Woodrow Wilson Biography
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born December 28, 1856 in Staunton, Virginia to the Reverend Joseph Ruggles Wilson and his wife Janet (Jessie) Woodrow Wilson. He had two older sisters, Marion and Annie, and later a younger brother, Joseph.
Tommy Wilson, as he was called, was just over a year old when his family moved to Augusta, Georgia. He would live there until his early teens when the Wilson family moved to Columbia, South Carolina. Young Tommy spent most of his childhood in the South before and during the Civil War. While in Georgia, his father served as a chaplain in the Confederate Army and his mother helped set up a hospital in their church. Perhaps this close experience with war led Wilson to work so hard for peace while president.
Wilson briefly attended Davidson College and later transferred to Princeton University, graduating with the class of 1879. He attended the University of Virginia Law School and later received a PhD from Johns Hopkins University. He was one of our best educated presidents and was known as a scholar, orator and author of many books on government. Before entering politics, Wilson spent many years as a college professor. Later he became president of Princeton University and then Governor of New Jersey. He was elected 28th President of the United States in 1912.
Woodrow Wilson was married twice. His first wife, Ellen Axson, mother of their three daughters, Margaret, Jessie and Eleanor, died of a kidney disease in August of 1914. In December of 1915, Wilson married a Washington D.C. widow, Edith Bolling Galt. They were married for nine years. Edith lived to the age of 89 and died in 1961 on December 28, the anniversary of her husband's birth.
As President of the United States, Wilson was responsible for the passage of many social and economic reforms. His New Freedom platform was very progressive and called for tariff reduction and reform of the banking and monetary system. His greatest achievement was the passage of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, creating a system that still provides the framework for regulating the nation's banks, credit, and money supply today. Wilson sponsored legislation that supported unions to ensure fair treatment of working Americans and the development of the Child Labor Reform Act. Wilson also was instrumental with the passage of the 19th Amendment during his second term, guaranteeing all women the right to vote.
Wilson was best remembered for his leadership during World War I and his attempt to establish the League of Nations. After the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare by Germany combined with other provoking factors, Wilson asked Congress to declare war in April 1917, only the second declaration of war in U.S. history. World War I came to an end on November 11, 1918. At the Paris Peace Conference, Wilson proposed "Fourteen Points" as the basis for the peace treaty. The final Treaty of Versailles included many of Wilson's ideas. Unfortunately, the Treaty did not get support from the U.S. Congress. Consequently, the United States never joined the League of Nations. While touring the country to build public support for the Treaty, Wilson fell ill from exhaustion and suffered a stroke. In 1920, Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts on behalf of the League of Nations.
After leaving office in 1921, Wilson moved into a private residence in northwest Washington D.C. He died there at the age of 67 on February 3, 1924, and is buried in the Washington National Cathedral.