Seeing the Round Corners

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March 30, 2021

Much has been written about President Joe Biden’s choice of a running mate, and not not in very flattering words. Perhaps the most critical comments are about Vice President Kamala Harris “giggling” delivery on almost anything she is asked about. All too often, even the most neutral of listeners will opine about the inappropriateness of the incessant giggling. What must foreign leaders must think of such from the Vice President of the free world!

Today’s column from this writer’s archives is about a President of lonmg ago, Woodrow Wilson, whose wife was at his side throughout his Presidency.

IS AMERICA READY FOR MADAM PRESIDENT?              September 28, 2015

The 2016 Presidential election brings America its first, full fledged opportunity here in modern times for a women to be elected President and for there to be a “Madam President.”  “Elected” is the operative word of that statement, but with today's press and 24-hour news cycle, comparison of a 21st century president to say Woodrow Wilson or Franklin D. Roosevelt would probably knock the socks off even the most inveterate political junkie.

Woodrow Wilson was first elected President in 1912, then re-elected in 1916. Except for die-hard presidential watchers, few people are familiar with Edith Wilson, second wife of President Woodrow Wilson.

The Wilson Presidency occurred in a much different time than modern-day presidencies, where the press provides coverage of the most minute movement of the President. Edith Wilson's role was a “companion, filter and later guardian,” and Wilson conducted most of his work from a private office in the family quarters. This allowed for his wife to be steadfastly at his side, obtain access to his private drawer and eventually share a secret wartime code with her. With such a working schedule, it was easily accepted that when the President was working in the Oval Office, Edith would often sit in listening silently as meetings were conducted with political leaders and foreign representatives.

As pressures on the President mounted in the months leading up to the United States entering World War I (April 1917), Edith began to screen his mail and limit his callers, and without a doubt, alienated his most trusted adviser Edmund House and his loyal press secretary, Joseph Tumulty.

When President Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke in October of 1919, wife Edith decided to in effect, hide him from not only the world, but his closest staff, cabinet members, the Vice President and Congress. In one Edith Wilson biography, it states she alone decided Vice President Thomas Marshall should not assume the Presidency, and described her conduct as one of “stewardship.”

Edith's “stewardship” included guarding the President from visitors, deciding what papers he saw, scribbling his supposed responses in the margins and attempted to replace then Secretary of State Robert Lansing because he conducted several Cabinet meetings without the President. “President” Edith went so far as to set Wilson up to make a credible impression when the Senate asked Senator Allen Fall to investigate Wilson's status, and continued to screen visitors and the President's activities, even after completion of his term until his death in 1924. Edith was also blamed for not convincing President Wilson to accept some form of compromise on the League of Nations which might have allowed for passage rather than defeat in 1919.

Edith's efforts after the United States entered World War I did elevate the position of First Lady to a level with the queens and other royalty of Europe as a result of becoming the first wife of a President to travel to Europe in 1918 and 1919 shortly before President Wilson suffered the debilitating stroke in October of 1919.

For all the “audacity” on the part of America's “not-elected” President, Edith did demonstrate what women in this 21st century believe a woman president would recognize and bring to the office. Edith's virtue was empathy and compassion – she instituted the program where meat, wheat and gasoline were not used on certain days, meant to aid in conservation for the war effort, one not demonstrated or likely to be demonstrated by men. Men are the reason there are wars! Margaret Thatcher, while Prime Minister of England said, “In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.”

Most modern-day voters may not be aware that women running for President of the United States is not as new an idea as many readers assume. The first woman to run for the office was Victoria Woodhull in 1872 on the Equal Rights Party, and in 1892 on the Humanitarian Party ticket, at a time before women had even won the right to vote. Woodhull was ahead of her time, as a woman suffrage activist, as well as in other areas, namely a sex scandal with a well-known preacher, Henry Ward Beecher. Ah, how preachers are never far from the backrooms of the political campaigns, or maybe that should be “bedrooms” of America's political campaigns.

While the majority of America likes to think it is ahead of the rest of the world on women's rights, significant advancement has taken place in countries where women (and the poor) were once considered unreliable and not credit worthy.

“Women as peace builders” is a term which has evolved from an organization that “brings together women from diverse areas of conflict around the world to share peace- building strategies, sharpen skills and shape public policy.” Founded in 1999, the Women Waging Peace network included activists, educators, health professionals, political figures, lawyers, entrepreneurs, military officers, religious leaders and journalists.

Since the Women Peace Policy Commission was created in 2001, it has worked to establish a body of knowledge and recognition of the expertise of these women as peace builders, something that had been near non-existent.

Women Waging Peace has what can only be described as a “lofty” goal, stated in its mission statement:  “To change the public policy paradigm to fully integrate women throughout formal and informal peace processes to prevent violent conflict, stop war and sustain peace in fragile regions.”

The reader's comments or questions are always welcome. E-mail me at