Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Helen Herron Taft

                    Helen "Nellie" Louise Herron was born June 2, 1861 in Cincinnati, Ohio. She was the fourth child of Judge John Williamson Herron (1827-1912; law partner of Rutherford B. Hayes) and Harriet Collins (1833-1902).  Nellie attended and graduated from Cincinnati College of Music; she taught school for a short period of time before she married.  She and her parents were at the White Houses in 1877 to help President and Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.  Nellie was obviously comfortable around politicians because both her grandfather (Ela Collins) and her uncle (William Collins) were members of Congress.

                    Nellie met William Howard Taft at a bobsledding party in Cincinnati in 1879 when he was 22 years old and she was 18 years old.  Their first date was in February 1880, but they did not start regular dating until 1882.  He proposed in April 1885, and she waited until May to accept.

                    William and Nellie were married on June 19, 1886, in Cincinnati at her family home.  Reverend D.N.A. Hoge of Zanesville, Ohio, performed the ceremony and Horace Taft, young brother of the groom, was best man.  The newlyweds honeymooned in New York City for one day; then spent four days at Sea Bright, New Jersey, prior to touring Europe for three months.  Upon their return to the states, the couple settled in Cincinnati.

                    Even though William preferred the judiciary, Nellie was supportive of his political career; she welcomed each new step as he moved from state judge, to Solicitor General of the United States to federal circuit court judge.  William was appointed in 1900 to be in charge of the American civil government in the Philippines.  Nellie enjoyed even more travel when William became Secretary of War in 1904; she widened her knowledge of world politics and enlarged her circle of cosmopolitan friends.

                    Nellie and her husband became parents of two sons and a daughter:  Robert Alphonso Taft (1889-1953; political leader), Helen Taft (1891-1987; educator), and Charles Phelps Taft II (1897-1983; civic leader).  

                    Mrs. Taft was the first wife of a president to accompany her husband down Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day.  Mrs. Taft suffered a stroke two months later; she never recovered from the stroke, which impaired her speech.  She was able to entertain moderately with the help of her sisters, and she received guests in the Red Room three afternoons each week.  On June 19, 1911, President and Mrs. Taft entertained 8,000 guests to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary.

                    Mrs. Taft made a lasting contribution when she arranged for 3,000 Japanese cherry trees to be planted in the Washington Tidal Basin.  She was joined by the wife of the Japanese ambassador when she planted the first two saplings on March 27, 1912.  Everyone who has enjoyed the beautiful cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. has Mrs. Taft to thank for it.

                    One of the major political debates during the Taft Administration was prohibition.  President Taft did not drink alcohol, but he opposed prohibition during his presidency and as Chief Justice; as First Lady, Mrs. Taft served alcohol to her guests.  President Taft wrote letters supporting the objectives of Prohibition in his last years.  As Taft was the only man to serve as both President and Chief Justice, Mrs. Taft became the only woman to be First Lady and wife of a Chief Justice. 

                    Nellie Taft passed away on May 22, 1943, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery next to her husband.

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