The Story Behind Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson by William Hazelgrove


I was reading a biography on Woodrow Wilson when a single sentence stopped me. “Edith Wilson was almost the President.”  This started me on the road to finding out what really happened in 1919. What I found was that Edith Wilson faced times as rancorous as our own. Her husband was paralyzed and close to death from a massive stroke when she inherited the madam-presidentpresidency in 1919. World War I was still not settled with a battle over the League of Nations that makes our Health Care debate look tame. Veterans were returning home to a soft economy with few jobs. Women were chaining themselves to the White House gates and throwing themselves in front of carriages to get the vote. Anarchists launched coordinated attacks against the Attorney General and others with bombs delivered to their homes. Russia had collapsed and Communism was a perceived as a real threat to the world order. Edith Wilson could tell Madam President a thing or two about troubled times.

She had a husband who was dependent on his wife for everything. Edith did not have the years of experience. She was from Virginia and had run a jewelry company and had been married to the President for four years. She had only gone to school for two years and now she was expected to govern at a time when women were second class citizens. Her husbands reason for being, The League of Nations, was under vicious attack by Henry Cabot Lodge who loathed Edith and Woodrow Wilson. And World War I had yet to be settled.

Just a few things on her plate. So while keeping the secret that her husband was now a low functioning invalid and trying to run the country, she had also to deal with a coal strike, a nationwide railroad strike, lynchings, bomb throwing anarchists, a rights trampling man named J Edgar Hoover who wanted to forget about due process of law. Edith Wilson had to handle all this and more and do it with no experience, little support, and no end in sight.

So I wrote a proposal with three sample chapters and send it to my agent. She fanned it out to about twenty publishers. Two responded with offers. I ended up with Regnery with a two book deal. So I really sold the book on an idea which is much different from fiction where you write the whole book.

About the Author

william-hazelgroveWilliam Elliott Hazelgrove is the best-selling author of thirteen novels, Ripples, Tobacco Sticks, Mica Highways, Rocket Man, The Pitcher, Real Santa, Jackpine and The Pitcher 2. His books have received starred reviews in Publisher Weekly and Booklist, Book of the Month Selections, Junior Library Guild Selections, ALA Editors Choice Awards and optioned for the movies. He was the Ernest Hemingway Writer in Residence where he wrote in the attic of Ernest Hemingway’s birthplace. He has written articles and reviews for USA Today and other publications. He has been the subject of interviews in NPR’s All Things Considered along with features in The New York Times, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Richmond Times Dispatch, USA Today, People, Channel 11, NBC, WBEZ, WGN. The Pitcher is a Junior Library Guild Selection and was chosen Book of the Year by Books and Authors. net. His next book Jackpine will be out Spring 2014 with Koehler Books. A follow up novel Real Santa will be out fall of 2014. Madam President The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson will be out Fall 2016. Storyline optioned the movie rights. Forging a President How the West Created Teddy Roosevelt will be out May 2017.

He runs a political cultural blog, The View From Hemingway’s Attic.

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