First Ladies: Ida Saxton McKinley

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Ida McKinley was revered as First Lady for the devotion and loving attention her husband showed on her. Senator Mark Hanna said, “President McKinley has made it

Ida McKinely

pretty hard for the rest of us husbands here in Washington.”

Ida Saxton was born on June 8, 1847 in Canton, Ohio. She was the oldest daughter of James and Katherine DeWalt Saxton.

She attended finishing school in Pennsylvania and was described as ” refined, charming, and strikingly attractive”.

She worked in her father’s bank as a cashier before her marriage. This was very unusual as men usually held these jobs at that time.

In 1867, she met William “Bill” McKinley at a picnic. They were married on January 25, 1871 in Canton, Ohio. Later that year, in December, they had a daughter, Katherine. In April 1873, they had a second daughter, Ida. At four months old, Ida died.

Tragedy struck again in June 1875, when little Katherine died of typhoid fever. Ida McKinley also lost her mother around this time.

The loss of her mother and young daughters in such a short time caused her to become totally dependent on her husband, develop epilepsy and become very fragile and nervous.

At the inaugural ball of her husband as Governor of Ohio, she suffered a seizure, one of those she had in public. “Guests noted that whenever Mrs. McKinley was about to undergo a seizure, the President would gently place a napkin or handkerchief over her face to conceal her contorted features.

Ida McKinely

When it passed, he would remove it and resume whatever he was doing as if nothing had happened.”

Ida stayed busy crocheting and making gifts to be auctioned off for charities, but considered herself an invalid the rest of her life.

As President, her husband made every effort to accommodate her condition. This included allowing her to be seated for the receiving line and to sit her next to him.

Many of the social chores fell to the wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Jennie Tuttle Hobart.

Ida McKinley often traveled with her husband as he traveled.

In October 1898, her only brother, George, was murdered in Canton, Ohio.

When President McKinley was shot he murmured to his secretary: “My wife – be careful how you tell her – oh, be careful.”

With the assassination of her husband she lost her will to live. She visited her husband’s grave daily, withdrew into the safety of her home and was cared for by her younger sister, Mary.

Ida McKinley died on May 26, 1907 and is buried beside her husband and daughters in McKinley Memorial Mausoleum in Canton, Ohio.





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