02 april, 2009

All the presidents wives 29

Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge

January 3, 1879 Burlington, Vermont

July 7, 1957 (According to some reports, she died on July 8th. Her son John, however, believed she died before midnight, on July 7th, the anniversary of Calvin Jr.’s death)
Andrew Issaclar Goodhue, mechanical engineer, steamboat inspector
Lemira Barrett Goodhue
Physical Description:
About 5’5", black hair, gray-green eyes, a winning smile and a cheerful disposition. She was physically fit and fond of hiking and horseback riding. She always appeared stylishly dressed and wore bright, vibrant colors. She was particularly fond of red.
Education and Early Years:
Being an only child made Grace the center of her parents’ attention, but her cheerful and sunny nature kept her from being spoiled. After her father suffered an accident when she was about four, Grace was sent to stay with the Yale family for nearly a year while he recovered. The older Yale daughter, June, was teaching at the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, Massachusetts. This fueled Grace’s lifelong interest in the deaf; she even wanted to teach them when she grew up.
Grace graduated from Burlington High School in 1897 and started at the University of Vermont in 1898. While there she joined the glee club and became one of the founders of the Beta chapter of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. After her graduation in 1902, she stayed with the Yale family in Northampton while attending classes at the Clarke School for the Deaf. She taught both the lower and intermediate levels.
In the spring of 1905, she met Calvin Coolidge.
(John) Calvin Coolidge (1872 – 1933)
Courtship and Marriage: Grace and Calvin has a whirlwind romance. They met in the spring of 1905 and were married that fall. The biggest obstacle in their romance was Grace’s mother, Lemira Goodhue. Lemira thought very little of her daughter’s choice for a husband. Calvin’s father, Colonel John Coolidge, on the other hand, thought the world of Grace. Coolidge was a quiet, shy, silent man who shared with Grace a love of family, a quiet faith and an impish sense of humor. Over Lemira Goodhue’s objections, Grace and Calvin were married on October 4, 1905 at her parent’s home in Burlington, Vermont.
Age at Marriage:
26 years, 274 days
Bright, intelligent, witty, with a strong sense of humor. She was tactful, warm and loved people. She had a strong faith. She had the ability to adjust herself to her husband’s moods. No one understood Calvin Coolidge better than Grace. She did not attempt to push her own views on anyone. Her strong sense of family kept her mostly in the home. She liked to dress well and in bright colors. Calvin liked her in pretty clothes so much that he often bought them for her. Grace loved sports, could throw a baseball better than most men she knew and became an avid baseball fan while she was First Lady. She made no attempt to follow politics. She never learned to drive a car because her husband forbade it. She developed a sense of resignation during her years of marriage to the controlling Calvin Coolidge.
1. John Coolidge (1906 – 2000)
2. Calvin Coolidge, Jr. (1908 – 1924)
Years Before the White House:
Since Calvin did not want his wife involved in politics, Grace made the home the center of her life. Two sons were born to them, and both Calvin and Grace were involved, loving parents. John was the quieter of the two, like the Goodhues, while Calvin Jr. inherited his father’s looks and sense of humor. While Calvin served as Lt. Governor and later Governor of Boston, Grace remained in Northampton with the boys. She made one trip to Washington, D.C. in 1912, but otherwise her life was that of a typical housewife at the turn of the century. Never a good cook, Grace bore her husband’s jokes about her lack of cooking skills with good humor. In her spare time, Grace read widely and played the piano. She smoked, but was never photographed with a cigarette. She began hiking, ice-skating and even learned the latest dances to keep up with her sons. All of her life, she loved and kept animals, especially dogs.
During World War I, Grace became involved in the Red Cross, something she maintained an interest in the rest of her life. She was also a trustee of the Clarke School for the Deaf.
At no point did Coolidge ever consult Grace about his political decisions.
In 1920, Grace was thrust into the limelight when her husband was nominated as Vice President on the ticket with Warren G. Harding of Ohio. After the 1920 election, the Coolidge’s moved to Washington where they lived in the Willard Hotel. When Mrs. Harding collapsed from kidney failure in 1922, Grace Coolidge took over her official duties. The Coolidges were visiting Calvin’s family home in Plymouth Notch, Vermont when they learned of the death of President Warren Harding.
