With the upcoming elections we may see the first elected woman president; but some may not realize that a woman was assigned the duties of Commander and Chief back in 1919. At the time Woodrow Wilson had been elected as the 28th President of the United States; but a stroke in September of 1919 left him partially paralyzed.
Though her official title would not be “Madam President”, it was Wilson’s wife, Edith, who took on many of the responsibilities of running the government. She did not make any “major” decisions in regards to military or executive action but the day to day activities of the nation where left on her capable shoulders.
Edith Wilson was an interesting figure both because of her personality and past. She was a direct descendent of Pocahontas and was not Woodrow Wilson’s first wife. Ellen Wilson, President Wilson’s first wife, passed away in 1914 of Bright’s disease. Rumors spread that President Wilson was having an affair and Edith had somehow murdered the First Lady in order to get closer to the President. But since Edith and Woodrow Wilson did not officially meet until March 1915 at the White House, these rumors where unfounded and of particular offence to Edith.
In her memoir, And in My Memoir, published in 1939- she regarded her time spent as Commander and Chief as simply her “stewardship,” and was advised by Woodrow Wilson’s doctors to take on this responsibility.
Woodrow Wilson died in February 1924. He is regarded as one of the great leaders of our nation who has the unique distinction of leading the United States in tandem with his tenacious young wife. Edith would live on for decades after her husband passed. She took over the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and even attended the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. Edith Wilson passed away on December 28th 1961 at the age of 89.