Even if Hillary Clinton had won in 2016—or if Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, or one of the other female candidates wins in 2020—they would not be the first person widely referred to in Washington as “Mrs. President.”
Edith Wilson earned that distinction—although it was often said derisively. The First Lady emerged as America’s most powerful person when Woodrow Wilson suffered a series of devastating strokes in 1919.
Edith and Woodrow Wilson were an exceptionally close presidential couple—still enjoying their marriage’s honeymoon phase. Wilson’s beloved first wife, Ellen, had died of kidney trouble in 1914. The stylish, ambitious widow to a jewelry fortune, Edith Bolling Galt, soon met the bereaved president, while visiting Woodrow’s cousin, Helen Woodrow Bones, in the White House.