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Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson

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Peek behind the scenes at Edith Wilson, the first woman president.

324 pages, Hardcover

First published October 17, 2016

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About the author

William Hazelgrove

31 books203 followers

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William Hazelgrove is the National Bestselling author of ten novels and seven nonfiction titles. His books have received starred reviews in Publisher Weekly Kirkus,Booklist, Book of the Month Selections, ALA Editors Choice Awards Junior Library Guild Selections, Literary Guild Selections, History Book Club Selections and optioned for the movies. He was the Ernest Hemingway Writer in Residence where he wrote in the attic of Ernest Hemingway’s birthplace. He has written articles and reviews for USA Today, The Smithsonian Magazine, and other publications and has been featured on NPR All Things Considered. The New York Times, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, CSPAN, USA Today have all covered his books with features. His books Tobacco Sticks, The Pitcher, Real Santa, and Madam President have been optioned for screen and television rights. His book Madam President The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson is currently in development He has four forthcoming books. Sally Rand American Sex Symbol, Morristown The Kidnapping of George Washington. The Brilliant Con of Cassie Chadwick. One Hundred and Sixty Minutes, the Race to Save the Titanic.

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5 stars
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207 (36%)
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63 (11%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 132 reviews
Profile Image for Stacy.
1,004 reviews91 followers
December 14, 2016
This was a fascinating look at a First Lady few of us know much about. A well written book concerning a time in our country's history and the reign of Woodrow Wilson, who suffered a disabling stroke while President. Concealed to a great deal by history books and the media, Mrs. Wilson stepped up to the plate to fill in for her husband-- for the sake of his health, legacy, policies and to not further throw our country into even more chaos and upheaval at a critical time in our history. It is truly amazing that she could even attempt to contend with all of the challenges she faced, especially since she had only two years of formal education. This book is especially fitting now, with the upcoming election and a woman who claims if elected, would be the first woman President, and with the revelations exposed in this book, prove that would be untrue. This is a must read of any history lover or political connoiseur. I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
465 reviews2 followers
January 23, 2017
MADAM PRESIDENT by William Hazelgrove
I was disappointed. I was looking forward to this book having recently read another book that referred to Mrs. Wilson’s acting in the President’s stead.
The facts are all here but the writing is very pedestrian. It reads like a college student’s research paper. There is no attempt to construct a cohesive storyline. The chapters jump from Ellen (first wife) to Edith (second wife), from before World War I to during the war and other chronological leaps with no linkage or connection to the preceding chapter. There are notations of the year under the chapter headings, but nonetheless, the jumps are disconcerting and unnecessary.
The book does describe the machinations of Doctor Grayson to keep Edith as the President’s voice; the disconnect of Vice President Marshall who made it very clear he didn’t want the job of presiding over the country; and the frustration of the politicians who were quite deliberately keep from any contact with the ailing and incapacitated President. As a result Wilson’s dream of a functioning League of Nations was lost.
Such a shame. This could have been a riveting and frighteningly true tale of politics, illness, laws, privacy, the League of Nations, ambition, wifely concern, the public’s right to know, medical practice and chicanery. It wasn’t.
2 of 5 stars
Profile Image for HR-ML.
1,140 reviews43 followers
July 23, 2020
I read the Kindle version and gave this 3.5 stars.

Woodrow Wilson (WW) wed twice. Once as a widower
in the White House. Edith, his 2nd wife, had been
widowed by her spouse who owned a jewelry concern.
She made this business even more successful. She had
only 2 years of formal education but she possessed a
keen mind.

When President Wilson courted Edith, he freely discussed
Presidential quandaries and correspondence and even
taught her how to de-code secret messages he received.
His wanted to establish the League of Nations to prevent
wars. They wed a few years before his debilitating stroke.

Pres. Wilson had a stroke in October 1919. For the next 18
mos. until he left the White House, his wife would fill in
as President for him. She preferred to call herself the
"steward." He was paralyzed on his left side& had variable
cognition & speech ability. Some days he was mind was
clearer than other. Some days he spoke clearly, others he
spoke in a whisper. She and his MD, Dr. Grayson, conspired
to make his condition seem better than it was. They isolated
Wilson and seldom allowed visitors except a select few. He
held only a few informal Cabinet meetings where his Secre-
tary of State, War, Interior etc did most of the talking.

His Vice President Thomas Marshall wasn't eager to be
elevated to the Presidency. The Constitution at the time
provided a line of succession but it had a vague definition
of Presidential disability & what to do about it.

