Press contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
Public contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221

March 11, 2011

Wives of Woodrow Wilson Are Subject of Book and Discussion

The wives of Woodrow Wilson were strikingly different from each other. Ellen Axson Wilson, quiet and intellectual, died after just a year and a half in the White House and is thought to have had little impact on history. Edith Bolling Wilson was flamboyant and confident but left a legacy of controversy.

Yet each played a significant role in the White House, as Kristie Miller shows in her new book, "Ellen and Edith: Woodrow Wilson’s First Ladies" (University Press of Kansas, 2010). Miller will discuss and sign her work on Wednesday, March 30, at noon in the Montpelier Room, located on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. This Books & Beyond event is co-sponsored by the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book and its Manuscript Division. It is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

Miller presents rich and complex portraits of Wilson’s wives, compelling us to reconsider our understanding of both women. Ellen comes into clear focus as an artist and intellectual who dedicated her talents to an ambitious man whose success enabled her to have a significant influence on the institution of the first lady. Miller’s assessment of Edith Wilson goes beyond previous flattering accounts and critical assessments. She examines a woman who overstepped her role by hiding her husband’s serious illness to allow him to remain in office. But, Miller concludes, Edith was acting as she knew her husband would have wished.

Miller explains clearly how these women influenced Woodrow Wilson’s life and career. But she keeps her focus on the women themselves and presents a balanced appraisal of each woman’s strengths and weaknesses. She argues for Ellen’s influence not only on her husband but also on subsequent first ladies. Miller strives for an understanding of the controversial Edith, who saw herself as Wilson’s principal adviser and, some would argue, acted as shadow president after his stroke. Miller also helps us better appreciate the role of Mary Allen Hulbert Peck, whose role as Wilson’s "playmate" complemented that of Ellen – but was intolerable to Edith.

Miller is a research associate at the Southwest Center of the University of Arizona and author of "Isabella Greenway: An Enterprising Woman" and "Ruth Hanna McCormick: A Life in Politics, 1880-1944." She is also co-editor of "A Volume of Friendship: The Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt and Isabella Greenway, 1904-1953" and "We Have Come to Stay: American Women and Political Parties, 1880-1960."

"Ellen and Edith" is also the subject of a discussion on Facebook. The new Books & Beyond Book Club is available at www.facebook.com/booksandbeyond/. Here readers can discuss books, the authors of which have appeared or will appear in this series. The site also offers links to webcasts of these events and asks readers to talk about what they have seen and heard.

Since its creation by Congress in 1977 to "stimulate public interest in books and reading," the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress (www.Read.gov/cfb/) has become a major national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages, nationally and internationally. The center provides leadership for 52 affiliated state centers for the book (including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and nonprofit reading-promotion partners and plays a key role in the Library’s annual National Book Festival. It also oversees the Library’s Read.gov website and administers the Library’s Young Readers Center.

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PR 11-054
03/11/11
ISSN 0731-3527

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