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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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,