First Lovebirds: Calvin and Grace Coolidge - Presidential History Geeks
Grace Coolidge was born, raised and married in the Burlington, Verrmont home she did not convert to this sect as a result of her marriage to Calvin Coolidge, who The Goodhue home also served as the initial meeting headquarters for the. President Coolidge knew something about people with disabilities. He was the Honorary President of the American Foundation of the Blind. He had met his wife, . In Northampton she met Calvin Coolidge; they belonged to the same boating, picnicking, whist-club In October they were married at her parents' home.
Calvin and Grace Coolidge had a unique relationship, helped in no small part by their mutually wonderful senses of humor. Grace Goodhue Coolidge was a personable woman with an outgoing nature and wall-to-wall smile. When former First Lady Grace Coolidge was a widow, a reporter requested an interview. Genial by nature, Mrs. Coolidge was happy to oblige. Grace just stared at her.
The blandness and reticence of Calvin Coolidge was legendary by that time. It was early in the twentieth century, and young Miss Goodhue boarded at the school, as was required. Early one morning she was watering the flowers in front of the building, and happened to look up at the boarding house across the street.
The upper story window was open, and there was a young man shaving. His suspenders hung at his waist, and the top of his union suit was plainly visible. His face was smeared with soapy lather. He was also wearing a derby hat. The sight tickled her, and she laughed aloud. The young man may have heard her, for he turned to look out the window, saw the pretty girl, and did the quintessentially Coolidgesque thing: Coolidge was formally introduced to Miss Goodhue by mutual friends.
He liked her immediately, but since he was a young attorney just starting out, his funds were limited. His thrifty habits had already been instilled. When Coolidge introduced Grace to his family, they liked her immediately, too.
The Goodhue Opposition Grace Coolidge with an uncharacteristic serious pose — but she was a very serious needlewoman. But the Goodhues loved their only daughter and wanted her to be happy. She was also elected vice-president of her sophomore class. Continuing with her music and voice lessons, she also joined the college glee club. As the only child of older parents, the three-member Goodhue family was unusually close.
As a young girl, she enthusiastically learned to knit, sew, cook, bake, clean and garden like her mother. She was notable as a child for her intelligence, and self-awareness, often found in a deep and peaceful contemplation. She also formed a close relationship with her maternal grandfather, a Union Army veteran who shared with her stories of his Civil War experiences.
Although an only child, she had a large number of paternal first cousins with whom she remained close her entire life. As a young child, Grace Coolidge suffered from a spinal weakness and her parents put her in rigorous exercise program which strengthened the problem. Although in her advanced years, she developed upper spinal and shoulder issues, through the rest of her young and middle years she was in good health.
Throughout her life, she enjoyed various sporting activities. During the long New England winters she ice-skated, tobogganed, and drove a horse sleigh. When this girl later became a teacher of deaf children and brought students to her own home in Burlington, to continue their inculcation during the summer months, Grace Coolidge had her first exposure to the hearing-impaired and determined to someday do likewise.
Her initial class was of primary-school level children, followed by those at the intermediate level. Even though she ceased her active teaching once she was married, Grace Coolidge maintained a lifelong interest in the evolving training of deaf children and support of the Institute. As a college student, Grace Goodhue dated a fellow young member of her church, Clarence Noyes. Her second boyfriend was Frank Joyner and they became close enough that, although there was no formal announcement of their wedding engagement, there was an understanding that they would eventually marry.
After meeting Calvin Coolidge induring her second year of working as a teacher and their ensuing courtship, she ended her relationship with Noyes. Their first date was to a Republican rally at Northampton City Hall. It was a plain ceremony; Grace Coolidge wore grey, carried no flowers and guests included just a handful of relatives and close friends.
After their wedding ceremony, the Coolidges took a one-week honeymoon in Montreal, Canada before settling in a rented home in Northampton.
The Coolidges initially lived in a Northampton hotel that would soon go out of business and made their necessary household purchases from its linens and table service, despite being branded with the hotel monogram, using it in their home even during and after their tenure in the White House. Following election to the state legislature, Calvin Coolidge began his term in January of and his absence from the home established a pattern for the family. There is the suggestion that, lacking the presence of her husband with whom she could consult, Grace Coolidge felt uncertain and often turned to their local minister for spiritual guidance and practical help with her sons.
