Helen "Nellie" Herron, 1st Lady of the United States

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Helen "Nellie" Herron, 1st Lady of the United States's Geni Profile

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Helen Louise Taft (Herron)

Nicknames: "Nellie", ""Nellie""
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Cincinnati, Clermont, Ohio, United States
Death: Died in Washington DC, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, United States
Place of Burial: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA, USA
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Judge John Williamson Herron and Harriet Anne Collins
Wife of William H. Taft, 27th President of the USA
Mother of Robert Alphonso Taft, U.S. Senator; Helen Taft Manning and Charles Phelps Taft II
Sister of Emily Parsons Herron; Jane Anderson Herron; Maria Herron; William C. Herron; John W. Herron and 1 other

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Helen Louise Taft (Herron)

From http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/firstladies/ht27.html

As "the only unusual incident" of her girlhood, "Nellie" Herron Taft recalled her visit to the White House at 17 as the guest of President and Mrs. Hayes, intimate friends of her parents. Fourth child of Harriet Collins and John W. Herron, born in 1861, she had grown up in Cincinnati, Ohio, attending a private school in the city and studying music with enthusiasm.

The year after this notable visit she met "that adorable Will Taft," a tall young lawyer, at a sledding party. They found intellectual interests in common; friendship matured into love; Helen Herron and William Howard Taft were married in 1886. A "treasure," he called her, "self-contained, independent, and of unusual application." He wondered if they would ever reach Washington "in any official capacity" and suggested to her that they might -- when she became Secretary of the Treasury!

No woman could hope for such a career in that day, but Mrs. Taft welcomed each step in her husband's: state judge, Solicitor General of the United States, federal circuit judge. In 1900 he agreed to take charge of American civil government in the Philippines. By now the children numbered three: Robert, Helen, and Charles. The delight with which she undertook the journey, and her willingness to take her children to a country still unsettled by war, were characteristic of this woman who loved a challenge. In Manila she handled a difficult role with enthusiasm and tact; she relished travel to Japan and China, and a special diplomatic mission to the Vatican.

Further travel with her husband, who became Secretary of War in 1904, brought a widened interest in world politics and a cosmopolitan circle of friends. His election to the Presidency in 1908 gave her a position she had long desired.

As First Lady, she still took an interest in politics but concentrated on giving the administration a particular social brilliance. Only two months after the inauguration she suffered a severe stroke. An indomitable will had her back in command again within a year. At the New Year's reception for 1910, she appeared in white crepe embroidered with gold--a graceful figure. Her daughter left college for a year to take part in social life at the White House, and the gaiety of Helen's debut enhanced the 1910 Christmas season.

During four years famous for social events, the most outstanding was an evening garden party for several thousand guests on the Tafts' silver wedding anniversary, June 19, 1911. Mrs. Taft remembered this as "the greatest event" in her White House experience. Her own book, Recollections of Full Years, gives her account of a varied life. And the capital's famous Japanese cherry trees, planted around the Tidal Basin at her request, form a notable memorial.

Her public role in Washington did not end when she left the White House. In 1921 her husband was appointed Chief Justice of the United States--the position he had desired most of all--and she continued to live in the capital after his death in 1930. Retaining to the end her love of travel and of classical music, she died at her home on May 22, 1943.

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Helen Herron "Nellie" Taft (June 2, 1861 – May 22, 1943), wife of William Howard Taft, was First Lady of the United States from 1909 to 1913.

See White House portrait

Fourth child of Harriet Collins and John W. Herron, she had grown up in Cincinnati, Ohio, attending a private school in the city. She met William Taft at a sledding party at age 18. They found intellectual interests in common; friendship matured into love; Helen Herron and William Howard Taft were married in 1886. Mrs. Taft welcomed each step in her husband's political career: state judge, Solicitor General of the United States, federal circuit judge. In 1900 he agreed to take charge of American civil government in the Philippines. By now the children numbered three: Robert, Helen, and Charles. Further travel with her husband, who became Secretary of War in 1904, brought a widened interest in world politics and a cosmopolitan circle of friends. Years before reaching the White House, Mrs. Taft enjoyed competing with Edith Roosevelt. Taft had given birth to her daughter Helen on August 1, 1891 and was glad to have beaten Mrs. Roosevelt who had Ethel Roosevelt on August 13, 1891.

