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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Edith Wilsons Love Hate Relationship with the Suffragettes

She really didn't like them. They were pushy and flashed the president as he drove by. They chained themselves to the White House gate and burned Edith's husband in effigy. They put their bodies in front of the presidential  limousine. Then when they were arrested and went on hunger strikes and called her husband foul names. The suffragettes were getting no love from the woman who would take over the White House and run it from 1919 to 1921.

Edith Wilson was from the South and even though she had an electric car, traveled the world, had a somewhat racy affair with a sitting president; she still believed a lady should like a lady. And she didn't particularly care about getting the vote. She was doing just fine and she had made her way after a dead husband and a dead baby and escaped poverty by grit and determination. So why should women need any more power than they already had?

But then the story veers. When Woodrow Wilson was approached to speak to the Senate on behalf of the women's right to vote he said no citing protocol and the Sabbath. But then a sudden switch of heart and he consented. Wilson didn't believe in an amendment giving women the right to vote. He thought of it as a state issue. But within hours after the request he mysteriously changed his mind. All the facts point toward Edith. She was at the bottom practical and saw that the vote would come eventually for women. Woodrow could secure his place in history by pushing it through.

Woodrow  Wilson used Edith as a sounding board and on this issue his young wife certainly had a voice. Edith Wilson was a woman who went her own way and he we can see her dismissing protocol and the sabbath with a snap of her fingers. It is fitting the  First Woman President should have had  a hand in the struggle to get women the vote.

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Books by William Hazelgrove