First Ladies: Edith Bolling Galt Wilson

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Edith Bolling Galt Wilson was the second wife of President Woodrow Wilson. She married him in during the middle of his first term after the death of his wife, Ellen

young Edith Boiling Galt Wilson

Axsom Wilson.

Edith Bolling was born on October 15, 1872 in Wytheville, Virginia. She was the daughter of Judge William Holcombe and Sarah “Sallie” Spears White Bolling. She was the seventh of their eleven children, two of whom died in infancy.

She had little formal education and studied under various family members. She also cared for her Grandmother Bolling who was bed bound. Under the woman she learned to read and write, speak partial French, make dresses, crochet, knit and embroider, and learn to appreciate music and poetry.

At fifteen, she went to Martha Washington College, a finishing school. She left after a semester and went to Powell’s School for Girls in Richmond, Virginia. She would say this was the happiest time in her life.

While visiting her sister in Washington, D.C. she met a prominent jeweler, Norman Galt. They were married on April 30, 1896 and lived in the capital city. In 1903 they had a son who only lived a few day. She was unable to have any more children.

In January 1908, her husband unexpectedly died at the age of 43.

In March 1915, she was introduced to President Woodrow Wilson, a widower, by the President’s first cousin.

Woodrow and Edith Wilson

President Wilson took an instant liking to her, which quickly grew into love. ” Distressed at the effect all this might be having on his fiancee, Wilson offered Mrs. Galt the opportunity to back out of their engagement. She replied that she would stand by him not for duty, pity or honor, but for love. Edith also insisted on postponing the wedding until the end of the official year of mourning for Mrs. Wilson.”

Edith Bolling Galt married Woodrow Wilson on December 18, 1915 at her home in Washington, D.C.

Edith served as First Lady during World War I. To support the efforts she “observed gasless Sundays, meatless Mondays, and wheatless Wednesdays to set an example for the federal rationing effort. Similarly, she set sheep to graze on the White House lawn rather than waste manpower in mowing it and auctioned off their wool for the benefit of the American Red Cross.”

Woodrow and Edith Wilson

Returning home from the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, President Wilson suffered a stroke. Edith carefully monitored who could see her husband and assisted him in his duties as President. To this date historians still debate how bad the stroke was and to what extent Edith Wilson ran the country.

In her memoir she called her role a “stewardship”.
In 1921, President Wilson left office and they lived in her Washington, D.C. home. Edith nursed him until his death three years later.

She later served as director of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.

She remained active in Democratic politics. She accompanied President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he asked congress to declare war following the Pearl Harbor attacks and was present at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy.

Edith Wilson died on December 28, 1961. She was 89 years old. She was buried beside her husband at the Washington Cathedral.