As First Lady, she still took an interest in politics but concentrated on giving the administration a particular social brilliance. Only two months after the inauguration she suffered a severe stroke. Her daughter Helen left college for a year to take part in social life at the White House. During four years famous for social events, the most famous was an evening garden party for several thousand guests on the Tafts' silver wedding anniversary, June 19, 1911. Mrs. Taft remembered this as "the greatest event" in her White House experience. Her own book, Recollections of Full Years, gives her account of a varied life. Additionally, the capital's famous Japanese cherry trees were planted around the Tidal Basin at her request.

Her public role in Washington, DC did not end when she left the White House. In 1921 her husband was appointed Chief Justice of the United States and she continued to live in the capital after his death in 1930. She died at her home on May 22, 1943, aged 81.

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Helen Herron was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of John Williamson and Harriet Herron. Her father was a distinguished lawyer, and her mother, a fashionable lady.

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the fourth child of Judge John Williamson Herron (1827-1912), a law partner of Rutherford B. Hayes, and Harriet Collins-Herron (1833-1901), Nellie graduated from the Cincinnati College of Music and taught school briefly before her marriage. With her parents, she attended the twenty-fifth wedding anniversary celebration of President and Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes at the White House in 1877.

Helen (or Nellie as she was called), met William Howard Taft at a party where he gave her a bobsled ride. Although their relationship moved slowly, the two were married on June 19, 1886. The couple had three children: The eldest, Robert, became a successful Senator; Their only daughter Helen, became a teacher and a dean at Bryn Mawr College, and the youngest, Charles, a successful lawyer. Nellie convinced her husband to turn to politics, and luckily, President McKinley appointed him to the job of organizing the Philippine Government in 1900, and made him Governor in 1901. Taft handled these positions well, with Nellie presiding over the Malacanan Palace, entertaining in high style. In 1902, President Roosevelt attempted to put Taft on the Supreme Court, however was unsuccessful. Several months later, Taft was approved as Secretary of War. This position made Nellie very happy, as she believed this would be a stepping stone to the Presidency, a position she hoped her husband would finally attain. Upon Taft's election to the Presidency, Nellie had many ideas of improving Washington and the White House. She is best remembered for having the idea of planting the cherry trees along Washington's tidal basin. She received the trees from the Mayor of Tokyo, who generously donated them. She also was the first to hold garden parties at the White House.

Three months after becoming First Lady, Nellie suffered a stroke, leaving her partially paralyzed. As a result she was unable to perform her mistress duties, so she turned the job over to her daughter and sisters. She recovered enough to return to her duties during her husband's last two years in office. After his term was completed, Taft became a law professor at Yale University and Nellie enjoyed very much being the wife of a professor. She enjoyed this lifestyle for eight years, until 1921, when Taft became a Supreme Court Justice, which pleased Nellie all the more.

Nellie died on May 22, 1943 in Washington, D.C., outliving her husband by thirteen years.

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Helen "Nellie" Herron, 1st Lady of the United States's Timeline

1861
June 2, 1861
Cincinnati, Clermont, Ohio, United States
1886
June 19, 1886
Age 25
Cincinnati, Clermont, Ohio, United States
1889
September 8, 1889
Age 28
Cincinnati, Hamilton Co., Ohio
1891
August 1, 1891
Age 30
Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio, USA
1897
September 20, 1897
Age 36
Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio
1943
May 22, 1943
Age 81
Washington DC, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, United States
????
Arlington, VA, USA