Presidents: Woodrow Wilson

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Thomas Woodrow Wilson was President during World War I. He had also served as Governor of New Jersey and President of Princeton University. He was also the

Woodrow Wilson

only president to have earned a PhD.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born on December 28, 1856 in Staunton, Virginia. He was the third of four children born to Joseph Ruggles and Jessie Janet Woodrow Wilson. In 1861 Wilson’s father was one of the founders of the Southern Presbyterian Church in the United States.

Wilson did not begin to read until age ten, which may have been due to dyslexia, which wasn’t really diagnoses at that time. He later blamed it on poor schooling.

He attended Davidson College in North Carolina for one year before transferring to Princeton College. He was admitted to the Georgia bar and briefly practice law.

In 1879, he attended law school at the University of Virginia, where he was involved with the glee club and debate society.

Woodrow Wilson

In the spring of 1883, he was in Rome, Georgia to assist with his uncle’s estate when he met Ellen Louise Axson. He immediately fell in love with her and they became engaged a short time later.

In the fall of 1883, he entered John Hopkins University and received a Ph.D. three years later.

On June 24, 1885, he married Ellen Louis Axson. The couple would have three daughters together.

Woodrow Wilson was an automobile enthusiast, and he advocated for funding for public highways.

Wilson cycled regularly, even taking up cycling vacations. He later took up the game of golf.
In 1885, he published his first political work, which advocated a parliamentary system. More political works would follow.

From 1886-87, he lectured at Cornell University. He also taught at Bry Mawr College from 1885-1888. In 1888, he moved to Wesleyan University to teach. Wilson became the first lecturer of Constitutional Law at New York Law School.

In 1890, he was elected by the Princeton University board to the Chair of Jurisprudence and Political Economy. He also continued taking classes each summer in administration.

Wilson turned down the offer of presidency at several Universities before accepting the position of President of Princeton University in June 1902. He increased the faculty and instituted the academic departments and system of core requirements. He ran into great opposition over a proposed graduate school building, which gained national attention. The stress of the job led to health problems, where rest was prescribed. Some biographers believe they may have been mini-strokes he suffered.

Woodrow Wilson

In 1910, he was elected president of the American Political Science Association. He later decided to leave Princeton and enter New Jersey state politics.

Wilson later commented that politics was less brusque than university administration.

Woodrow Wilson ran as a “dark horse” for Governor of New Jersey. With the help of key Democratic players, he won and took office in January 1911.l

As governor he gained national prominence which led to him becoming the 1912 Democratic nominee for President. He was running against former President Theodore Roosevelt and President William Howard Taft. However, he won.

On March 4, 1913 he was sworn in as president. He noted the presidency was an office “in which a man must put on his war paint”. He was the first southerner elected since 1848 and only Democrats other than Grover Cleveland since 1856.

Wilson pioneered twice-weekly press conferences in the White House. In 1913, he became the first president to deliver the State of the Union address in person since 1801, as Thomas Jefferson had discontinued this practice.

Woodrow Wilson

His wife, Ellen, died from kidney failure on August 6, 1914. “Wilson despairingly said “Oh my God, what am I to do.” Wilson later wrote accurately of his mourning and depression, “Of course you know what has happened to me…God has stricken me almost beyond what I can bear”. Six months of depression followed for him, though mourning continued. ”

During this same time, World War I broke out in Europe and began to change his political life.

Wilson was an avid baseball fan and the first sitting president to attend and throw out the first ball at a World Series game in 1915.

In February 1915, he met a widow, Edith Bolling Gault. The couple met through his cousin,Helen Woodrow Bones, who served as White House hostess following the death of Ellen Woodrow.

When a German submarine torpedoed the RMS Lusitania, in May 1915 public perception began to turn to entering the war.

Woodrow Wilson

On December 18, 1915 he married Edith Gault. He became the third President to marry while in office, following John Tyler and Grover Cleveland. Edith Wilson would enjoy the crowds and campaigning, unlike his first wife, Ellen.

From 1914 to 1917, President Wilson’s objective was to keep America out of the war. He even campagined on that promise when he ran for re-election in 1916.

In November 1916, he won re-election.

Wilson made several offers to mediate peace, with the following taking place on December 18, 1916.

On March 5, 1917, his second term began. On April 4, 1917, Congress declared war on Germany. The War Industries Board was established to set U.S. war manufacturing policies and goals.

In 1919, he spent six months at the Paris Peace Conference. He was the first president to travel to Europe while in office. The League of Nations was proposed and the Treaty of Versailles was signed. President Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 for his efforts to make peace.

He had to cut his trip short due to his health and had a series of strokes which left him an invalid. The strain of traveling took a toll on his health. In Pueblo, Colorado, on September 25, 1919, he collapsed and never fully recovered.

Woodrow Wilson

“He was insulated by his wife, who selected matters for his attention and delegated others to his cabinet.” He was closely monitored by his wife who hid his condition, downplayed the gravity and kept negative news from him. Many historians believe that she may have run the government during this time. The exact extinct of how involved the president was is not known. Eventually he was able to “temporarily resumed a perfunctory attendance at cabinet meetings.”

