She was the type of person who was gently reserved, dignified and poised. She wasn't an outgoing person but more of a homely person who liked to travel or spend quiet evenings at home with friends. She didn't believe in being a fake person at all. If she disliked a new acquitance, she wouldnot pretend otherwise. As a matter of fact, her non-existent social life with the real world has made her appear as a "great romatic" (sarcastically speaking) a professional in the art of love and marriage.
Before Edith married the president, her first husband (Norman Galt) was the owner of a jewelry store. She saw him as a "lovely person" but finally she caved in and accepted his proposal after four years of courtship. Marrying him gave her a chance to experience the life that she wanted to live. Unfortunately, the marriage part of it didnot last because Norman died in 1908. He left Edith sole heir to the family Jewelry store which she managed which kept her well-off financially.
After his death Edith took care of a young lady named Helen Bones who then introduced her to President Woodrow Wilson. It appeared to be love at first sight because shortly after the two month courtship. He asked her to marry him.
One must understand that the marriage between the first lady and the President was very close from the start. The closeness of their relationship didn't occur when he became ill but from the very first encounter. As a matter of fact, Colonel House , Wilson's closest personal advisor, complained in his diary about their relationship. According to Marianne Means, " he complained peevishly in his diary that Wilson was spending too much time on affairs of the heart and too little on the affairs of the state. His jealousy pushed him to say that "he...was...determined to get rid of the meddle-some widow (Mrs.Galt)".
However, On October 2, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson suffered with a sudden stroke, and from that day his doctor and his wife decided to keep one of the biggest secrets that the white house had ever known. Mrs. Wilson was told that her husband couldn't take any stress and that included the running of the country. This is when Edith took over the role of the President and as Wilson said when he announced the engagement " whatever the president's malady" which meant whatever the lady wanted is what she received and that's what occured in the following years. She appointed herself presidential spokeswoman. She had to be careful not to bring up to many problems to worry him, so any problems that needed his attention were taken care of by her. But when they became unsolvable, she would find a way to tell him without upsetting his condition.
Many observers have a different view on what position the first lady had in her husbands abscence. The Liberty magazine, stated that she wasn't only acting president but secretary to the president and secretary of state. However, the role of the first lady was broader than an acting President or Secretary. She had to use her own judgement, and according to Means, "not only was she exercising censorship by selection but she was also coloring the major problems she discussed with the President".This shows that the first lady had to be intelligent inorder to pull off this position. Furthermore , she would stay up late at night to go through important documents that needed the presidents attention.
This is obviously the work of a woman who organized her work and stayed within the guidelines of a Presidency. This is why Edith Bolling Galt should be recognized as a new woman because she kept her husbands illness a secret from the United States and in fact ran the Presidency.
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Fall Semester 1998. Last modified: 14 December 1998.