Sunday, January 2, 2011
Wilson's hopes for League, health fail in Pueblo
“Mr. Chairman and fellow countrymen: It is with a great deal of genuine pleasure that I find myself in Pueblo, and I feel it is a compliment in this beautiful hall. One of the advantages of this hall, as I look about, is that you are not too far away from me, because there is nothing so reassuring to men who are trying to express the public sentiment as getting into real personal contact with their fellow citizens.”
___ President Woodrow Wilson, opening statements or the Final address in Support of the League of Nations, delivered Sept. 25, 1919, in Memorial Hall, Pueblo, Colo.
At the end of WW I, President Woodrow Wilson traveled to Paris to help personally negotiate terms of the treaty with our Allies in the war. In Europe, he successfully put forth the idea of a League of Nations. Here at home however, conservative members of the Senate (“the irreconcilables”) blocked such provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. Wilson, still determined, decided to try to sell it directly to the American people. He embarked on a whistle-stop speaking tour.
“During the trip, Wilson complained of headaches and sleeplessness. He collapsed in Pueblo, Colorado. The trip was canceled and Wilson returned to the White House, where he suffered a stroke,” according the Health Media Lab.
“From that time on the president was incapable of carrying out his duties. Wilson’s inner circle, consisting of the First Lady, his personal physician, private secretary, and the Secretary of State, kept the president’s condition a secret. No one was allowed to see him. The Cabinet and the press were told that Wilson had suffered a nervous breakdown. Vice President Thomas Marshal was never informed. The American people never knew their President was an invalid. Wilson completed his second term in office in 1921. His health improved only slightly. He died in retirement on 3 February, 1924.”
Edith Bolt Galt Wilson, the president’s second wife (his first wife died earlier during his presidency and he and Edith were married in the White House), is labeled by some as the first woman to serve as president, because of her role when her husband was incapacitated.
“On the morning of October 2, Mrs. Wilson found her husband unconscious on the bathroom floor of their private White House quarters bleeding from a cut on his head.” According to Eye Witness to History account by Ike Hoover, the president’s Chief Usher.
“At exactly ten minutes before nine o’clock on this memorable day (I noted the time in writing the same day), my telephone the desk in the Usher’s Room at the White House rang and Mrs. Wilson’s voice said, ‘Please get Dr. Grayson, the president is very sick.’ The telephone used was a private one that did not go through the general telephone switchboard. Mrs. Wilson had come all the way out to the end of the upper hall to use this particular telephone instead of the regular one in their bedroom. I reasoned at the time that it was done to avoid publicity, for there had been talk about the operators of the switchboard listening in and distributing information they picked up. I immediately called Dr. Grayson at his home, repeated the message as Mrs. Wilson had given it to me, and ordered one of the White House automobiles to go for him with all haste. I then went upstairs to see if there was anything I could do,” Hoover said.
The Chief Usher waited for the Doctor, who when he arrived, attempted to walk directly in but was stopped by a locked door. The doctor knocked and was let in.
“In about ten minutes Doctor Grayson came out with raised arms and said, ‘My God, the President is paralyzed! Send for Doctor Stit and the nurse,’” according to Hoover’s account. Hoover was later allowed in to rearrange furniture.
“The President lay stretched out on the large Lincoln bed. He looked as if he were dead. There was not a sign of life. His face had a long cut about the temple from which signs of blood were still evident. His nose bore a long cut lengthwise. This too looked red and raw. There was no bandage.”
Hoover asked at the time how it happened.
“I was told — and I know it to be right — that he had gone to the bathroom upon arising in the morning and was sitting on the stool when the affliction overcame him; that he tumbled to the floor, striking his head on the sharp plumbing of the bathtub in his fall; that Mrs. Wilson, hearing groans from the bathroom, went in and found him in an unconscious condition. She dragged him to the bed in the room adjoining and came out into the hall to call over the telephone for the doctor, as I have related.”
Wilson did not attend a cabinet meeting until almost six months after his stroke. Dr. Cary T. Grayson never admitted publicly that Wilson suffered from a stroke and refused to declare him disabled.