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1st Woman President from SWVA

Updated: Mar 1



Edith Bolling was born in Wytheville VA on October 15, 1872. Her father was a Judge, and she was one of eleven children. She attended finishing school at Martha Washington in Abingdon, VA. Her first marriage was to Norman Galt, a prominent jeweler in DC. When Galt died unexpectedly at the age of 43, Edith Bolling Gault was a young widow of means and family connections.


In March of 1915, she was introduced to the newly widowed President Woodrow Wilson by her friend and his first cousin, Helen Woodrow Bones. Wilson was immediately smitten and proposed soon after.


Edith Bolling Gault Wilson took on the role of first lady with an abundance of social skills and unwavering support for her husband as he negotiated the end of WWI and the formation of the League of Nations.


In October of 1919, Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke that left him bedridden and partially paralyzed. Edith and Wilson’s doctor and inner circle hid the true extent of the President’s disability from the public.


From October 1919 to March 4, 1921, Edith Wilson “shadow stewarded” which matters of State were important enough to take to the President. She later stated that she never made a single decision herself other than what was important enough for the President to see. She was, however, the sole link between the President and his Cabinet. She also had access to classified and encoded information.


While there was, controversy surrounding the First Lady’s role as “steward” in terms of the Constitution and the transfer of Power, there was nothing that explicitly allowed for an alternative. Perhaps one can point to the passage of the 25th Amendment which deals with Presidential succession and disability as a logical consequence.


Herstory is right here in SWVA. Happy Women’s Herstory Month!!

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