Perhaps as a result of her training and experience as a teacher of deaf children, Grace Coolidge was acutely sensitive to her maturing sons, both in terms of their needs and in directing their educations. She was assiduous about inculcating them with thrift and their toys and other possessions were usually hand-made or older items that were repaired. Once they were able to manage themselves, she found an increase in the social expectations of her as a political wife and chose not to return to work as a teacher of deaf children.
She was elected president of the Western Massachusetts Alumnae Club invice-president representing the entire eastern seaboard and president of that division three years later. At that time she also began her lifelong work with the Red Cross, organizing fundraisers to benefit local men who enlisted in the armed services. The state of Massachusetts did not provide its governor and gubernatorial family any type of state residence, so Governor Coolidge continued to live at the moderately-priced Adams House residential hotel in Boston.
Her physical separation from her husband in Boston and thus removal from his official duties and ceremonial role thus permitted Grace Coolidge to live as a private citizen, despite her status as the First Lady of the state. During the Vice Presidential years, her husband also came to quickly value her sociability as a political asset.
The Coolidges moved into the Willard Hotel suite which had been occupied by the previous vice-presidential couple, the Marshalls. During the months when Congress was in session, Mrs. Coolidge hosted receptions on Wednesday afternoons in the living room of their suite for any person, acquaintance or stranger, who wanted to meet her and enjoy the light refreshments she provided; these open-house events were announced to the public in newspapers.
She also attended debates in the U. Senate and the sessions of the Washington Conference on the Limitation of Armaments in the last months of and early months of Their interests and personalities were at great variance but Mrs.
Harding did once express a good-natured exasperation with Mrs. In the days following the death and burial of President Harding, Grace Coolidge showed particular sensitivity towards the suddenly-widowed Florence Harding, assuring her that she should consider remaining in the White House for as long a period as she wished.
Harding had chosen him as his vice-presidential candidate, she questioned the wisdom of his accepting the honor. It was not that she wished him to remain out of national politics but rather that he was of presidential caliber himself and assumed he would not settle for less than the highest office. During the presidential campaign, however, Grace Coolidge made no appearances other than in their hometown of Northampton, appearing alongside her husband rather than headlining any fundraisers or events.
She cooperated with numerous wire service and large-circulation newspapers and also posed for numerous press photographs with her husband and sons. Harding at their home. The two women enjoyed comparing notes on what sort of expectations would be made of them as First Lady and Second Lady and even coordinated the Inaugural ceremony outfits which they would both wear.
At the Inauguration of her husband as Vice President, Grace Coolidge played no significant historical role, the event having been pared down to merely the swearing-in ceremony and Inaugural Parade. On Inauguration night, the Vice President and Mrs. The Coolidges were at their Plymouth Notch, Vermont home when they awoken in the early morning hours of August 3, with the news that President Harding had died.
Grace Coolidge lit the kerosene lamp by which her husband repeated the presidential oath of office as administered to him by his father, a notary public, and stood back to witness the historic event.
For much of the active period of the presidential campaign in which her husband, as the incumbent President, conducted his election campaign, he and Grace Coolidge were in mourning for their son Calvin, who died in July. Had this tragedy not occurred it is possible that Grace Coolidge might have played a more public role in the campaign. On 30 Octobershe did participate in a small but significant politically non-partisan gesture to encourage women to exercise their right to vote for the second time since passage of the 18thAmendment.
Having her personal desk brought out onto the South Lawn, she sat and filled out an absentee ballot while press photographers recorded the simple act and disseminated it through newspapers. She also wrote an open letter to the women of America, outlining their civic responsibility to vote and urging them to do so.
There was also a minor press controversy during the campaign. There was no Inaugural Ball. As she wrote with insight: President to write about the role of First Lady: State Department permanently assigned a protocol expert to take charge of formal White House state dinner and other ceremonial events, liberating the Social Secretary of these duties and permitting her to focus more on direct duties aiding the First Lady.
During the Lenten season, Grace Coolidge followed an informal tradition begun by Edith Roosevelt of hosting afternoon musicales of classical music. Significant artists performed during her tenure, including Sergei Rachmaninoff. In the late spring during two of her five years as First Lady she also hosted garden parties Although there was a housekeeper, Elizabeth Jaffray, who directed the duties of the one and a half dozen members of the domestic staff, Grace Coolidge took a more pro-active oversight of overall operations; while it was a public space for ceremony and entertaining, she believed it her responsibility to run as she would her personal home.
