Edith Bolling Galt Wilson

(October 15, 1872–December 28, 1961)
First Lady

Born in Wytheville, Edith Bolling traced her ancestry to Pocahontas and Thomas Jefferson. She attended Martha Washington College, in Abingdon, and then the Richmond Female Seminary. In 1896, she married Norman Galt, the owner of a jewelry store in Washington, D.C. After Galt died, she oversaw the business until the 1930s.

In 1915, Edith Galt met the recently widowed President Woodrow Wilson, whom she married after a brief courtship. Her social role as First Lady was overshadowed by the war in Europe, and Edith Wilson embraced food and gasoline conservation at the White House and kept sheep to maintain the lawn. She donated the proceeds of the sale of the wool to the Red Cross, for which she also volunteered. After the war, she accompanied her husband to France, visiting hospitals and troops. She also attended the peace conference where Wilson presented his plan for the League of Nations.

When the president suffered a debilitating stroke in 1919, Edith Wilson concealed the severity of his illness from his cabinet and the public and began what she called her "stewardship" of her husband's duties. For several months, she screened matters of state brought to his attention, controlled access to him by government officials, and reported his decisions, which led to later references to her as the "secret president." Edith Wilson remained in Washington after her husband's death in 1924, managing his legacy. One of her last public appearances was at the 1961 inauguration of John F. Kennedy. The Wilsons are interred at the Washington National Cathedral.