While President Woodrow Wilson was leading our country through the first World War, at home he dealing with personal adversity as well. During his second year in office, his first wife, Ellen Axson Wilson, passed away from Bright’s Disease, a kidney ailment that was almost always fatal during the early 1900s. She had had this disease for years and didn’t know it. As Feather Foster writes, “the life of Ellen Axson Wilson (1860-1914) was bookended by war: Born in Georgia, just as the cannons of the Civil War were getting ready to boom, [she] died when the cannons of World War I were about to do the same.”
While this was a tremendous tragedy, Wilson met, and fell in love with, another woman named Edith, within months of Ellen’s passing. Edith Bolling Galt had also lost her spouse and was not looking for love. With that said, the New York Times points out that Wilson was head over heels for her. In fact, the head of the White House Secret Service wrote that “He’s [Wilson] hooked hard and fast…and acts like a schoolboy in his first love experience”
Furthermore, as Mental Floss notes, “Wilson’s camp was concerned that the public wouldn’t take well to his being in a new relationship so soon, and his protection took to referring to Edith by the decidedly unsexy code name “Grandma.” At the time, Edith was 42, and Wilson was 58.
Cover Photo: President Wilson and his second wife, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson.