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Edith Bolling Wilson

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Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, 1872-1961.  First Lady of the United States, 1915-1921.  Autograph Letter Signed, Always affectionately / Edith Bolling Wilson, four pages, octavo, on personal stationery of 2340 S Street, [Washington, D.C.], April 22, 1932.

Writing in the depths of the Great Depression, which affected even the affluent and the powerful, the widow of President Woodrow Wilson politely declines to rent a friend's home in Maine for the summeralmost certainly because of the cost.  She hopes, she writes, that the financial horizon will brighten for us all.She says that she and her younger brother, Randolph, may go to Chicago the last of June for the Dem. convention, but she notes quickly that financier Bernard Baruch has asked us and the Graysons for the entire trip as his guests.Consistent with this, Mrs. Wilson has used virtually every inch of paper, writing sideways and squeezing her lines together to avoid using yet another sheet of stationery.

In addition to its Great Depression content, this letter has very good associations.  The wealthy Baruch (1870-1965) advised President Woodrow Wilson on matters of national defense during World War I.  As chairman of the War Industries Board, he helped turn American industry to full-scale war production.  He joined Wilson at the Versailles peace conference.  He later served as an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who would be nominated at the 1932 Democratic convention, which Mrs. Wilson mentions in this letter.  Roosevelt, in turn, was Assistant Secretary of the Navy under Wilson.

Mrs. Wilson was the seventh of 11 children.  In this chatty letter, she mentions not only her brother, advertising executive John Randolph Bolling (1876-1952), but also her oldest sister, Gertrude Bolling Galt (1863-1961).  In full:  "I am just too sorry to hear that you do not expect to open your lovely house this summer—and you are sweet to offer it to us—Alas!  For the same reason that you are not keeping it yourself—I will have to give up our dream of having a house in Maine this year—  Any way I would be always missing you and feeling like an interloper.  /  I will, of course, not mention the price you offered to me but keep the matter in mind and should I know of any possible tenant put them in touch with you.  But after all—I hope you will be there your dear self and that the financial horizon will brighten for us all.  /  The Watsons will be heartbroken if you are not there—give them warm greetings for us when you see them—  I had news of you through Gertrude the other day—which is always eagerly sought.  /  Randolph joins in love and we both recall your little visit with such pleasure—and hope you will repeat it soon—  /  Should I be in N.Y. long enough I will certainly call you up or come to see you.  Randolph and I may go to Chicago the last of June for the Dem. convention.  Mr. Baruch has asked us and the Graysons for the entire trip as his guests.  Beyond that we have no plans for the summer.  /  Forgive this letter—my telephone has gone on a jag and wrung every other minute.

Mrs. Wilson, President Wilson's second wife, effectively ran the presidency when Wilson was partially paralyzed from a stroke that he suffered while campaigning for ratification of the League of Nations treaty.  To reduce Wilson's stress, Mrs. Wilson strictly controlled access to him, deciding what matters reached him and what others should be delegated to department officials or held without action.  In many ways, she was the first woman to run the United States government.  In My Memoir, published in 1939, she insisted that Wilson's physicians had directed her to take this course, but historians largely judge her book as fiction rather than fact.

This letter is in excellent condition.  Mrs. Wilson has boldly penned it in black.  It takes up four pages, recto and verso, including attached integral leaf.  The letter has expected folds, one of which goes through the signature.



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