Pres. was unaware he nearly died. Edith thought he'd worsen
or die if he knew his true condition. He had no control of his
body functions and eventually used a modified wheeled
chair. Edith picked /chose what issues to bring to WW's attn,
b/c the MD suggested she keep him calm/ minimize the
stress of POTUS decision-making. So Cabinet level hires/
fires also ambassadorships were mostly ignored. As were
foreign acts of aggression (before the US entered WW1).

I thought Edith and the MD showed arrogance in their lie.
And they should have informed Wilson of his true condition.
He had a right to know. The US people had a right to know.
Profile Image for Diane Stevens.
63 reviews
September 4, 2016
I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof Copy of the book Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson in exchange for an honest review.

I totally enjoyed this book. The story here is both fascinating and entertaining from the opening Prologue onward. Through the intimacy of human details and the analytical lens of hindsight, Hazelgrove breathes life into the story of Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, First Lady (and perhaps, Acting President) from 1915 to 1921.

Well researched and deftly written, the book's chapters move back & forth in time portraying the realities of President Woodrow Wilson's paralyzing stroke of 1919 & its impact running the White House and the business of government ---- versus Edith's early life, her education, the factors & influences that shaped her mind into a strong personality. I found this literary device perfect for understanding the events of this time period and how Edith became who she was.

I also thought the chapter pacing was smoothly done --- long enough to deal with its topic but short enough to keep the readers interest. We are immersed in the events of the day ----- World War I, German U-boat torpedo warfare in the Atlantic shipping lanes, the subsequent sinking of the Lusitania, passage of the Volstead Act enforcing Prohibition, women's suffrage and the right to vote amendment, and the push/opposition to join the League of Nations. Each character in the book is 3-dimensional and anecdotally drawn.

To sum up, I think this book is written the way history should be taught ---- non-fiction set within a dramatic framework populated by the imperfectly human beings we each are, making our life's choices to the best of our abilities at the time. This book is a keeper, and I look forward to more of this genre from Mr. Hazelgrove.
Profile Image for Chris Carson.
75 reviews7 followers
October 8, 2016
A great story, little known, about his wife acting as President following the health crisis of President Wilson after an exhaustive attempt to secure the League of Nations. Edith did what any First Lady would have done, try to protect her husband, and ended up serving as President or co-President throughout Wilson's last two years. This is how history should be told, fast paced and interesting, it reads like a novel.
452 reviews9 followers
September 3, 2016
A this book unfolds, a secret is revealed about Edith Wilson, the wife of President Woodrow Wilson. When he had a debilitating stroke in 1919,she hid his illness from everyone except for a select few. The world never knew that Edith was making major presidential decisions for two years during tumultuous times. World War 1 was ending and she negotiated peace treaties as well as having an impact on helping women achieve the right to vote. Her strength and devotion to her husband never wavered.
I found this book to be quite interesting as well as a learning experience. I gained knowledge about World War 1 as well as the Homefront during this time. The inside view of Edith and Woodrow Wilson's marriage made me realize the sacrifices that were made. Edith hid her husband's illness and protected him; at the same time making major decisions that would affect her country.
She has never been given credit for actually being the first"woman president" even though it was behind the scenes.
I am glad that I received a copy of this book from the author!
Profile Image for Rose.
208 reviews2 followers
August 27, 2016
I received a free ARC of this book for my honest review. William Hazelgrove's Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson will have a definite value to those who enjoy early 20th century non-fiction and history as it effects United States politics leading up to and encompassing the country's involvement in World War I. The book touches upon a wide range of topics from woman's suffrage to Roosevelt's Rough Riders and although at times the jump from one event or group to another occurs without lead-in, the flow of information is spectacular. The depth of research the author engaged in is evident while Hazelgrove brings to life the struggles and pain that surrounded the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. Through William Hazelgrove's work, we are allowed to walk alongside President Wilson's spouse, adviser, protector and presidential stand-in, Edith, who would influence the governance of the United States during the failing health of Woodrow Wilson and the turbulent times surrounding the declaration of intent to join the Allies.
Profile Image for Janet.
360 reviews8 followers
September 3, 2016
I was sent this eBook and in return was asked to write an honest review. Thank you.
A well-written, interesting book about a worthy subject. Edith Wilson was our de facto president, unbeknownst to most of the country. She kept her husband alive by shielding him from distress and made decisions for him concerning the government, politics, WWI and his overall health.
The author's narration going back and forth in time reveals the depth of President and Mrs. Wilson's relationship and how it was a natural progression for Mrs. Wilson to step in and help her husband to continue in office after his debilitating stroke. As an attorney, I am shocked that this was allowed to occur. But it did.
Was Mrs. Wilson an effective president? The government moved on, but almost at a standstill because the President's health issues had to be hidden and Mrs. Wilson could not publicly act to further the administration's agenda. That was a shame. I think Mrs. Clinton would agree.
Profile Image for Patricia.
330 reviews48 followers
October 16, 2016
For someone living outside the U.S. with no knowledge of any past American president this was a fascinating read. Not only does it outline how America came to be involved in the Great War, it tells us how a country was run throughout this crisis without alerting the public to how ill the man at the helm had become.

An in depth look at Woodrow Wilson's second wife and how she made sure nothing would endanger the health of her husband any further by doing everything in her power to run things behind the scenes, including not opening official mail, this is an incredible look at how a woman ran the country from the White House at a time when women didn't even have the right to vote in the presidential elections.

If you have an interest in the history of a country and how it is governed then this book is definitely for you. If, like myself, you are simply curious and like to know more about history in any form then this is definitely a must read.
Profile Image for Elisha.
332 reviews21 followers
February 3, 2017
This was a fascinating read. I am so happy I had the chance to review this book. This story is about Woodrow Wilson's second wife Edith Wilson and how she took the role or job of keeping the government running smoothly as possible after her president husband, Wilson, was incapacitated after his stroke. Basically behaving as the President. I loved the history of this book, the page turning quality this book had, and showing that the right woman can be in the role of presidency.
Read the rest of my review at

Profile Image for Mary Loveless.
14 reviews
August 27, 2016
I was sent an ARC of this book. I love histories and biographies, and especially love biographies where the subject comes alive. This book does that. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and had a hard time putting it down. I didn't know the story of Woodrow Wilson's second marriage and his stroke while in office, and found the subject fascinating.

Thank you for the ARC, and I know I will be reading more of your works in the future.
Profile Image for Kim.
358 reviews11 followers
September 8, 2016
I am honoured to be able to read an ARC copy of this book. :) It was an interesting book that told the story of how Edith Wilson was basically the president during the term of Woodrow Wilson, and all the things that she did to try and keep it a secret. Although, most of the world knew, there was nothing they could do to change it.
Profile Image for Judy.
208 reviews
October 7, 2016
Thank you William Hazelgrove for sharing an advanced copy of this amazing story. The events that occurred during the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson are unimaginable. Truly a well written historical novel that is well worth reading by all. It holds your interest throughout the book and goes into great depth about the lives of President Woodrow Wilson and his second wife Edith. Who knew?
Profile Image for Merry Miller moon.
210 reviews5 followers
September 8, 2016
Thank you to Goodreads and thank you to the author, William Hazelgrove for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I have always loved history. I must admit before reading this book, I didn't know much about Woodrow or Edith Wilson. This book grabbed me from the very beginning and kept me engrossed throughout my read. That is a sign of a great book. WARNING! Possible Spoilers Ahead! Edith Wilson was Woodrow's second wife. His first wife had died from disease about a year before he met Edith. Woodrow was Edith's second husband, her first husband had died as well. She was left with a financially struggling jewelry business. Edith was able to turn the business into a financial success. She was also the first woman in D.C. to have a driver's license! A woman ahead of her time for sure! Woodrow would write Edith hundreds of love letters! Who knew a president could be a romantic? Does anyone even write letters anymore, let alone love letters? From the moment they became a couple, they had an honest and refreshing relationship. Woodrow told Edith all of the ins and outs of the presidency. Therefore, when he did suffer his stroke and become incapacitated, she was able to fill in so easily. They worked together on issues and spent most of their free time together. The thing I found so amazing about the whole story was how Edith was able to hold it together for as long as she did. HOW was she able to do it? She loved her husband dearly, and to see him in this state physical state, day after day, and then go on and perform the duties of the president of the United States, I'm simply astounded. She was a very strong willed woman for sure. Oh, did I forget to mention that Edith only had a few years of education under her belt? Yeah, apparently her handwriting wasn't very good. And, yet she was able to receive and send official White House correspondence. Unbelievable that Woodrow Wilson would've wanted to run for a third term, even after his stroke! Very interesting read and well written. I'm going to be reading other books from this author. Great book! I highly recommend it if you are interested in history, presidents, or a woman ahead of her time!
Profile Image for Ashley.
151 reviews12 followers
September 14, 2016
I received an advanced copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Well, this was fascinating! I feel like there's so much history we never get to hear or that eventually gets drowned out as time goes on. I had previously read a great biography about First Lady Nellie Taft (Nellie Taft: The Unconventional First Lady of the Ragtime Era, highly recommend it) and since then have been interested in reading more about first ladies, so I was excited to see this book. And, since Taft preceded Wilson, it was kind of nice to have read about the Tafts before reading about the Wilsons.

