Helen Herron Taft was adventurous, intellectual, and ambitious. In her memoir, she notes that she and her friends “were bent on improving our minds,” and as young adults, they started an exclusive Sunday afternoon salon where young people could debate intellectual topics. Here she met William Howard Taft, a young attorney and her future husband. Unhappy with life as the wife of a stationary judge, she pushed her husband to enter politics. William Taft remained uncomfortable when he won the presidential election, but he wrote that he had little to fear “as my wife is the politician.” Disliking the company of women and social chit-chat, Helen Taft abolished the cabinet wives’ meetings once in the White House and refused to be pushed to the sidelines during her husband’s business. Although a stroke greatly affected her soon after she began her tenure as First Lady, she continued to manage the White House with a perfectionist’s eye.
Facts and quotations from First Ladies: From Martha Washington to Michelle Obama by Betty Boyd Caroli. C-SPAN is exploring the influence of First Ladies in its series.
Image: Helen Taft, 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Helen Herron Taft was adventurous, intellectual, and ambitious. In her memoir, she notes that she and her friends “were bent on improving our minds,” and as young adults, they started an exclusive Sunday afternoon salon where young people could debate intellectual topics. Here she met William Howard Taft, a young attorney and her future husband. Unhappy with life as the wife of a stationary judge, she pushed her husband to enter politics. William Taft remained uncomfortable when he won the presidential election, but he wrote that he had little to fear “as my wife is the politician.” Disliking the company of women and social chit-chat, Helen Taft abolished the cabinet wives’ meetings once in the White House and refused to be pushed to the sidelines during her husband’s business. Although a stroke greatly affected her soon after she began her tenure as First Lady, she continued to manage the White House with a perfectionist’s eye.

Facts and quotations from First Ladies: From Martha Washington to Michelle Obama by Betty Boyd Caroli. C-SPAN is exploring the influence of First Ladies in its series.

Image: Helen Taft, 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.