Overall Rating: Recommended (How I Rate Books)
Personal Rating: Well written, and shortish, history book about an under told woman in American History
Genres: History, Nonfiction, Biography, America, Politics
Previous books by the author/in the series I’ve reviewed:
Here’s a short review for this nonfiction book.
This book was about Edith Wilson, Woodrow Wilson’s second wife. Midway through Wilson’s second term in office, at the height of WW1, he had a stroke. Edith was put in a horrible situation: either have her husband resign from office in the middle of the war (and thereby devastate American morale) so he can recover, or cover up the fact that he had a stroke.
She did what she felt she had to do, unofficially taking on the role of the President, acting in the unofficial role as the Presidency’s ‘caretaker’ while her husband was recovering. She chose what priorities the White House dealt with on a day-to-day basis, forged Woodrow’s signature on documents, made political alliances with congressmen and senators, lied to the press to preserve her husband’s legacy, all while being her invalid husband’s chief nurse and caretaker. As WW1 was winding down she helped make military decisions, and then helped determine the terms of the peace afterwards. By the end of the war it had become a fairly open secret that she was the President of the United States by default, and for decades after she was honored for her role in holding America together in a time of need.
Her legacy isn’t perfect, however. Woodrow Wilson’s pet project, the League of Nations (aka the United Nations 1.0), never got passed, in part because of her failing to convince Woodrow to compromise. Woodrow’s stroke made him more irritable and paranoid, so even Edith’s best intentions and manipulations weren’t enough to save the League of Nations.
As a more general criticism of this book, the author didn’t really discuss Wilson’s difficult history of racism. I don’t really know much about Wilson, but I do know that. I think the author could have mentioned it.
Overall, this is a good nonfiction book. I can recommend it if you’re curious about it.