I'd never heard the story of Edith Wilson before, and I knew very little about Woodrow Wilson's presidency (had no idea, for example, that he had a first wife who died while he was in office as POTUS). I really enjoyed reading about how Edith managed white house visitors, worked with (or didn't work with) senators and cabinet members, and took care of her incapacitated husband. Frankly I would like to know how she didn't have her own nervous breakdown from all of it! Edith seems like she was such an interesting lady that I would have liked to know more about her life leading up to when she met Woodrow. Obviously this book focuses on her time in the white house and as the unofficial acting President, and we do learn about her lack of formal education, prior marriage, and business experience, but I would have liked to read a full biography of her life.

I did have a hard time in following the order of events (both historical and personal) with the chapters jumping back and forth in time. I found myself getting lost trying to remember what happened when, and I would have preferred a more linear time line so I could more easily follow along with the history. I also found the 2016 chapter to be a little out of place at the end; it didn't seem to mesh in with the rest of the book.

Overall, though, I found this book to be very interesting and a good read, and if you are interested at all in political history, presidential history, or women in politics, I recommend it!
Profile Image for Sarah.
48 reviews
April 30, 2023
Writing style: ⭐⭐⭐The flash backs were a little disorienting at times, but I did appreciate the historical details in both the earlier part of Wilson's presidency and the time when his wife Edith acted as a "steward" (her words, not mine) of the presidency. I think there was too much praise of her decision instead of a healthy concern that she may not have made the right call after President Wilson's stroke.

Content⭐⭐⭐⭐: The historical content was very intriguing! The straight facts are super interesting in light of today's events, even though they happened 100 years ago. The main characters Woodrow and Edith Wilson were definitely flawed and disappointing at times. However, their actions during WW1 were really heroic. In spite of obvious health difficulties and a seeming tendency to get emotionally overwhelmed, Woodrow Wilson did some pretty amazing things to guide the country during the war. It's also super interesting that he relied so heavily on Edith to assist him in his presidential duties. Again, not sure what I think about that, but it's an intriguing thing to note.

Overall rating: ⭐ ⭐⭐.5 There are some scandals and questionable actions made by those prominent in Edith Wilson's tale. This book is fairly clean but there are maybe 5 instances of swearing and some mentioning of sexual misconduct or impropriety and an unnecessary emphasis on intimate relationships that Woodrow Wilson had.

If you enjoy a good intriguing tale about US history and getting a better sense of what happened before you arrived on the scene, you might enjoy this book!
1 review19 followers
September 13, 2016
The United States may be on the cusp of electing its first female President in this 2016 election, but author WILLIAM HAZELGROVE wants you to know that our first female President took power about 100 years ago, and ruled our country for more than a year.

Of course, he’s talking about Edith Bolling Wilson, the second wife of President Woodrow Wilson. It’s perhaps common knowledge that Wilson suffered a massive stroke in 1919 near the end of his second term rendering him a physical and at least partial mental invalid.

It’s also generally acknowledged that his wife stepped in and took over significant control of the daily activities of the presidency. But still, while most historians pay lip service to the significant role Edith Wilson played during the final year-and-a-half of her husband’s term, few go as far to say that she was, in fact, the de facto President in almost every sense of the word.

In the subsequent nearly four decades that she survived her husband, Mrs. Wilson took great pains in the public record to deny that she ever usurped any presidential duties of significance, but rather only assisted her husband as he still made all the important decisions and formulated the policies involved with running the daily affairs of the country.

But in this account of that tumultuous final year-and-a-half of the Wilson Administration, Hazelgrove makes a forceful case that Edith Wilson was “the real President” of the United States — so much so that it is accurate and appropriate to call her our “First Woman President.”


I’ve come to know William Hazelgrove for his fiction which runs the gamut from serious mainstream novels, such as “Rocket Man” and “Tobacco Sticks” to more light-hearted fare, such as “The Pitcher” and “Real Santa.” Thus I was intrigued when he decided to wade into nonfiction, and American history to boot — always a favorite subject of mine.

The author digs in, drawing from an extensive research supported by a deep bibliography to build his thesis about what truly went down in the final months of the Wilson presidency.

A great work of historical nonfiction (that is not a dry textbook) should enthrall and entertain as much as it does inform, while sticking to the facts. Fortunately, when you have a great topic and fascinating “true facts,” such a book can almost pull itself along because history itself is often more fascinating than what any fiction writer can create out of whole cloth.

Still, a seasoned fiction writer who understands what makes for interesting fictional characters can bring that insight to fleshing out the personalities of real people as they were — and here the author shines. Under Hazelgrove’s pen Woodrow Wilson comes to life as more than the stiff, hyper-intellectual professor and academic that we know from history and photos — we get the added color of a man who was very sensual in his private life, a man who loved sex, enjoyed vaudeville, wrote smarmy poetry, danced a mean jig, and a man who could compose a love letter with the heat of a hormone-juiced teenager.

For example, Hazelgrove shows us, through the eyes of Edmund Starling, one of Wilson’s Secret Service bodyguards, how the famously stiff President acted like a love-jazzed moon calf as he walked through the snow on his way to visit his love interest (Edith):

Many times Starling would watch the president puffing smoke in the Washington night as he walked briskly, breaking into song, “Oh you beautiful doll! You great big beautiful doll! “And then to Starling’s utter amazement, the president would jump up and kick his heels.

Edith Wilson is also reanimated as a strikingly lovely woman whose photographs fail to capture her true beauty. She possessed the power to snap the heads of men from across a street with her curvaceous, buxom figure, sparking blue eyes and dazzling smile.

Mostly home-schooled, Edith nevertheless was as well educated, well read and savvy as most woman born and bred high above her station. When she needed to be, Edith could be a powerful martinet ruling the White House by shear obstinate will and bulldog devotion to protecting her husband — and she feared no man, no matter how powerful he might be on the political or world stage. If you crossed Edith once — she froze you out — and you stayed frozen.

Hazelgrove also creates vivid impressions with marvelous turns of phrase, and as seen through the eyes of Edith. Consider this passage:

“(The Suffragettes) reminded Edith of black crows in their dark dresses in the way they clung to the White House gates The chanting would reach her while she was bent over her desk; a faint voice in the cold winter that sounded like a song.”

That’s pretty good. That’s history written with the flair of fiction, and there’s plenty more skillful wordsmithing where that came from in these pages.

There’s so much more I’d like to say about this book but my review is already overlong, so I’ll close by saying while I don’t find this a perfect book, (Hazelgrove doesn’t find his rhythm until about 50 pages in — but when he does, the book soars) so I can recommend this without reservation as an absorbing read that brings a far-too–ignored portion of our history to life in a way that is not stuffy and pedantic, yet well-researched and accurate enough to give confidence while it entertains.
Profile Image for Marla.
1,262 reviews224 followers
June 28, 2017
I found this book quite fascinating. I had no idea that Edith Wilson was so involved with the presidency. I'm so glad I got to read this book and if you like history, then definitely pick this book up.

I want to thank the author William Elliott Hazelgrove for a copy of his book and allowing me to read an advanced copy.
Profile Image for Gayle Pace.
1,110 reviews21 followers
October 9, 2016
How did the country function without a Commander in Chief? President Wilson was left paralyzed October 2nd, 1919 from a stroke. In those days the only thing doctors knew to do was have the patient in total seclusion, total bed rest. His wife, First Lady Edith Wilson took on the job of practically running the country. She had a team from the different Department that she consulted with and the President was never bothered with any of the problems and solutions. She did it all, she kept her husband secluded by Dr.'s orders, with very few seeing him. She ran the White House as a president would. Signed documents, composed State of Union addresses, went over every problem and decided what she would run by her husband. No one knew that the country was being run by Edith instead of Woodrow. Vice President Marshall didn't even see the president and Edith did this to keep the power of the Presidency being transferred to Marshall. She kept her husband from from others with one main goal. Keep him alive!
Even before his stroke, Edith was part of everything that took place. This may have been a blessing in disguise, preparing her for the day that came when he couldn't be the President in person, only in name. Edith was a woman in power. She was making decisions, policies, cover ups and was crafting it as she went. Her husband at times was 'out of it' but she was trying hard to keep that hidden. Edith was hands on, she didn't sit back and say, "woe is me", she dug her heels in and took hold. Edith was very well prepared even before her husband had his stroke. President Wilson was absent from the public for 5 months. Edith threw important letters on a pile. She just had too much to do and look over. Some of these letters were, indeed, important but never opened. There are many ideas if Edith did indeed act as President or was Woodrow actually making the decisions, just not being available to the public? If we give cadence to Edith actually being the President, then Woodrow Wilson just held the title and made no important decisions for our country. Was Edith the First Woman President? I feel she was but in actions only, not in name. I don't think a woman would have ever held the most important office, Commander in Chief, not at that time in history. You can say she did this for the power that a woman wasn't supposed to have. You can say, she did this out of love for her dear husband.
The author takes the reader on a history ride that you won't want to get off. Imagine, a bride of only four years, only 2 years of formal education and she boldly and bravely took on the most important office that was held by her husband.The author gives us a history book. We get a love story, a story of love for the people of the United States and a love for her husband. We get a story of how a woman can make important decisions, stand fast and get the job done, when a woman hadn't evolved into those kind of roles. We, as readers, can look back from today and see how far women have come. From the year 1919, a woman acting in the capacity of Commander in Chief, under her husband, who is actually Commander in Chief,and we arrive at 2016 when a woman is openly running for the President of the United States. The author actually has you wanting Edith to really be recognized for the role she had, under the cover of her husband, undertaken so courageously. She not only was First Lady but she also took on the role of First Woman President. Make up your own mind. Was she truly the First Woman President?

