Tags: Presidential History | first lady | William McKinley

Ida Saxton McKinley: The Causes That Defined President William McKinley's First Lady

By    |   Thursday, 11 Jun 2015 12:56 PM

Ida Saxton McKinley, wife of 25th U.S. President William McKinley, maintained her wifely duties as first lady during her husband’s presidency despite enduring ongoing illness and the loss of her children.

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The couple was renown for their caring of one another and during their engagement Ida is believed to have commented on imagining William as president of the United States.

As President McKinley’s first lady, Ida chose several causes and two specific charities to which she invested much of her time. Below are some of the many causes Ida believed most important:

Crittenden House
The Crittenden House was an organization that provided homeless and unemployed women around the country with shelter, food, and education. The organization was one of Ida’s main charities in which she helped to fundraise for by knitting wool sippers for the group to sell.

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Salvation Army
The Salvation Army was Ida’s second main charity that she prioritized as first lady. Ida developed a close relationship with Evangeline Booth, who founded the organization. Ida also helped fundraise for this organization by auctioning off her homemade slippers and flower arrangements.

Women’s Rights
Growing up, Ida’s father owned the Stark County Bank, where Ida worked as a young adult upon graduation and completion of her education. Ida was the only female working in the bank but managed to quickly rise from clerk to acting manager.

She and her father were frequently criticized for her deemed improper position as a female but she defended her abilities, believing she was a competent as any man.

As first lady, Ida forged a relationship with Susan B. Anthony, leader of the women’s suffrage movement, and was a staunch supporter of women’s voting rights. In June of 1899 Smith College awarded Ida with a silver trophy for her support of higher education for women.

Marital Support
Because Ida and William were known for their close marriage, Ida went to great lengths to show the public that her poor health would not be a distraction to her husband’s presidency.

During President McKinley’s inaugural ceremony, Ida struggled to walk the length of Union Station without assistance in order to show her strength even in illness.

Ida managed to host guests in the White House, but she did so seated in elaborate armchairs.

President McKinley also changed the seating arrangements at White House dinners so that Ida could be next to him, rather than seated across, in the event of an epileptic episode.

These small social accommodations made Ida a role model for individuals with disabilities.

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Ida Saxton McKinley, wife of 25th U.S. President William McKinley, maintained her wifely duties as first lady during her husband’s presidency despite enduring ongoing illness and the loss of her children.
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Thursday, 11 Jun 2015 12:56 PM
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