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Ellen and Edith: Woodrow Wilson's First Ladies (Modern First Ladies) Hardcover – October 15, 2010
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A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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From Publishers Weekly
Miller (Isabella Greenway: An Enterprising Woman) explores how Woodrow Wilson's two wives influenced his time in office, drawing a close connection between personal struggle and political action. Dying of kidney failure just 18 months after Wilson's first inauguration, his wife Ellen Axson had been "quiet, intellectual, dutiful, and frugal." An artist of modest talent who sought success by dedicating herself to her husband's promising career rather than her own, Ellen broadened Wilson's appreciation of art and literature, made translations and digests for his early writing, suggested revisions for books and speeches, and helped him select advisers. An intensely loving partner who struggled with depression, Ellen tolerated and even abetted Wilson's intense, possibly sexual, relationship with another woman. She was also the first presidential wife to lobby for her favorite cause: urban renewal. Fifteen months after Ellen's death, Wilson married a "flamboyant, confident, and fashionable" widow, Edith Bolling Galt, who would become infamous for usurping executive power after Wilson was debilitated by a stroke during his second term, though Miller maintains a scholarly detachment in recounting these possibly world-changing events. This latest installment in the University Press of Kansas's Modern First Ladies series may alter some readers' opinions of our nation's 28th president. 22 photos.
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"Miller’s text is filled with rich detail about how Wilson lived and interacted with his two wives . . . Miller provides readers with important insights into Woodrow Wilson’s relationships that earlier works, which focused solely on one of the women in his life, have not."—Historian
"A well documented, long-overdue comparison of President Wilson’s two wives."—Journal of American History
"Eye-opening. . . . I had always thought of Wilson as a bit of a cold fish, an aloof figure and devout Presbyterian who had a Ph.D. in history and political science, and read books like Abel Hendy Jones Greenidge’s Handbook of Greek Constitutional History (1896). All of which is true, but he was also intensely romantic."—Weekly Standard
"In this compelling book Miller has given us a rich portrait of Woodrow Wilson’s two wives, telling family stories that became deeply significant to the course of the twentieth century."—John Milton Cooper, author of Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
"In felicitous prose, Miller brings to life two remarkable and very different first ladies. Readers will never view Wilson or his presidency the same way again."—Stacy A. Cordery, author of Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from White House Princess to Washington Power Broker
"A fascinating, original contrast of two first ladies and with it a fresh view of their complex husband. An authoritative dual biography."—Michael McGerr, author of A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870–1920
"Woodrow Wilson desperately needed adoring women to warm up his austere personality and to advise him. One of America’s most important presidents and the historic defender of internationalism and the right of self-determination, Wilson could not be a great man without feminine support. . . . Deeply researched and graced with balanced judgment, this is a book you must read to understand Wilson and the twentieth century."—Kathleen M. Dalton, author of Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life
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Ms Miller attempts to make a case that Edith Wilson was not the ruler of the nation when her husband was felled by a stroke from which he never truly recovered. However, I am not sure I totally buy her evidence, in that whether or not Edith intended to "rule," but rather merely wanted to protect her husband, the outcome of many things pending at the time of the stroke, including the League of Nations, may have been totally different had the Vice President been able to take over when Wilson was incapacitated. Edith cut the president off from anyone that she personally disliked, or felt would upset her husband, and far too many officials were kept in the dark about how grave Wilson's illness really was. Edith was not the intellectual that Ellen was, and she seemed to more than share Wilson's racial prejudices, but she was more "fun-loving" then Ellen, in that she enjoyed attending the amusements he favored. In the decades from his death to hers, she was truly "the keeper of the flame," and to some extent a power player in Democratic Party circles. Ms Miller provides the reader with extensive notes and a narrative bibliography, indicating the level of research she conducted for this book. There are also many photographs of Wilson and his wives. Which First Lady you find most appealing might be a matter of personal taste -- I am more in the Ellen camp than that of Edith, even though I am a fan of activist First Ladies such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton.