Eleanor Wilson’s White House Wedding

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, May 8, 1914:  <no entry>

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma was probably totally exhausted as the spring cleaning and wallpapering wound down; and was too tired to write a diary entry a hundred years ago today. Hopefully she had a chance to relax a little, and maybe the wedding of the president’s daughter the previous day made her dream a little–

On May 7, 1914, Eleanor Wilson, the daughter of President Woodrow Wilson married William McAdoo. Eleanor was 24 years old, and he was a widower who was 26 years older than her. He was also the Secretary of the Treasury.

Source: Milton Evening Standard (April 19, 1914)

Source: Milton Evening Standard (April 19, 1914)

Apparently the article didn’t correctly predict how many wedding gifts the couple would receive. According to Eleanor’s 1967 obituary:

Her marriage to McAdoo drew world attention. The wedding was held in the White House, where a family friend recalled “there were rooms and rooms of gifts. It was all a mad rush, but she enjoyed it immensely.”

An aside—Apparently even a storybook wedding doesn’t ensure long-term happiness, because the obituary continued:

The couple divorced 20 years later when McAdoo was elected U.S. senator from California and Mrs. McAdoo had to remain in California for health reasons.

8 Responses

  1. Wow 26 year age difference. I know it happens but I just can’t see myself having anything in common with someone that much older than me.

  2. That is a HUGE age difference!

  3. Yes, 26 is a large age difference. My wife and I have enjoyed our 13 yr difference for over 30 yrs and counting.

  4. wow if he was 26 years older than her, he was 50 when they got married and 70 twenty years later when he was elected as senator? Wow!
    Diana xo

  5. A 26 year age difference would make for a difficult marriage, I would think. But I’m all for small weddings! Some weddings seems more like staged theater productions than a simple gathering to make vows to each other.

    I have to admit that I’ve been feeling guilty knowing how much time your grandmother spent doing spring cleaning! I can’t seem to get motivated enough to roll up my sleeves and begin. They had a lot more self-discipline 100 years ago!

  6. 20 years. Seems to be some kind of magic number. That’s how long Lou and I lasted. But what a great family we could boast of.

  7. The small private wedding concept sounds like some of our celebrities today …. And few gifts …. Too bad …. Jane

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