Prohibition became an amendment during ht war, passing in congress on October 28, 1919. The 19th Amendment also passed, allowing women to vote.

His second term ended on March 4, 1921 and he moved to a townhouse in Washington, D.C.

“On November 10, 1923, Wilson made a short Armistice Day radio speech from the library of his home, his last national address. The following day he spoke briefly from the front steps to more than 20,000 well wishers gathered outside the house.”

On February 3, 1924, he died at home from a stroke. He was 67 years old. He is the only president buried in the nation’s capital at the Washington National Cathedral.

His wife, Edith, outlived him another 37 years and died on his birthday.

Woodrow Wilson is printed on the $100,000 bill, which is the largest denomination of U.S. currency ever printed and only used among Federal Reserve Banks.

In 2010, he was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.


28th President of the United States
(March 4, 1913 to March 3, 1921)

Nickname: “Schoolmaster in Politics”

Born: December 28, 1856, in Staunton, Virginia
Died: February 3, 1924, in Washington, D.C.

Father: Joseph Ruggles Wilson
Mother: Jessie Janet Woodrow Wilson
Married: Ellen Louise Axson (1860-1914), on June 24, 1885; Edith Bolling Galt (1872-1961), on December 18 , 1915
Children: Margaret Woodrow Wilson (1886-1944); Jessie Woodrow Wilson (1887-1933); Eleanor Randolph Wilson (1889-1967)

Religion: Presbyterian
Education: Graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) (1879)
Occupation: Teacher, public official
Political Party: Democrat

  • Governor of New Jersey, 1911-13

Presidential Salary: $75,000/year


  • World War I

Woodrow Wilson Timeline: Presidential Timeline of Important Events
1913 Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated as 28th President of the United States
1913 The Federal Reserve Act, aka the Currency Bill, or the Owen-Glass Act, designed to safeguard the US economy, allowed for a regional Federal Reserve System, operating under a supervisory board in Washington
1913 May: John D. Rockefeller donates $100 million to begin the Rockefeller Foundation on May 14, 1913
1914 World War I (1914-1918) was triggered on 28 June 1914 by the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by a Serbian terrorist group, called The Black Hand. The adversaries involved 2 opposing alliances – the Allies and the Central Powers
1914 August: The Panama Canal was officially opened
1915 The Rocky Mountain National Park is established in Colorado. January 26, 1915
1915 1915 US Congress Authorized “Mounted Inspectors” along the US-Mexico Border
1915 The Sinking of the Lusitania: The British passenger ocean liner, the Lusitania, sailed on May 1st 1915 from New York bound for Liverpool. It was sunk by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915. This action was instrumental in bringing the US into WW1
1915 President Wilson marries Edith Bolling Galt in a Washington, D.C. on December 18, 1915
1916 July: Saboteurs explode an ammunition depot and destroys docks at Toms River Island near Jersey City followed by the destruction of a munitions plant in Kingsland, New Jersey
1916 July: Woodrow Wilson is re-elected President of the United States
1916 The National Defense Act is passed in response to threats at home and deteriorating relations between Germany and the United States
1917 The US entered WWI by declaring war on Germany in 1917 on April 06, 1917
1917 The Espionage and Sedition Acts made it a crime to interfere with the operations of the military to promote the success of its enemies and prohibited many forms of speech perceived as disloyal to the US
1918 The Fourteen Points speech was given to Congress on January 8, 1918 by President Woodrow Wilson
1918 May: The Selective Service Act is passed requiring all men between the ages of 21 and 30 to register with locally administered draft boards for a federal draft conscription lottery
1918 November 11, 1918: End of WW I (the Great War) when the Armistice was signed in Redonthes, France
1919 The devastating world-wide influenza epidemic reaches its height in the US
1919 The Treaty of Versailles was the peace settlement signed after World War One
1919 Prohibition: The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed January 16, 1919 which banned on the sale, production, importation, and transportation of all alcoholic beverages across the nation. The Prohibition era lasted from 1920 – 1933.
1920 The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed May 19, 1919 which guaranteed American women the right to vote
1921 His presidency and term in office ends. The next US President was Warren G. Harding


1856 Woodrow Wilson was born on December 28, 1856 in Staunton, Virginia

1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn

1877 Nez Perce War

1885 Woodrow Wilson’s first marriage – June 24, 1885, to Ellen Louise Axson (1860–1914)

1913 1913 Woodrow Wilson became the President of the United States of America
Federal Reserve Act (1913)

1914 Clayton Anti-Trust Act (1914)

1915 Woodrow Wilson’s second marriage on December 18, 1915, to Edith Bolling Galt (1872-1961)
Lusitania Sunk (1915)

1917 US enters World War I
United States entered World War I by declaring war on Germany (1917)
Espionage and Sedition Acts

1919 Treaty of Versailles

1921 1921 The Presidency of Woodrow Wilson ended

1924 Indian Reorganization Act

1924 Woodrow Wilson died a stroke on February 3, 1924 in Washington D.C. He was buried in the Washington National Cathedral.






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