Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson

William Hazelgrove. Regnery History, $29.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-62157-475-0
Novelist Hazelgrove (Jackpine) turns his attention to nonfiction history with less than stellar results, despite his fascinating choice of topic. In 1919, while President Woodrow Wilson was on an ambitious public relations tour to shore up support for the Versailles Treaty and League of Nations, he collapsed from ill health and exhaustion; a stroke followed. Details of the severity of the stroke were kept from the public as Edith Bolling Wilson, his second wife, strictly controlled access to the president. Hazelgrove posits that Woodrow Wilson’s inner circle was “concerned with preserving the status quo” and resisted any talk of a presidential resignation. Instead, Edith took over the reins of government. This is not a novel argument, nor has Hazelgrove unearthed any new information concerning Edith’s activities. The story proceeds in short, breathless chapters, and the writing is simplistic and at times graceless. Of one of Wilson’s marital indiscretions, Hazelgrove writes, “Mary Peck became Wilson’s Bermuda friend, for lack of a better word.” Readers who like their history very light—without nuance or new information—might find this book serviceable. Those looking for something more thought-provoking and well-researched can turn to Kristie Miller’s Ellen and Edith (2010) and Phyllis Lee Levin’s Edith and Wilson (2001). Illus. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 01/16/2017
Release date: 10/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
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