PPM Picks is a weekly feature offering film, book, or music recommendations from our staff. The links provided in the article go to product listings on Amazon. Purchases made using these links support the Presidential Pet Museum. That said, we were not paid to review or promote any of the items mentioned. We just legitimately like them.
by Andrew Hager, Historian-in-residence
Woodrow Wilson was born on December 28, 1856. In honor of his birthday, we have two picks for you this week!
The first is, of course, our children’s book Old Ike: The Fictionalized Story of Woodrow Wilson’s Ram. The book details Wilson’s second term in office through the eyes of the ram Wilson brought to the White House for a publicity stunt in 1917. It’s ideal for middle-grade readers, but it will hopefully appeal to adults curious about presidential pets as well.
When I was writing this book, I did quite a bit of research on President Wilson. The most interesting source I found was Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson, by William Hazelgrove. This well-researched biography focuses on the relationship between the president and Edith Bolling, whom he met after the death of his first wife.
Edith was a pioneer, a businesswoman who drove an electric car. (She was the first woman in the District of Colombia to receive a driver’s license.) Wilson was drawn to her immediately. By all accounts, theirs was a passionate romance between intellectual equals.
When the president suffered a stroke while touring to promote the League of Nations, Edith found herself in a rare position: she became the gatekeeper to the president, seeking both to relieve his stress and prevent the full extent of his illness from becoming known. She made decisions on his behalf, delegated tasks to cabinet members, and even forged Wilson’s signature on legislation. Essentially, she became our country’s chief executive–our first (if unofficial) female president.
Wilson was considered one of the great presidents for much of the 20th century, though his reputation has declined in recent years. Hazelgrove’s book does not attempt a rehabilitation, but it offers a fascinating look at the strong woman behind the man and provides a fine overview of the Wilson Era for those with only a cursory knowledge of the period.