Ellen Louise Wilson (Axson), First Lady (1860 - 1914) MP

‹ Back to Wilson surname

Is your surname Wilson?

Research the Wilson family

Ellen Louise Wilson, First Lady's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Share

Birthplace: Savannah, GA, USA
Death: Died in Washington D.C., DC, USA
Occupation: First Lady of the United States
Managed by: Scott David Hibbard
Last Updated:

About Ellen Louise Wilson (Axson), First Lady

First Lady

Ellen Louis Axson Wilson was the first wife of President Woodrow Wilson. She found time for painting among other social responsibilities as First Lady.

Ellen Louise Axson Wilson was William Philo Hibbards 4th Cousin

--------------------

Ellen Louise Axson Wilson (1860-1914)

First Lady

Ellen Louis Axson Wilson was the first wife of President Woodrow Wilson. She found time for painting among other social responsibilities as First Lady.

--------------------

Ellen Louise Axson was born in Savannah, Georgia[1] in 1860. She grew up in Rome, Georgia, where her father, the Reverend S.E. Axson, was a Presbyterian minister. Thomas Woodrow Wilson first saw her when he was about six and she only a baby. In 1883, as a young lawyer from Atlanta, "Tommy" visited Rome and met "Miss Ellie Lou" again -- now keeping house for a bereaved father. He thought, "what splendid laughing eyes!" Despite their instant attraction they did not marry until 1885, because she was unwilling to leave her heartbroken father.

That same year Bryn Mawr College offered Dr. Wilson a teaching position at an annual salary of $1,500. He and his bride lived near the campus, keeping her little brother with them. Humorously insisting that her own children must not be born Yankees, she went to relatives in Georgia for the birth of Margaret in 1886-(1944) and Jessie in 1887-(1933). But Eleanor was born in Connecticut in 1889-(1967), while Wilson was teaching at Wesleyan University.

His distinguished career at Princeton University began in 1890, bringing his wife new social responsibilities. From such demands she took refuge, as always, in art. She had studied briefly in New York, and the quality of her paintings compares favorably with professional art of the period. She had a studio with a skylight installed at the White House in 1913, and found time for painting despite the weddings of two daughters within six months and the duties of hostess for the nation. The Wilsons had preferred to begin the administration without an inaugural ball, and the First Lady's entertainments were simple; but her unaffected cordiality made her parties successful. In their first year she convinced her scrupulous husband that it would be perfectly proper to invite influential legislators to a private dinner, and when such an evening led to agreement on a tariff bill, he told a friend, "You see what a wise wife I have!"

Descendant of slave owners, Ellen Wilson lent her prestige to the cause of improving housing in the capital's Negro slums. Visiting dilapidated alleys, she brought them to the attention of debutantes and Congressmen. Her death spurred passage of a remedial bill she had worked for. Her health failing slowly from Bright's disease, she died in the White House on August 6, 1914.[1] On the day before her death, she made her physician promise to tell Wilson "later" that she hoped he would marry again; she murmured at the end, "...take good care of my husband." Struggling grimly to control his grief, Wilson took her to Rome for burial among her kin.

--------------------

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellen_Axson_Wilson

Ellen Axson Wilson (May 15, 1860–August 6, 1914), first wife of Woodrow Wilson, was First Lady of the United States from 1913 until her death.

Born Ellen Louise Axson in Savannah, Georgia, the daughter of the Reverend Samuel Edward Axson, a Presbyterian minister, and Margaret Jane (née Hoyt) Axson, Ellen was a lady of refined tastes with a fondness for art, music and literature.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson first saw her when he was about three and she was only a baby. In April 1883, Woodrow visited his cousin Jesse Woodrow Wilson in Rome, Georgia and met Ellen again -- she was now keeping house for her widowed father. He thought, "what splendid laughing eyes!" They were engaged five months later but postponed the wedding, while he did postgraduate work at Johns Hopkins University and she nursed her ailing father.

Wilson, aged 28, married Ellen, aged 25, on June 24, 1885, at the home of the bride's paternal grandfather in Savannah, Georgia. The wedding was performed jointly by his father, the Reverend Joseph R. Wilson, and her grandfather, the Reverend L. S. K. Axson. They honeymooned at Waynesville, a mountain resort in western North Carolina.

That same year, Bryn Mawr College offered Dr. Wilson a teaching position at an annual salary of $1,500. He and his bride lived near the campus, keeping her little brother with them.

Together, the Wilsons had three daughters:

Margaret Woodrow Wilson (1886-1944) - singer, businesswoman.

Jessie Woodrow Wilson Sayre (1887-1933) - Born in Gainesville, Georgia, she attended Goucher College in Baltimore and worked three years at a settlement house in Philadelphia before marrying Francis B. Sayre in a White House wedding on November 25, 1913. They eventually settled at Cambridge, Massachusetts, when Mr. Sayre joined the faculty of Harvard Law School. Jessie was active in the League of Women Voters, served on the national board of the YWCA, and at the time of her death following an appendix operation, was secretary of the Massachusetts Democratic Committee.

Eleanor Randolph Wilson McAdoo (1889-1967)

Humorously insisting that her own children must not be born Yankees, she went to relatives in Georgia for the birth of Margaret in 1886 and Jessie in 1887. Eleanor, however, was born in Connecticut in 1889, while Wilson was teaching at Wesleyan University.

His distinguished career at Princeton University began in 1890, bringing his wife new social responsibilities. From such demands she took refuge, as always, in art. She had studied briefly in New York, and the quality of her paintings compares favorably with professional art of the period.

As First Lady, Mrs. Wilson painted and drew sketches in a studio set up on the third floor of the White House, donating much of her work to charity. She arranged the White House weddings of two of her daughters.

The Wilsons had preferred to begin the administration without an inaugural ball, and the First Lady's entertainments were simple, but her unaffected cordiality made her parties successful. In their first year, she convinced her scrupulous husband that it would be perfectly proper to invite influential legislators to a private dinner, and when such an evening led to agreement on a tariff bill, he told a friend, "You see what a wise wife I have!"

A descendant of slave owners, Wilson lent her prestige to the cause of improving housing in the capital's largely Black slums. Visiting dilapidated alleys, she brought them to the attention of debutantes and Congressmen. Her death spurred passage of a remedial bill she had worked for.

Her health failing slowly from Bright's disease, she died in the White House on August 6, 1914. On the day before her death, she made her physician promise to tell Wilson "later" that she hoped he would marry again; she murmured at the end, "...take good care of my husband." She was buried in Rome, Georgia among her family. The president remarried to Edith Bolling Galt in 1915.

Ellen Axson Wilson is buried at Myrtle Hill Cemetery.

view all

Ellen Louise Wilson, First Lady's Timeline

1860
May 15, 1860
Savannah, GA, USA
1885
April 24, 1885
Age 24
Savannah, Chatham, Georgia, United States
1886
April 16, 1886
Age 25
Gainesville, GA, USA
1887
August 28, 1887
Age 27
Gainesville, GA, USA
1889
October 16, 1889
Age 29
Middletown, CT, USA
1914
August 6, 1914
Age 54
Washington D.C., DC, USA
1914
Age 53
Rome, Floyd, Georgia, USA
????