13 Firsts of First Lady Edith Wilson

The Second Mrs. Wilson Margaret Colin Long Wharf Theatre
Margaret Colin in THE SECOND MRS. WILSON
Photo Credit: T Charles Erickson Photography

When talking about the firsts of First Lady Edith Wilson it’s pretty easy to focus on the fascinating debate about her being the first woman to run the executive branch of government. However, we’ve found out that the second Mrs. Wilson holds the claim to a number of other firsts among presidential spouses. Check them out.

 

1. She was the first woman to get a driver’s license in Washington D.C.

2. In 1904 she became the first woman in D.C. to own and drive an electric car.

3. She was the first First Lady to play golf when she took up the sport to spend more time with Woodrow during their courtship.

4. She was the first First Lady to accompany her husband in the carriage on inauguration day to and from the Capitol in 1917, also the first inaugural parade to include women.

5. Was the first First Lady to stand beside her husband as he took the oath of office.

6. First First Lady to order a Presidential china service made in America, she ordered it from Lenox China in Trenton, New Jersey.

7. Became the first First Lady to christen a ship on August 5, 1917 when she broke a bottle against the Quistconck, the ancient Indian name of the place where the ship was built.

8. Made first official overseas trip as a president’s spouse when she accompanied the President to Europe on two separate occasions, in 1918 and in 1919, to visit troops and sign the Treaty of Versailles.

9. First First Lady to attend foreign diplomatic talks.

10. First First Lady to make international visits with European royalty.

11. First presidential spouse to decode covert wartime communications and was entrusted by her husband with a secret code that allowed her access to the drawer holding classified information and wartime planning papers.

12. First former First Lady to receive permanent Secret Service protection.

13. She and Woodrow Wilson were the first and so far only President and First Lady to be buried in the Washington National Cathedral.

Bonus Fact: She could have been the first First Lady to vote in a presidential election in 1920, but chose not to because she did not personally support suffrage for women.

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