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author, William Hazelgrove, in exchange for my personal review.
Profile Image for Debra  Lucas.
256 reviews30 followers
November 18, 2016
Madam Presidnt: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson by William Hazelgrove is a fascinating, well-written, narrative non-fiction history. This is a time in American History that has been overlooked for far too long; and Hazelgrove seeks to correct this in his historical narrative.
Woodrow Wilson was an energetic 59 year old widower when he married the attractive 43 year old widow, Edith Galt, on December 8, 1915. They spent every minute of their days together working. Wilson taught Edith everything about what he did as President. When WW I ended in 1918, Wilson traveled to Paris to promote his 14 points for peace, known as The League of Nations. European countries were delighted with the League, but, the US Congress was not in total agreement with all 14 points.
In 1919 Wilson who suffered from high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries had a massive and debilitating stroke. Dr. Grayson, Wilson's Doctor, told the American people that while Wilson was on restrictive bedrest; he was still lucid and capable of performing his Presidential duties from bed. This was not the truth! The stroke had totally disabled Wilson. Edith began to take over his Presidential office. She read and answered as much of his correspondence as possible; she put Wilson's signature on bills requiring it, and talked with the politicians who came to see her husband. (Around 1952, a desk drawer filled with unopened mail for President Wilson was discovered!) Edith did not allow anyone in to see Woodrow Wilson until he started to be able to talk a little and use his hand to write.
Why did Edith lie along with Dr. Grayson? She truly loved Wilson and was only trying to protect him and his Presidency. She was also waiting for Congress to pass The League of Nations. It was never passed by Congress. One wonders, if Wilson had been well, would he have been able to seek the votes to have gotten it through Congress? Would it have kept the world from going through a WWII? We will never know.
In 1921 Wilson was able to be pushed around in a special wheelchair. The Wilson's bought a house on S Street, in Washington DC, to live in after they left the White House. Wilson would never be the same man he was before the stroke. Amazingly though, Wilson lived until February 3, 1924. Edith went into a severe mourning period when he died. She would publish: My Memoir in 1939, to great success. A book about her life, especially, the life and love that she and the President shared. She was invited to visit at the White House of every President after Wilson's death until her death on December 28, 1961.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I was surprised, too, at how much I did not know about Wilson's Presidency. I had never realized that the US actually had an acting female President from 1919-1921. I'm sure that many other fans of history do not realize what the full story is, either. Read: Madam President and you will understand exactly how this happened. Thank you William Hazelgrove for writing this fantastic book about our American history. Also, thanks so much for giving me an electronic copy of your book to read and review.
Profile Image for Grady.
Author 51 books1,887 followers
October 20, 2016
‘Do one thing every day that scares you’ – Eleanor Roosevelt

Chicago author William Hazelgrove has developed a significant following as the author of thirteen novels - Ripples, Tobacco Sticks, Mica Highways, Rocket Man, The Pitcher, Real Santa, Jack Pine, Hemingway’s Attic, My Best Year, The Bad Author, and now Madam President. While his books have received starred reviews in Publisher Weekly and Booklist, Book of the Month Selections, ALA Editors Choice Awards Junior Library Guild Selections and optioned for the movie, his major appeal is in his humanitarian approach to stories. William stays close too the heart in each of his stories, making each tale he spins one with which everyone can relate on an immediate or a remembered level.