While it was widely acknowledged that she knew nothing about how the President made his choices on decisions facing him, he admitted to often being kept uninformed of her arrangements on social events.
With necessary structural renovations at the White House and an enlargement of the third floor begun in March ofGrace Coolidge oversaw the temporary relocation of the presidential household to the white marble mansion of Cissy Patterson of the publishing family.
It was there that they famously entertained the overnight world hero, aviator Colonel Charles Lindbergh. She also took an unusual degree of interest in the history of the White House rooms, what had occurred there and what objects were historically associated with former residents.
Hoping to provoke the public into donating items which might have once been used in the White House, Grace Coolidge successfully requested that Congress pass legislation which permitted the acceptance of any potential contributions.
Disappointed at the minimal response, she was nevertheless able to refurbish the Green Room in a Colonial Revival style. It was not for lack of interest in, or ignorance of social issues or political policy which curtailed Grace Coolidge from expressing her views in public but rather the determination of the President that it would improper for her to do so. Several factors may account for this.
Grace Coolidge had no history of having previously been part of his professional work. She later mused that he might have sought to do so had she been graver by nature, but she tended to place responsibility for deficiencies in their partnership on herself, rather than him.
It may simply have been the result of being physically separated from his professional life for all of their marriage until he became Vice President. Coolidge had a weak partisan identity, reflecting what might have been her conflicted political allegiance. She admitted that her initial political perspective had been strongly influenced by her Democratic father and then shaped by her Republican husband.
Coolidge learned from the media, as if she were a routine member of the general public. The President also defined other aspects of her public role as First Lady, preventing her from driving her own car, or flying in an airplane even with Colonel Charles A.
Lindbergh when the aviator-hero offered to pilot her first ride in the sky, considering both activities as attracting unnecessary publicity. By his own admission in remarks not published until some two decades after his death, Coolidge suffered from and intermittent but often severe social anxiety in which he was so overcome with self-consciousness that, among strangers, he simply fell into complete silence, unable or unwilling to even simply reply to small talk.
In the presence of his extroverted wife, however, the President was infinitely more at ease and Grace Coolidge often carried the thread of conversation with official guests, providing him relief from the duty of initiating the sort of interaction which could facilitate subsequent, more substantive talks as part of his responsibilities.
Although this balance of the couple during their mutual social interactions with others was a dynamic which existed throughout their marriage, there is also evidence to suggest that Calvin Coolidge suffered from an untreated type of depression which Grace Coolidge invariably attempted to lighten.
This is not known outside [to the public. In private, she may have also exerted some degree of influence on matters she knew were under review by him or others. There is one incident which revealed this, stemming from her admitted advocacy of the Public Buildings Act, which permitted for the review and coordination of architectural plans of federal structures, based on quality of design aesthetics.
When the Commission on Battle Monuments chairman presented a draft of plans for an intended memorial to the President, the First Lady interceded during the meeting, making the case that the rectangular shaft more resembled a guillotine.
Her judgment overrode that of others and the architect was ordered to draft a new design. Personal Life as First Lady Her affection for animals of all types was pronounced, even unusual. Rather than seeing them as unsanitary vermin she regarded the small rodents as a family unit, based on her observations, and interacted with them gently.
Facts about Grace Coolidge ***
While willing to observe the President fish, for example, she kept the fish so well-fed in the contained area where he tried to catch them that they resisted the lure of his bait.
Following along on an anticipated turkey shoot on Sapelo Island, Georgia, on Christmas Dayout of curiosity, she reported that none of the birds appeared and were thus killed. Grace Coolidge enjoyed vigorous physical exercise, largely through rapid walking all over Washington, hiking arduous terrain in more remote regions of the country, and swimming.
She also followed sporting events of the era, including tennis, football and baseball; not only did she attend local Washington Senators baseball games at Griffith Stadium and Army-Navy football games but she listened to games unfold via the radio. If she was unable to tune into a game on her own crystal-radio set with earphones, she often went to the White House telegraph room to keep updated on scores.