Tags: Presidential History | calvin coolidge | grace coolidge | causes

Grace Coolidge: The Causes That Defined President Calvin Coolidge's First Lady

By    |   Wednesday, 08 Jul 2015 03:01 PM

Grace Coolidge stayed largely out of the political spotlight during her time as First Lady during President Calvin Coolidge's 1923-29 term, but the former teacher focused on causes close to heart.

Grace Coolidge was a strong advocate for child welfare and education for people with disabilities, stemming from her time instructing at the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, Massachusetts.

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She always looked for opportunities to welcome people with disabilities to the White House, and Helen Keller was one of her favorite guests. A silent film depicts a meeting between the two, along with Anne Sullivan, Keller's teacher and lifetime friend.



By the end of the Coolidge administration, nearly $2 million had been raised for Grace's Clarke School, according to the Coolidge Foundation.

When she became the First Lady at age 44 – following the death of President Warren Harding -- Grace Coolidge was already well-known and popular in Washington society, recognized for her glamorous appearance, intelligence, and taste, according to The White House website.

Americans loved how she embraced popular trends of the decade. She shortened her skirts and wore more loose-fitting clothing, The Miller Center said. Grace also loved sports, and hiked or walked every day.

She was particularly interested in baseball. She taught it to her sons and attended Washington Nationals/Senators home games, including the 1925 World Series. Grace also enjoyed the new medium of movies, and invited several performers to the White House, such as John Barrymore, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, the Center said.

"Although she never spoke to reporters or journalists, the press loved Grace Coolidge and regularly featured her in their stories," her biography on The Miller Center said. "As the journals featured Grace Coolidge, they also drew attention to her public activities outside the White House, and the American public grew to expect that the First Lady would – and should – mingle with the people. As a result, future First Ladies would no longer be able to conduct their social duties from a White House receiving line."

Despite being college educated and well-versed on women's issues of the day, Coolidge remained quiet on many topics and had little input on her husband's decisions.

"I am rather proud of the fact that after nearly a quarter of a century of marriage, my husband feels free to make his decisions and act upon them without consulting me or giving me advance information concerning them," Grace Coolidge is quoted as saying, according to the Coolidge Foundation.

Nonetheless, Grace Coolidge embraced her role as White House hostess because she loved interacting with people, and took pleasure in making them feel at welcome. She maintained the Hardings' precedent of garden parties and musical performances. The Coolidges were the first couple to light the community Christmas tree via the relatively new invention of electricity.

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One project taken on by Grace involved the renovation and restoration of the White House, which included securing its place in history. She acquired original furnishings that had been removed, such as Abraham Lincoln's bed, and had a sunroom built over the south portico, The Miller Center said.

Grace's contributions and legacy grew larger once she left office. Calvin declined to run for re-election and the couple retired to Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1929. Still extremely popular, she was voted one of America's 12 greatest living women in 1931, The White House website said.

When Calvin Coolidge died in 1933, Grace continued to help deaf students and contributed articles to for several magazines. She also served on the boards of Mercersburg Academy and the Clarke School. During World War II, she joined a local group that helped Jewish refugees from Europe.

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Grace Coolidge stayed largely out of the political spotlight during her time as First Lady during President Calvin Coolidge's 1923-29 term, but the former teacher focused on causes close to heart.
calvin coolidge, grace coolidge, causes
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2015-01-08
Wednesday, 08 Jul 2015 03:01 PM
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