Everyone was excited when we nearly had a female president. But what many people do not know is that First Lady Edith Wilson acted as president – his steward- when her husband (President Woodrow Wilson) had a stroke in 1919.
Edith Wilson was an amazing woman who stood for her husband while he recovered from his stroke. She was the one who would not think about making her husband resign from the presidency in fear that the decision would depress her husband.
This decision made her unpopular with many people who saw her choice as a desperate grab for power. But her choice was also one of a strong woman who was determined to stand by her husband’s side during a critical period in his life. She acted as a steward and went between the President and his cabinet with all concerns in order to aid her husband in the best way that she felt she could.
Even before his stroke, Edith was heavily involved with the presidency. She had a secretary handle most of the typical First Lady duties while she spent the majority of her time by her husband’s side. She had a great deal of access to classified documents and secret codes used during the war. She even screened his mail with his blessing.
Her ancestry is just as unique as her time as First Lady. She was related to Thomas Jefferson, Martha Washington, Letitia Tyler and the Harrison family. This was by both marriage and by blood. She could trace her ancestry all the way back to colonial Virginia and she was even directly descended from Pocahontas.
Edith was the seventh of eleven children:
- Rolfe Emerson Bolling (1861-1936)
- Gertrude Bolling Galt (1863-1962)
- Annie Lee Bolling Maury (1865- unknown)
- William A. Bolling (1867- unknown)
- Bertha Bolling (1869-1937)
- Charles Bolling (1871- died as a baby)
- Edith Bolling Galt Wilson (1872-1961)
- John Randolph Bolling (1876-1951)
- Richard Wilmer Bolling (1879- unknown)
- Julian Brandon Bolling (1882- unknown)
- Geraldine Bolling (1885-1887)
Despite her amazing ancestry and her unique time in the White House, her childhood was rough and she lived with poor relatives. That makes her amazing trip to the White House and her tough stance on her husband’s illness even more remarkable. This is one woman who knew what she wanted and did not let anything stand in her way.
It does not matter whether or not you approve of how she handled her husband’s stroke. You have to admire her strength and determination in what was one of the most difficult moments of her married life.