Edith Wilson: An Unsung Hero or Villain?

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8 thoughts on “Edith Wilson: An Unsung Hero or Villain?

  1. Fascinating article. You frequently hear of Eleanor Roosevelt, Martha Washignton, and Lady Bird Johnson- but Edith Wilson seems to have been forgotten by the mainstream.
    Was she a hero or villain? Tough to say not knowing more about the woman. The specter of usurped Presidential powers is unsettling though not unheard of in American politics. After Ronald Reagan was injured by an assassination attempt, three of his advisers announced in a news conference that they were in charge of the executive branch. Needless to say that this raised some eyebrows. In that situation the Vice-president is technically in charge. Did they- or Edith Wilson- take power for the sake of power? Impossible to say.

  2. Ah, the Presidents of the United States– such interesting stories they have to tell us. In the past, anyway. Political homogenization has made them too boring now.

    I don’t think the idea that Edith Wilson was heroic needs to be confluent with her doing the right thing. She stepped up, protected her husband and, by extension, the country the way she thought best. That was heroic indeed. Things were very different in those days, but, even so, it should have been the Vice President who took over, even if Wilson didn’t officially resign. Was Edith Wilson heroic? I think so. Did she do the right thing? No, I don’t think so. But it sure is a great story. 😀

  3. Great comments, guys. Lupine, I can remember the stampede to assume the powers of the Presidency after Reagan was shot nearly 30 years ago. It would have been comical had it not been so serious. In that instance, people sought to be identified as the power-holder, whereas in Edith Wilson’s case, she sought to avoid such limelight.
    RJ, you raise an interesting distinction between a heroic intention and a heroic act. I agree with you. Even if Edith were wrong, her intentions were probably noble. An interesting paradox.

  4. Like one of the previous comments, when you think of notable women in history, Edith slips through the cracks, this was a marvelous article that show the influence of women in history.

  5. I, too, found it refreshing to read about significant women in history that often remain relatively unknown. I, personally, have never heard Edith’s story outlined in any degree of detail. I think what she did was amazing. Obviously she went way above and beyond the call of duty by literally stepping into her husband’s shoes (albeit somewhat secretly) and supporting him in a way that nobody else could. I think that Edith Wilson provides proof that it’s possible to be both a Hero and a Villain simultaneously. What she did to help her husband and her country was most definitely a heroic act. She never wavered when he faltered. Might there have been a better means of handling the situation? Absolutely. So there are those that would view her as a hero (such as her husband) and those that would view her as a villain (such as the government members who believed they had a better solution). However this split doesn’t take away from her actions in themselves which are definitely worthy of our consideration.

  6. What a wonderful way to learn about history. I had no inkling about this lady when I went through my early history lessons and was required to learn cold facts and dates. I am definitely a people person and became excited as I read this, my first of your hero blogs. From my own experience I have seen how a person in the forefront and limelight is often able to accomplish “heroic feats” because of another very significant person who protects the hero and keeps the overall operation going.

  7. I think it goes without saying that Edith Wilson made a bold choice to step into the shoes of her President-husband when he was deemed as being psychologically and physically disabled and unfit to carry out the role of President. However, despite her immediate action of taking the bull by the horns, so to speak, I have to question whether or not it was necessarily the right thing to do. True, I think it was quite admirable how she stayed by Woodrow's Wilson's side throughout the entire ordeal; however, I just find the entire concept of her acquiring the role of "acting President" to be extremely unnerving. How qualified was she for such a position? It just bothers me to think that such a responsibility was allowed to be carried out by somebody potentially so ineligible. Edith Wilson became the voice of her husband, even after it was recommended that he resign. I mean, how do we know that the decisions she made without first consulting him were the ones that he would have made? It is this notion that is so disturbing.

  8. Edith Wilson did what she had to do in a trying time for both the president and the United States. She was heroic for showing the intelligence and ability to not only hide and help her husband, but to virtually act as president during the difficult times for her and her husband.

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