Biography of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson Part 2 Personal Life

About the United States President Woodrow Wilson, biography and history of his personal life and marriage.


28th President



Personal Life: In April, 1883, Wilson attended a church service in Rome, Ga., where he met a girl with a "tip-tilted little nose, sweetly curved mouth, and hair like burnished copper." Ellen Axson, like Wilson, was the child of a Presbyterian minister. Along with her devotion to religion, Ellen maintained a strong interest in the fine arts. An accomplished painter, she spent several months studying at the Art Students League in New York, just before her marriage to Wilson. The date of the wedding was June 24, 1885, and two ministers presided jointly over the ceremony, Wilson's father and Ellen's grandfather--the third clergyman in the family! On the surface the Wilsons maintained a pleasant and proper relationship during their 29 years of marriage, and it was not until 1962, when their remarkable love letters were published, that the passionate, obsessive nature of their union became widely known. In one typical letter Wilson declared: "I would a thousand times rather repay you a tithe of the happiness you have brought me than make my name immortal without serving you as the chief mission of my life. Ah, my little wife, do you know that my whole self has passed over into my allegiance for you?" Ellen bore Wilson three daughters, which was fortunate, because Wilson generally preferred the company of "clever" women to that of men. In 1914, while Wilson was president, Ellen died of Bright's disease at the age of 54. Wilson sat beside her body for two days and was so stricken with grief that he came close to a nervous breakdown. His seemingly incurable depression was heightened by the fact that W. W. I had begun in Europe the same week that his wife died, and Dr. Cary Grayson, the White House physician, took personal responsibility for providing Wilson with the emotional support and distraction that the President needed. Six months after Ellen's death, Grayson helped to engineer a meeting between Wilson and the beautiful Washington widow Edith Bolling Galt. As a romance quickly developed between the two, Wilson's top aides began to worry that an early remarriage might imperil the President's chances for reelection. Furthermore, it was feared that a new love interest might revive persistent (but totally unfounded) rumors that Wilson, while president of Princeton, had conducted an illicit affair with a divorcee in Bermuda. Despite these warnings, Wilson married Edith Galt in the small, private ceremony at her Washington home on Dec. 18, 1915, one year and four months after Ellen's death. With seemingly little difficulty, Wilson managed to transfer to the elegant and sophisticated Edith all the devotion he had felt for his first wife.

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