had on the country and his legacy.
Power is given to those who can act upon it, and President Wilson, who remained in bed only to be wheeled out for movies and some fresh air, could not act upon anything. The question then is; who was Edith Bolling Wilson? Was she a woman singularly gifted enough to run the country and nurse her husband back to health; or was she a woman doing the best she could in a world of men who saw women as little more than second citizens? Now almost a hundred years later, we ponder the very relevant impact of our First Woman President again.
She was from the South and had two years of formal schooling and wrote like a child. She married a quiet man from Washington and her baby died after three months. Her husband then died and left her with a failing jewelry company that was severely in debt. She turned the company around while taking almost no salary. She bought an electric car and was issued the first driver’s license given to a woman in the District of Columbia. She married a President who had been recently widowed. In four years, the President would have a severe stroke, and leave her to run the Unites States Government and negotiate the end of World War I.
She was our First Woman President.