His latest novel MADAM PRESIDENT he enters historical biography and proves that this also is a realm in which he understands both the characters, the seminal political timing of this story in the time of the possibility of the first woman to be elected President, and in doing so he brings about an appreciation for just how far we have come in 100 years.

William states in his author’s note, ‘Most people don't know about the woman who married a sitting President, only had four years of school, and ended up running the White House from 1919 to 1921. But Edith Wilson did just that. When Woodrow Wilson had a stroke that left him incapacitated and bedridden, his wife stepped in and effectively became the President. This is hard for people to believe but it was the best kept secret of 1919 and has remained so up to this day. So here is the real story of Edith Wilson, our First Woman President.’ And the publisher adds the following expansion – ‘With the possibility of our First Woman President on the horizon, it is amazing to think that Edith Wilson ruled the White House almost a hundred years ago. Taking over from her ailing husband she had only two years of schooling and had been married to Woodrow Wilson for four years when she found the reins of power in her lap. Edith Wilson had to finish up the negotiations for the end of World War I while keeping her husband alive as suffragettes protested outside the White House for the vote. This riveting story of a very unique woman who ran the country for almost two years can finally be told on the eve of another possible woman in the White House. Edith Wilson can teach us a lot about a potential Hillary Clinton presidency as she governed with a sick husband at her back and a country recovering from World War I.’

Enough said. William Hazelgrove continues to grow as a writer of importance whose breadth of interest in topics for novels is truly astonishing. He is one of the big ones!
2,600 reviews35 followers
October 10, 2016
This is a fascinating recapitulation of what was a constitutional crisis that was present, thoroughly known and understood, yet avoided due to strength exhibited by some and weakness by others. It was of course a different time, when the press and Congress tended to defer more than they do now.
In the fall of 1919, President Woodrow Wilson suffered a severe stroke that largely rendered his left side paralyzed. His mental functions and physical stamina were also severely degraded so that in fact he could not execute the duties of the office. It was at this point where his wife Edith Wilson took power in the form of totally controlling who visited President Wilson and what documents and other matters were presented to him.
The functioning of the executive branch essentially ground to a halt, leading to major historical repercussions. The treaties ending World War I and establishing the American involvement in the League of Nations were being considered by the Senate and there was significant opposition to Wilson’s position.
Vice President Thomas R. Marshall was a man disliked by Wilson’s inner circle and he was unwilling to aggressively assume the role of acting president. Their relationship was described as one of "functioning animosity." It was a situation that demonstrated a major deficiency in the constitutional description of what to do when a president is incapacitated but still alive that was addressed in the twenty-fifth amendment.
The events are not presented in chronological order, the timeline moves back and forth from before the stroke to after the fact. This helps set up specific aspects of the role that Edith Wilson played and the historical significance of Wilson’s illness. Hazelgrove does an excellent job of establishing the historical context intermixed with a great deal of detail regarding how the executive branch functioned after Wilson’s stroke.
One of the most interesting facts is that Edith Wilson served as a decoder of encrypted messages while she was first lady, helping the White House keep up with the volume of messages received. She did this before the stroke, so she was kept current with how events were evolving around the world.
This book is a valuable addition to the historical record, even though it is written as popular history. Edith Wilson was a de facto president at a time when suffragettes were picketing outside the White House for the right to vote.
Profile Image for Mary.
360 reviews4 followers
September 30, 2016
The President has had a stroke. He is left paralyzed on his left side and can hardly speak. Should he resign? Should the Vice President take over temporarily? How will the government carry on?

This sounds like the plot of a good novel, but it really happened. William Hazelgrove, in his new book “Madam President,” he tells the story of President Woodrow Wilson and his wife Edith Bolling Wilson, and the way decisions are sometimes made by not making any. The story is related in alternating chapters telling of the courtship of Edith and Woodrow in 1915 and those telling of the shattering of their lives after his stroke in 1919.

When President Wilson’s first wife, Ellen, died on August 6, 1914, he was devastated. But he met Edith Bolling Wilson in early 1915 and Hazelgrove tells us of their courtship amid his duties as President. They were married quietly in December of that year, the third President to be married while in office.

Edith was not an educated woman, but she had previously run a business, not an altogether normal thing in those days. She apparently shared all with Woodrow, helping him with his work as President to a degree unprecedented even in our time.

