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Who Was America’s First Claimed De-facto Female President?

While her husband recovered from a massive, partially paralyzing stroke - which he suffered on October 2, 1919 - Edith Bolling Wilson made key political decisions on her husband’s behalf.

Despite his debilitated status, Wilson did not resign (at his wife’s insistence).  Edith - who preferred to be called “Mrs. Woodrow Wilson” - worried that losing office would kill him.

In seeking to protect her husband, Edith assumed a major political role. She decided what papers the President would review, what issues he would ponder and what people he would see.

Later, after people learned what had really happened, historians referred to Edith Wilson as America’s first claimed de-facto female president.

A similar situation could not occur today since, in 1967, the American people ratified the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It states what will happen if an American President becomes disabled.

What do you think motivated Edith Wilson to take the actions she took in 1919 and 1920?

Why, do you think, members of the President’s cabinet did not insist on meeting with him after so many months?

Do you think people were getting suspicious about Wilson not appearing in public for so long?

Do you think a similar situation could happen (or would be tolerated) in the 21st century?


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