Written on His Honeymoon With Edith.
Wilson married Ellen Louise Axson of Rome, Georgia, in 1885. The couple had three daughters: Margaret, Jessie, and Eleanor. Ellen Wilson’s time as First Lady was mainly spent with her health failing slowly from Bright’s disease, and she died August 6, 1914, just as World War I broke out in Europe and...
Wilson married Ellen Louise Axson of Rome, Georgia, in 1885. The couple had three daughters: Margaret, Jessie, and Eleanor. Ellen Wilson’s time as First Lady was mainly spent with her health failing slowly from Bright’s disease, and she died August 6, 1914, just as World War I broke out in Europe and required her husband’s urgent attention. Wilson was distraught.
I love you all very, very dearly and it makes me deeply happy that you should all give me the generous trust and affection which you constantly make me feel.
By a quirk of fate and a chain of friendships, Edith Bolling Galt met the bereaved President, still mourning profoundly for his first wife. A man who depended on feminine companionship, the lonely Wilson took an instant liking to Mrs. Galt, charming and intelligent and unusually pretty. Admiration changed swiftly to love. In proposing to her after a courtship of just three months, he made the poignant statement that “in this place time is not measured by weeks, or months, or years, but by deep human experiences…” They were married privately on December 18, 1915, at her home; afterwards they took a brief honeymoon in Hot Springs, Virginia.
There was scandal in Washington because Wilson remarried so soon. But the President’s daughters knew that he had been devastated by the loss of his wife and was desperately lonely. They tried their best to be understanding and to welcome the new wife into the family. Wilson was more than appreciative of this, and in response to a message of support they sent to him on his honeymoon, he wrote a letter, which though addressed to one (most likely Eleanor), was explicitly designed to be communicated to them all. Known as a dour and sober man, this very personal letter to his daughters, actually written while on his honeymoon with Edith, shows an entirely different and unexpected side of him.
Typed Letter Signed as President on White House letterhead, Hot Springs, Va., December 29, 1915, to his daughter, whom he addresses as “My darling little daughter.” “The message in which you all joined yesterday made me very happy. It brought very vividly to my thought the dear circle at home, and I do not know how I can in cold type express the tenderness of love and gratitude with which it stirred me. I love you all very, very dearly and it makes me deeply happy that you should all give me the generous trust and affection which you constantly make me feel. It fills to overflowing the cup of happiness I have been drinking these blessed days here. Edith joins me in messages of dearest love to all.” It is signed “Your devoted father.” This is a very moving letter.
The marriage was a very happy one, but it was just four years before Wilson’s health failed. In September 1919, while he was campaigning for Senate approval of the Versailles Treaty and the League of Nations, a stroke left him partly paralyzed. His constant attendant, Mrs. Wilson took over many duties and details of government; in fact, she was widely accused of making herself acting President. She denied that but certainly selected matters for her husband’s attention and let everything else go to the heads of departments or remain in abeyance. Her “stewardship,” she called this. And in “My Memoir”, published in 1939, she stated emphatically that her husband’s doctors had urged this course upon her. In 1921, the Wilsons retired to a comfortable home in Washington, where he died three years later. A highly respected figure in the society of the capital, Mrs. Wilson took on the role of keeper of her husband’s flame. She lived on to ride in President Kennedy’s inaugural parade in 1961, dying later that year.
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