April 2017 BOOK REVIEW by Sheila Lamonzs
The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson
AUTHOR: WILLIAM HAZELGROVE
Edith Bolling Wilson gives a whole new meaning to the phrase: Behind every good man is a good woman!
‘Presidentress’ is the word that was coined during the era that Edith Bolling Wilson was at the helm of government in the United States. This woman who was energetic, smart, assertive, humorous, appealing to the eye (Wilson was first attracted to her buxom, yet slender figure) with a limited formal educational background, managed to rule the roost in the White House for almost two years. Her deportment is now heralded as heroic, providing a strong ethic for the woman who might strive to reach this pinnacle. However, the conditions under which she was thrust into this unprecedented charge were caused by a horrific twist of fate. One day she was First Lady, the next she was struggling to protect the man she loved, becoming one of the most controversial characters in our history.
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was a formidable president. He wrote and spoke with an intellectual elegance that was praised by his constituents yet had an unrelenting, almost stubborn determination in his persistent beliefs of what was best for this country. Unfortunately, Wilson was less than able-bodied, having significant difficulties with blood pressure, arterial stress. He was prone to severe headaches, rendering him incapable of focusing on tasks. It was a compilation of these symptoms that caused a stroke while he was trying to reach the masses in America to convince them that the League of Nations needed to be ratified. In her pursuit of keeping his condition unknown to governmental dignitaries and the public at large, Edith stepped into her protective mode and made it impossible for Wilson to be seen under any circumstances. With all that was challenging the presidency, she refused to allow her husband to be seen as incapable of functioning and made it appear that he was ‘under the weather’ but still able to hold the reigns. Edith then became the formidable one, frustrating and/or tossing prominent men around as if they were playthings. This has to be one of the most remarkable pieces of non-fiction on record.
Many women have had to assume total responsibility for their survival and that of their families for centuries. It seems to be a part of our DNA. However, when we think of Edith Bolling Wilson, we envision boldness, valiance, honor, determination and, most of all, a love with no barriers. She reigned by default, but so have others who actually went through the process. With pride we salute this strong, progressive Virginian as Madam President!