Which First Lady Secretly Took Over As President?

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When her husband President Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke while in office in 1919, Edith Wilson took over many routine duties of the president. She did not make any decisions or hold control over the executive office, but she selected matters for his attention and delegated other issues to his cabinet members.

Mrs. Wilson was a regular companion to her husband even before he suffered a stroke, often screening his mail and callers, and sitting silently in the Oval Office while he met with political leaders. When Woodrow had a debilitating stroke, Edith began what she called her “stewardship.” She served as the liaison between the cabinet and the president in his sick bed, hiding his condition from the public. In her memoir she stated that her husband’s doctors urged them to carry on this way. This case became a motivation for the passage of the 25th Amendment, which deals with presidential succession and chain of command.