As we traveled south we passed through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley and stopped for a few nights in the area. In keeping with our quest to visit as many Presidential Libraries as possible, we toured the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum in Staunton, Virginia. Nearby was Woodrow Wilson’s birthplace where he was born in 1856, the son of a Presbyterian minister.
There is a nice museum detailing Wilson’s presidency. In the basement of the museum is a recreated Great War (first World War) bunker.
Wilson was our 28th President, serving from 1913-1921, the first Southerner elected president since Zachary Taylor in 1848. Wilson was seen as a leader of the Progressive Movement. He reintroduced the State of the Union address which hadn’t been done since 1801. During his time as President he oversaw the passage of progressive legislative policies including the Federal Reserve, Federal Trade Commission, Clayton Antitrust Act, and the Federal Farm Loan. His Revenue Act of 1913 introduced the federal income tax. Wilson favored an international policy of neutrality which some blamed for later causing us to enter into the Great War. Woodrow Wilson won a second term as President, the first Democrat since Andrew Jackson to win two consecutive terms. His second term was dominated by the United States entry into World War I in 1917. He loaned billions of dollars to Britain, France and other Allies, raising income taxes and borrowing billions of dollars through the public purchase of Liberty Bonds. In 1918 he endorsed the 19th Amendment which was ratified in 1920, giving women the right to vote. Like all Southern Democrats at that time, he supported segregation. He pushed for a League of Nations and was in favor of the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty was opposed by Republicans and while promoting the treaty he suffered a severe stroke and the treaty was rejected by the Senate. It is said that Wilson’s Presbyterian background infused morality into his international affairs, leading to what is known as “Wilsonian”, an activist foreign policy calling for the promotion of global democracy. Because of his work on forming the League of Nations, he was awarded the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize. After his stroke, many say that his second wife, Edith, ran the White House and made many major administrative decisions. Wilson was initially against equal rights for women and some say it was Edith who actually had the 19th Amendment passed. His illness was kept from the public, but once it became known, concern was expressed about his fitness to serve as President. This led to the 25th Amendment which details the succession to the presidency in case of illness.
Prohibition also began in 1920 during Wilson’s presidency.
Also in the museum is Wilson’s 1919 Pierce-Arrow car. The car was part of the Presidential fleet and when he left office his friends purchased it for him.
After his presidency ended, he and Mrs. Wilson lived in Washington D.C. until his death in 1924 at the age of 67. Mrs. Wilson lived another 37 years, dying in 1961 at the age of 89.
We enjoyed our very short time in Virginia visiting family and friends. With temperatures going down to 36 degrees at night, we hurried towards our next stop in North Carolina.