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Ellen Axson Wilson
Ellen Louise Wilson
First Lady of the United States
In office
March 4, 1913 – August 6, 1914
Preceded by Helen Herron Taft
Succeeded by Edith Wilson
Personal details
Ellen Louise Axson Wilson

(1860-05-15)May 15, 1860
Savannah, Georgia, U.S.
Died August 6, 1914(1914-08-06) (aged 54)
White House, Washington, D.C., U.S.
Nationality American
Spouse Woodrow Wilson

Ellen Louise Axson Wilson (May 15, 1860 – August 6, 1914), first wife of Woodrow Wilson was First Lady of the United States from 1913 until her death.

Early life

Ellen spent her childhood in Rome, Georgia. Her father’s name was Reverend S.E. Axson. Her father was a Presbyterian minister. Thomas Woodrow Wilson first saw Ellen when he was about six and she only a baby. In 1883, as a young lawyer from Atlanta, "Tommy" visited Rome (Georgia) and met "Miss Ellie Lou" again. She was looking after her father’s household. He wanted to marry her. The marriage took place in 1885, as she did not immediately wanted to leave her father alone.

In the same year, her husband got a teaching job at Bryn Mawr College. They lived near the campus. She kept her younger brother with them. The Wilson couple had three children. Margaret was born in 1886; Jessie was born in 1887. A third child named Eleanor was born in Connecticut, while Wilson was teaching at Wesleyan University.

Beginning in 1890, her husband had a well-known career at Princeton University. This brought much social responsibility to Ellen. She spent most of her time painting. She had a studio in the White House where she painted.

First Lady

After Wilson was elected as president in 1912, the Wilsons preferred to begin the administration without an inaugural ball. As the First Lady, Ellen’s entertainments were also simple. But her charms and warmness made the people happy. Her parties became successes.

As the First Lady, Ellen Wilson tried for improving the housing for the "Negroes" living in Washington D.C. She visited the slums where Negro families lived. This brought their bad living condition to the attention of the Congressmen.


She had Bright's disease. She died on 6 August 1914 after an operation on her appendix. At the time of her death, she quietly said to the physician: "…take good care of my husband." She also told her physician to tell her husband to marry again after her death. Wilson was very sad at her death. He took her to Rome, Georgia for burial. He would later marry Edith Wilson in 1915.

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