First Lady:
August 2, 1923 – March 4, 1929: A telephone call alerted the Coolidges early on the morning of August 3, 1923 that President Harding had died in San Francisco. Grace Coolidge watched as her husband was sworn is as President by his father, Colonel John Coolidge, a notary public. (It was later discovered that a notary public could not swear in a president and the oath had to be re-administered). Grace thought to herself, "This is me and yet not me." She already began to feel the distance created by becoming First Lady.
The Coolidges were sympathetic to Mrs. Harding and did not push her to leave the White House. When she did on August 16th, the Coolidges waited another week before moving in.
President Coolidge made all the decisions on White House functions, including when, where, and who was to be invited and even kept a tight control on the kitchen. Grace’s only role was to appear ready, pretty, well dressed and charming. When she questioned her husband about the evening receptions and who was invited, he was not forthcoming with information. It took every ounce of her charm, sunny disposition and humor to offset his taciturn and sour disposition. It was Mrs. Coolidge who fostered stories of her husband’s dry wit and who used her own sense of humor to lighten what could have been a dull White House.
Grace Coolidge was an animal lover who collected a wide variety of pets including Rob Roy – a white collie, Rebecca – a raccoon, and many others.
Her husband’s controlling nature kept her from getting involved in any causes, with one exception – the Clarke School for the Deaf. Grace and Calvin set a goal of raising two million dollars for the school (a goal that was achieved by March 4, 1929). With the exceptions of appearing with Easter Seals children, hospitals, and charities, Calvin forced Grace to remain strictly a social figure.
The Coolidges second son, Calvin Jr., died on July 7, 1924 at age 16 of blood poisoning. His death was a serious blow to both Grace and Calvin. While Grace’s vivacity was dimmed, the loss was more apparent in Calvin, who was never the same again. Both grew even closer to their older son, John.
Coolidge easily won the 1924 election under the slogan, "Keep Cool with Coolidge". Many considered Grace the President’s strongest asset. Her humor, chic appearance and warmth won all hearts, and she had few critics. Unfortunately, due to her own somewhat passive nature and her husband’s controlling personality, she was denied the opportunity to become a more dynamic or forceful First Lady.
In 1927, the Coolidges created headlines when Mrs. Coolidge and her secret service agent, Jim Haley, got lost while hiking in the Black Hills. Once they were located, President Coolidge showed his fury by dismissing Agent Haley. For once, Grace showed her anger at him and, in defiance, maintained a relationship with Jim Haley and his family.
When asked about her husband’s decision not to run again in 1928, Grace admitted that she was surprised but glad that she had a husband who felt free to make decisions without checking with his wife. Secretly she was happy about his decision because she had growing concerns about Calvin’s health.
Grace Coolidge was the first First Lady to get Congress to approve a bill to protect items at the White House. She started an inventory of White House items that would be continued by Lou Hoover.
On the afternoon of their departure from the White House on March 4, 1929, Calvin Coolidge announced that they had achieved their goal and raised two million dollars for the Clarke School for the Deaf. Mrs. Coolidge made her only public radio address, "Goodbye."
Last Years: The Coolidges retired to The Beeches in Northampton, Massachusetts, where Grace could be close to the Clarke School. The President wrote for magazines and agonized over the depression. He died suddenly of a heart attack on January 5, 1933. His death left Grace Coolidge devastated. She was joined at the funeral by outgoing First Lady Lou Hoover and incoming First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
After Calvin’s death, Grace Coolidge began to write articles for magazines and to speak out on issues. She traveled with friends to Europe and watched her grandchildren grow. She never lost her love for baseball and followed her favorite team, the Boston Red Sox, on the radio. She died on July 7, 1957
Age at death:
78 years, 186 days
Plymouth Notch Cemetery, Plymouth Notch, Vermont (Mrs. Coolidge was cremated)
Grace Goodhue Coolidge was a bright, fun-loving, sunny-natured person who brightened the position of First Lady. She had a charisma that her dour husband lacked. She was, however, held back by her husband’s controlling nature and her own rather passive nature. She was loved and admired, but was not a trail blazer.

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