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Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson
     

Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson

by William Hazelgrove
 

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After President Woodrow Wilson suffered a paralyzing stroke in the fall of 1919, his wife, First Lady Edith Wilson, began to handle the day-to-day responsibilities of the Executive Office. Mrs. Wilson had had little formal education and had only been married to President Wilson for four years; yet, in the tenuous peace following the end of World War I, Mrs. Wilson

Overview

After President Woodrow Wilson suffered a paralyzing stroke in the fall of 1919, his wife, First Lady Edith Wilson, began to handle the day-to-day responsibilities of the Executive Office. Mrs. Wilson had had little formal education and had only been married to President Wilson for four years; yet, in the tenuous peace following the end of World War I, Mrs. Wilson assumed the authority of the office of the president, reading all correspondence intended for her bedridden husband and assuming his role for seventeen long months. Though her Oval Office presence was acknowledged in Washington, D.C. circles at the time—one senator called her "the Presidentress who had fulfilled the dream of suffragettes by changing her title from First Lady to Acting First Man"—her legacy as "First Woman President" is now largely forgotten.

William Hazelgrove's Madam President is a vivid, engaging portrait of the woman who became the acting President of the United States in 1919, months before women officially won the right to vote.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
01/16/2017
Novelist Hazelgrove (Jackpine) turns his attention to nonfiction history with less than stellar results, despite his fascinating choice of topic. In 1919, while President Woodrow Wilson was on an ambitious public relations tour to shore up support for the Versailles Treaty and League of Nations, he collapsed from ill health and exhaustion; a stroke followed. Details of the severity of the stroke were kept from the public as Edith Bolling Wilson, his second wife, strictly controlled access to the president. Hazelgrove posits that Woodrow Wilson’s inner circle was “concerned with preserving the status quo” and resisted any talk of a presidential resignation. Instead, Edith took over the reins of government. This is not a novel argument, nor has Hazelgrove unearthed any new information concerning Edith’s activities. The story proceeds in short, breathless chapters, and the writing is simplistic and at times graceless. Of one of Wilson’s marital indiscretions, Hazelgrove writes, “Mary Peck became Wilson’s Bermuda friend, for lack of a better word.” Readers who like their history very light—without nuance or new information—might find this book serviceable. Those looking for something more thought-provoking and well-researched can turn to Kristie Miller’s Ellen and Edith (2010) and Phyllis Lee Levin’s Edith and Wilson (2001). Illus. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
Review in Foreword:

"Women have assumed presidential power before, as this compelling portrait of Edith Wilson shows.

Has America already had a woman president? William Hazelgrove’s Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson makes a compelling case to that effect, detailing how First Lady Edith Wilson assumed many of her husband’s responsibilities after Woodrow Wilson suffered a crippling stroke.

Pairing historical facts with a lively, engaging narrative, Hazelgrove sets the scene leading to the President’s health crisis. Wilson came to office with preexisting hypertension and arteriosclerosis. World War I and the unsuccessful fight to join the League of Nations took a further toll on his well-being. Following the October 1919 stroke, Wilson was left partially paralyzed and blind in one eye. He was also physically weak, psychologically overwhelmed, and hardly fit to serve.

Hazelgrove’s portrait of Edith reveals a capable, devoted woman, unexpectedly forced to play a major part in governing the United States. The pressure placed upon Mrs. Wilson was intense. The President’s post-stroke condition had to be kept confidential so as not to alarm an already anxious nation.

Wilson’s political rivals needed to be subdued as well, particularly “venomous serpent” Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, as Edith called him, and the pugnacious Theodore Roosevelt, both men portrayed vividly by Hazelgrove.

Despite his health issues, Wilson did not concede to Vice President Thomas Marshall. Therefore, until the end of Wilson’s term in 1921, Edith quietly handled a triage of Oval Office matters while acting as her husband’s confidante and caretaker.

Gesturing to Edith Wilson as “Madam President” is shown to be deserved, though her role was never officially acknowledged. For a woman who had little formal education or prior political experience, Edith Wilson’s efforts to keep the White House afloat are shown to have been extraordinary.

Madam President brings Edith Wilson’s so-called petticoat government to its rightful light, and offers a poignant look at Woodrow Wilson, as a lover, a husband, and a leader."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781621574750
Publisher:
Regnery Publishing
Publication date:
10/17/2016
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
48,606
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

William Hazelgrove is the author of ten novels including Jackpine (2015) and The Pitcher (2013), a Junior Library Guild Selection. His books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist, Book of the Month Selections, Junior Library Guild Selections, and ALA Editor’s Choice Awards. He was the Ernest Hemingway Writer-in- Residence where he wrote in the attic of Ernest Hemingway's birthplace. He has been the subject of interviews in NPR's All Things Considered along with features in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Richmond Times Dispatch, USA Today, People, Channel 11, NBC, WBEZ, and WGN. Hazelgrove also runs a political cultural blog, The View from Hemingway's Attic. http://www.williamhazelgrove.com

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