Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson and Edith Wilson in June 1920 photograph

Woodrow Wilson and Edith Wilson in June 1920 photograph

Woodrow Wilson was the twenty-eighth President of the United States. He served from 1913-1921. He was born on December 29, 1856 in Staunton, Virginia. His father was a Presbyterian minister. When Wilson was two, the family moved to Augusta, Georgia.

Wilson had childhood memories of the Civil War. Southern schools had been affected by the war and Wilson did not begin his education until he was nine, and could not read well until he was eleven. When he was thirteen, the family moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where his father became a professor in a theological seminary.

Wilson was sent to Davidson College in 1873 when he was sixteen, to prepare for the ministry. He left the next spring because of illness. After a year and a half of convalescence, he went to Presbyterian College of New Jersey in Princeton. It was a solid experience for him. He edited the campus newspaper and debated.

During his time at Princeton, Wilson decided to forsake the ministry, as a career. He decided to become a statesman and went to law school at University of Virginia in 1879. Early in 1881, illness again forced him to leave school, but he was granted his degree in 1882 and admitted to the bar.

Wilson tried to practice law in Atlanta from 1882 to 1883, but the town was full of lawyers. He decided to return to school to ultimately teach. He entered graduate school at Johns Hopkins and after graduating and writing his first book, he took a teaching position at Bryn Mawr, a new women’s college.

He married Ellen Axson in 1885 and in 1886, persuaded the faculty at Johns Hopkins to grant him a Ph.D. He then served as a professor of history and politics at Wesleyan University in Connecticut from 1888 to 1890. In 1890, he accepted a position at Princeton in history and jurisprudence. By this time, the Wilson’s had three daughters.

Wilson published a five volume ‘History of the American People” during his time at Princeton. In 1902, he was chosen to become the president of the University. He was an activist president, raising the standards of scholarship, adding a perceptoral plan, and pushing for graduates to seek opportunities to serve the people. He also accused Protestant churches of “serving the classes and not the masses” and ‘having more regards for pew rents than for men’s souls.”.

After that speech, speculation began about whether Wilson would leave the university for political office. In 1910, he was approached to run for governor of New Jersey and ultimately, the Presidency by a group of prominent Democrats. When nominated, he resigned from Princeton, and won the election as Governor.

As Governor, Wilson pushed hard for reforms. He was successful until, in 1912, the Republicans won control of both Houses. From 1911 onward, Wilson was open in seeking the Democratic nomination for President. While the underdog going into the convention in 1912, Wilson eventually won on the forty-sixth ballot. When Roosevelt decided to run himself, this split the Republican vote between Roosevelt and Taft and Wilson wound up the winner.

Wilson took office in March 1913. At the time, no one was forecasting the coming war in Europe. Wilson’s inaugural address focused his thoughts on the human conditions in the US and the reforms that were needed at all levels to effect change.

Wilson called a press conference two weeks after inauguration, believing the people had a right to know what was going on in the Presidency. He was determined to lead, not follow and pushed for tariff reforms and fought against the business lobbies. He pushed for and got passed the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, probably the most important domestic legislation of his administration.

Foreign affairs came to dominate his attention. Wilson ordered the Navy into Vera Cruz in 1915 due to the Civil War in Mexico. His troops had to deal with Francisco Villa and he briefly contemplated declaring war on Mexico in 1916.

There had been a neutrality act passed in 1914 in response to the war in Europe. But Germany’s actions caused the pro-allies sentiment to grow in the US. Mrs. Wilson died in August 1914, and after a period of loneliness, he remarried Edith Galt. He was re-elected President in 1916 by a narrow margin.

Again, due to German actions, the US was drawn into the war in 1917. He proved to be a strong leader during the war, and developed his “14 Points” as the program for Europe. He also proposed a League of Nations to prevent future wars. The Republicans had won the mid-term elections and gained a majority in both Houses. They were determined to embarrass Wilson. Trying to rally public opinion, Wilson undertook a long tour with many speeches. On October 2, 1919, he suffered a stroke that left him an invalid.

Wilson did not run in 1920 and was dismayed when Harding won, knowing the League of Nations would die. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in December of 1920. Wilson retired with his wife in Washington. He died in his sleep on February 3, 1924.

Woodrow Wilson Facts

  • President No.: 28th
  • When did Woodrow Wilson serve? 1913-1921
  • What was Woodrow Wilson’s party? Democrat
  • Where was Woodrow Wilson from? New Jersey
  • Who was Woodrow Wilson’s wife? Ellen Wilson, first wife. Edith Wilson, second wife
  • When was Woodrow Wilson born? December 29, 1856
  • When did Woodrow Wilson die? February 3, 1924
  • Which college did Woodrow Wilson attend? Princeton University, University of Virginia Law School, Johns Hopkins University
  • What was Woodrow Wilson’s Jobs Before President? College Professor, historian and political scientist, president of Princeton University, Governor of New Jersey
  • What was Woodrow Wilson’s height? 5 feet, 11 inches
  • What was the population when Woodrow Wilson was president? 106,021,537
  • What hobbies did Woodrow Wilson have? Golf, riding, swimming, walking
  • What pets did Woodrow Wilson have? Sheep on the White House lawn
  • What transportation did Woodrow Wilson use? Car, boat
  • How did Woodrow Wilson communicate? Telephone, typed letter. telegram


Woodrow Wilson State of the Union Addresses

Woodrow Wilson Speeches

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