Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Our First Woman President

Edith Wilson stayed up late deciphering code from messages overseas while her husband Woodrow Wilson lay in his bedroom ravaged from the effects of a massive stroke. The first woman to wield presidential power did not vote. She couldn't. Edith took over in 1919 and women would not get the vote until 1921. The women who demonstrated out in the darkness  by the White House gates for the right to vote had no idea they had hopscotched to the highest office in the land. When they did get the vote two years later they still had no idea that a woman had been running the government and given them a helping hand behind the scenes.

Edith governed when women were second class citizens. African Americans had the vote for forty years already but women did not enjoy the basic rights their husbands did. Edith had to deal with men who saw her as the Presidents second wife, his girlfriend, someone who did not know anything about politics. But Edith was tough as she had to be. She solved the problems she could, delegated away others, and threw some to the side. All the while she fought to keep her husband alive.

And now almost a hundred years later we have the prospect of the first elected Woman President. Edith had to rule at a time when women had no say at all. She had to push through the equivalent of a Jim Crow South to get basic things accomplished. Alone, isolated, burdened with an invalid, Edith Wilson gritted it out until 1921 and lived for another forty years. She never once complained or mentioned she stepped in and ran the country. The patchwork quilt leading to Hillary Clinton certainly has the needlepoint of Edith Wilson.

Madam President The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson

Books by William Hazelgrove