Since today is Valentine’s Day AND we have Presidents Day coming up here’s a brief shoutout to the often neglected love story about President William McKinley and his wife Ida Saxton McKinley. The McKinley years were far enough away that there is a certain sincerity to their relationship that could never be trusted in these days of endless media overload.
Years before they were President and First Lady the McKinleys lost both their daughters in tragic circumstances. Ida was never the same and became epileptic plus showed signs of other disorders. As president, William happily restructured the usual social agenda for First Ladies to accommodate Ida’s special circumstances.
Ida was permitted to sit rather than stand for the endless receiving lines that STILL take up too much time in the world of politics. McKinley’s administration had Vice President Hobart’s wife tend to many of the strenuous hostessing activities that First Ladies usually have to endure.
Perhaps most touchingly, President McKinley had Ida sit right next to him at formal meals rather than at the opposite end of the table, as was the usual custom. He did this so that when Ida had one of her epileptic seizures at the table he could place a napkin over her face to prevent guests from noticing. Although personally, I’ve always been convinced that the guests were just pretending not to notice. But that’s just me.