But when the President had a stroke in 1919 while on a whistle stop train tour trying to convince the country to join the League of Nations, she effectively ran the White House. The press and the nation were never told how incapacitated the President really was. How she accomplished this is the fascinating story of this book. Wilson still had a year and a half to serve as President. How long could Edith keep people away? Read this book and find out.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the author in exchange for a review. And I must say that I found it to be a very engrossing book telling the story of an incapacitated president, and the lengths his wife went to in order to shield him from all activity so he could get well. Hazelgrove has given us a book that that, in light of the scrutiny given to the health of both presidential candidates in this election year, I found both historical and timely.
5 reviews1 follower
October 4, 2016
I loved this book! From the moment I opened it, William Hazelgrove had my attention. In fact, I called my Mom within minutes of starting to read it, just to find out how much she knew about Woodrow Wilson and his wives. I was dually impressed by both my mom for remembering what she learned in school over 60 years ago and for William for getting it right! I don't feel like this was taught when I went to school... and I really wish it had been. It is a great example of showing that people can do anything if they set their mind to it. It has been years since I’ve felt the desire to research further about something historical and this story had me constantly wanting to know more!

I loved the way William wrote. The chapters flowed easily and his descriptions made me feel like I was right there as history was being written! I wish that more people would understand that Edith Wilson is a true pioneer and was indeed our first woman president. Writing history with a fictional flair helps make history come alive!

I loved the way Edith becomes the heart of the story. Her undying love for her husband and ultimate respect for him allowed her to do whatever it took to make sure that his name was never tarnished. She was strong willed, self-educated and willing to rise to whatever task arose. She demonstrates a selfless love that few people ever experience and was the right person in the right place at the right time. Her story needs to be shared and brought to the forefront in history classes. Although limited in her education, she proved that open dialogue, could open many doors.

Please note that I received an advance copy of this book free in exchange for my review.
Profile Image for Shelly Itkin.
423 reviews1 follower
October 13, 2016
This is one of the most interesting and enjoyable books I have read in a long time and truly loved it.
When Edith Galt met President Woodrow Wilson she never expected to marry him. Both of them had lost there spouses and the President had lost his less then a year ago. They felt especially Dr. Grayson, that President Wilson needed a wife and also a stable life since his wife had passed away although he did have two daughters. They enjoyed each others company, had dinners together wrote love letters and even poetry to each other and eventually did marry.

Edith had been a very independent woman and loved her life and was even driving a car which was a rarity at that time. There was a sixteen year age difference but as noted there was no problem with Woodrow keeping there life very satisfying.

When he suffered his paralyzing stroke in the fall of 1919 first Lady Edith Wilson had no choice but to step in. She loved her husband first and her country second. She did and would continue to do anything to protect her husband (usually only she and Dr. Grayson) would visit him and everything had to go thru her first.

She was a remarkable women with not much formal education and an inspiration to women of today. With the elections they way they are we might actually have a First Lady as President but then would she really be the first or after reading this will you consider Edith Wilson to be the first?
4 reviews
October 18, 2016
Hazelgrove writes about the real "first" female president which is quite appropriate for a time during an election where the first woman could possibly be chosen officially as the leader of our country. However, she is not the first woman "president." As per his usual, Hazelgrove weaves a story that draws you into a world in which Edith Bolling Wilson stepped in for her desperately ill and extremely damaged husband, Woodrow Wilson, after he suffered a debilitating stroke. She secretly ran the country while her husband recuperated. Nothing happened in the oval office that Edith didn't know about and sign off on. This is a story about a strong, independent, smart woman who was a political powerhouse before her time. It is an enjoyable read with the truth of history woven throughout.
Profile Image for Lisa.
261 reviews
January 1, 2019
Painful at times. Redundant- disjointed- and dare I say ridiculous.

You cannot say (20 times at least) you were the “first female President” when you deceived and lied to a sitting President (about his mental state) , his cabinet, a country and the world. You unlawfully made decisions along side his physician. Ugh. You were power hungry and did it under the guise of ‘aiding your husband’.
Historically interesting but drones on and on last 1/3 of the book.

Profile Image for Julie A.
132 reviews1 follower
February 14, 2020
Ugh another one I had high hopes for and that ended up disappointing. The title is so misleading. For every sentence about Edith there were at least 20 about Woodrow. This is supposed to be a book about her and not him. Will need to find another book on this subject with a better author. It felt very pedestrian - as if written in his high school days. Also didn’t like how the chapters jumped around in time (very unnecessary).
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