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Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge

(1879 - 1957)

First Lady from August 3, 1923 to March 4, 1929

Grace Coolidge

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Grace Coolidge

 

In office
August 2, 1923 – March 4, 1929
Preceded by Florence Harding
Succeeded by Lou Henry Hoover

In office
March 4, 1921 – August 2, 1923
Preceded by Lois Marshall
Succeeded by Caro Dawes

Born January 3, 1879
 
Died July 8, 1957 (aged 78)
 
Spouse(s) Calvin Coolidge
Children John, Calvin Jr.
Alma mater University of Vermont
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Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge (January 3, 1879 – July 8, 1957) was the wife of Calvin Coolidge and First Lady of the United States from 1923 to 1929.

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 Biography

Born in Burlington, Vermont, the only child of Andrew Issaclar Goodhue (1848-1923), a mechanical engineer and steamboat inspector, and Lemira Barrett Goodhue (1849-1929), Grace graduated from the University of Vermont in 1902, where she was a founding member of the Beta chapter of Pi Beta Phi sorority. She then joined the faculty of the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, Massachusetts, as a lip reading instructor.

While watering flowers outside the school one day in 1903, she happened to look up at the open window of Robert N. Weir's boardinghouse and caught a glimpse of Calvin Coolidge shaving in front of a mirror with nothing on but long underwear and a hat. She burst out laughing at the sight; he heard the noise and turned to look at her. It was their first meeting. After a more formal introduction sometime later, the two were quickly attracted to each other.

Grace's vivacity and charm proved a perfect complement to Coolidge's reserved manner. In the summer of 1905, Coolidge proposed in the form of an ultimatum: "I am going to be married to you." Grace readily consented, but her mother objected and did everything she could to postpone the wedding. Coolidge never reconciled with his mother-in-law, who later insisted that Grace had been largely responsible for Coolidge's political success.

The Goodhue family home in which Calvin Coolidge married Grace Goodhue. The building is now owned by Champlain College and is identified as Coolidge House.

On October 4, 1905, Coolidge (age 33) married Grace Goodhue (age 26) at the home of the bride's parents at 312 Maple Street in Burlington. The small wedding, attended by 15 guests, was performed by the Reverend Edward A. Hungerford. The newlyweds planned a two-week honeymoon to Montreal, Canada, but at Coolidge's suggestion cut it short at the end of one week and settled at Northampton. Mrs. Coolidge, although raised a Democrat, adopted the party of her husband.

The official White House portrait of First Lady Grace Coolidge

Grace Coolidge may be credited a full share in her husband's rise in politics. She worked hard, kept up appearances, took her part in town activities, attended her church, and offset his shyness with a gay friendliness. As Coolidge was rising to the office of governor, the family kept the duplex; he rented a dollar-and-a-half room in Boston and came home on weekends.

The Coolidges had two sons:

  • John (1906-2000) - railroad and print company executive.
  • Calvin, Jr. (1908-1924).

In 1921, as wife of the Vice President, Grace Coolidge went from her housewife's routine into Washington society and quickly became the most popular woman in the capital.

 First Lady

After Harding's death and Calvin Coolidge's succession to the Presidency, she planned the new administration's social life as her husband wanted it: unpretentious but dignified.

As First Lady, she was a popular hostess. The social highlight of the Coolidge years was the party for Charles Lindbergh following his transatlantic flight in 1927. The Coolidges were a particularly devoted couple, although the president never discussed state matters with her. She did not even know that he had decided not to seek re-election in 1928 until he announced it to the press.

She received a gold medal from the National Institute of Social Science. In 1931 she was voted one of America's twelve greatest living women.

 Later life

Calvin Coolidge summed up his marriage to Grace in his autobiography: "For almost a quarter of a century she was borne with my infirmities, and I have rejoiced in her graces."

For greater privacy in Northampton, the Coolidges bought "The Beeches," a large house with spacious grounds. Calvin died there in 1933.

After Calvin's death, Grace Coolidge continued her work on behalf of the deaf. During World War II, she was active in the Red Cross, civil defense, and scrap drives. She kept her sense of fun and her aversion to publicity until her death on July 8, 1957 at 78. She is buried next to her husband atPlymouth, Vermont.[1]


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