Ida McKinley (Saxton), First Lady (1847 - 1907)

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Canton, Stark, Ohio, United States
Death: Died in Canton, Stark, Ohio, United States
Occupation: First Lady of the United States of America
Managed by: Jeanette Crandle
Last Updated:

About Ida McKinley (Saxton), First Lady

Ida Saxton McKinley (June 8, 1847 – May 26, 1907), wife of William McKinley, was First Lady of the United States from 1897 to 1901.

Ida was born in Canton, Ohio, the elder daughter of James Saxton, prominent Canton banker, and Katherine DeWalt-Saxton. Her grandfather John Saxton in 1815 founded the Canton "Repository", the city's first and now its only newspaper. A graduate of Brook Hall Seminary, a finishing school in Media, Pennsylvania, Ida was refined, charming, and strikingly attractive when she met William "Bill" McKinley at a picnic in 1867. They did not begin courting until after she returned from a European tour in 1869. While single, she worked for a time as a cashier in her father's bank, a position then usually reserved for men.

Bill McKinley, aged 27, married Ida Saxton, aged 23, on January 25, 1871, at the First Presbyterian Church, then still under construction, in Canton, OH. Following the wedding, performed by the Reverend E. Buckingham and the Reverend Dr. Endsley, the couple attended a reception at the home of the bride's parents and left on an eastern wedding trip.

Possessed of a fragile, nervous temperament, Mrs. McKinley broke down under the loss of her mother and two infant daughters within a short span of time. She developed epilepsy and became totally dependent on her husband. Her seizures at times occured in public; she had one at McKinley's inaugural ball as governor. Although an invalid the rest of her life, she kept busy with her hobby, crocheting slippers, making gifts of literally thousands of pairs to friends and acquaintances.

The McKinleys had two daughters (both died in childhood):

Katherine McKinley (b. December 25, 1871; d. June 25, 1875) - died of typhoid fever.

Ida McKinley (b. April 1, 1873; d. August 22, 1873) - died of phlebitis and epileptic seizure.

President McKinley took great care to accommodate her condition. In a break with tradition, he insisted that his wife be seated next to him at state dinners rather than at the other end of the table. At receiving lines, she alone remained seated. And many of the social chores normally assumed by the First Lady fell to Mrs. Jennie Tuttle Hobart, wife of the vice president Garret Hobart. Guests noted that whenever Mrs. McKinley was about to undergo a seizure, the president would gently place a napkin or handerchief over her face to conceal her contorted features. When it passed, he would remove it and resume whatever he was doing as if nothing had happened.

The president's patient devotion and loving attention was the talk of the capital. "President McKinley has made it pretty hard for the rest of us husbands here in Washington," remarked Mark Hanna.

With the assassination of her husband by Leon Czolgosz in Buffalo, New York in September 1901, Mrs. McKinley lost much of her will to live. Although she bore up well in days between the shooting and the president's death, she could not bring herself to attend his funeral. Her health eroded as she withdrew to the safety of her home and memories in Canton. She was cared for by her younger sister. She survived the president by less than six-years, dying on May 26, 1907. She was buried next to him and their two daughters in Canton's McKinley Memorial Mausoleum.


The Saxton House, former home of Ida Saxton McKinley, now part of the First Ladies National Historic Site.

[edit] Legacy

Ida's childhood home, the Saxton House, has been preserved on Market Avenue in Canton. In addition to growing up in the house, she and her husband also lived there from 1878 - 1891, the period during which the future President McKinley served as one of Ohio's Congressional Representatives. The house was restored to its Victorian splendor and became part of the First Ladies National Historic Site at its dedication in 1998.

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Ida Saxton McKinley, First Lady's Timeline

1847
June 8, 1847
Canton, Stark, Ohio, United States
1871
January 25, 1871
Age 23
Canton, Stark, Ohio, United States
December 25, 1871
Age 24
Canton, Stark, Ohio, United States
1873
April 1, 1873
Age 25
Canton, Stark, Ohio, United States
1907
May 26, 1907
Age 59
Canton, Stark, Ohio, United States
????
Canton, Stark, OH, USA