The Courtship Of Woodrow Wilson


Savannah, June 20/85 And can it really be possible, my darling, that this is my last letter to you? … How strange it seems to think that we will have no more need of letters!—how strangely sweet! And yet the letters have been so dear to me, and will always be my carefully guarded treasure even when I have you too. They have made so large a part of my life for so long that I daresay I will still be listening and watching for the postman many a time when I am even at your side. … I would that I could tell you in this last letter something more than I have ever told before of what love means for me. But there are few places in my heart which I have not opened to you, dearest; I have shown you my heart of hearts. … You know as well as you can know, before the years have brought their proof, how absolutely I am yours; you know the depth and tenderness and fervour of my love … Darling, my faith in you is a part of my love for you; the one no less than the other has become the ruling passion as well as the controlling principle of my life. Thank God that the man I love is one who will permit me to obey His marriage law. I am to promise next week to reverence you. How many of the young men I have known do you suppose it would be possible to reverence! But you will be in very truth my head—my being, not only because will it but because God wills it, because He made you so to be. … And now, good-bye, my dear one, till Tuesday. I love you, darling, as much as you would have me love you. … Perhaps you have not yet sounded all the depths of my heart, yet to the very bottom it is all yours and I am for life —and death, Your own Eileen

On the twenty-fourth of June, in 1885, Ellen Louise Axson and Woodrow Wilson were married. It was an evening wedding in the parlor of the manse, next door to the Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah. Dr. I. S. K. Axson, the bride’s grandfather, and Dr. Joseph R. Wilson, the bridegroom’s father, stood side by side and shared the reading of the marriage ceremony. The parlor, with its high ceiling and dignified furnishings, was large but barely large enough to hold all the relatives. Ellen wore the traditional white veil and a simple white dress which she herself had made. The groom wore his dress-suit. They looked so happy that all the women cried.

Their honeymoon was two idyllic weeks at Arden Park, in the mountains of North Carolina. In September, they settled down contentedly in a house on the edge of the college campus at Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania—the beginning of a marriage that would last happily until Ellen’s death at the White House in 1914, and that would play a vital part in projecting Woodrow Wilson onto the great stage of world history. Through all those formative years her enduring love was indeed, for him, “a priceless gift.”