From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Helen Louise Herron "Nellie" Taft (June
2, 1861 – May 22, 1943) was the wife of William
Howard Taft and First
Lady of the United Statesfrom 1909 to 1913.
Born in Cincinnati,
Ohio, the fourth child of Judge John Williamson Herron (1827-1912), a law
partner of Rutherford
B. Hayes, and Harriet Collins-Herron (1833-1901), Nellie graduated from
the Cincinnati College of Music and taught school briefly before her marriage.
With her parents, she attended the twenty-fifth wedding anniversary
celebration of President and Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes at the White
House in 1877.
Two years later, she met William Howard Taft at a bobsledding party in
Cincinnati; he was 22 years old, she was 18. He asked her out for the first
time in February 1880, but they did not date regularly until 1882. He proposed
in April 1885, and she accepted in May.
Taft married Nellie on June 19, 1886, at the home of the bride's parents in
Cincinnati. The wedding was performed by the Reverend D.N.A. Hoge of Zanesville,
Ohio. Taft's younger brother Horace Taft was best man. The couple
honeymooned one day in New
York City and four days at Sea
Bright, New Jersey, before setting off on a three-month tour of Europe.
On their return, they settled in Cincinnati. Mrs. Taft encouraged her
husband's political career despite his oft-stated preference for the
judiciary. She welcomed each step in her husband's political career: state
General of the United States, and federal
circuit court judge. In 1900 he
agreed to take charge of American civil government in the Philippines.
Further travel with her husband, who became Secretary
of War in 1904, brought a
widened interest in world politics and a cosmopolitan circle of friends.
The Tafts had two sons and a daughter. Robert
Alphonso Taft (1889-1953) was a
political leader, Helen
Taft (1891-1987) was an
Phelps Taft II (1897-1983) was
a civic leader.
As First Lady, she was the first wife of a president to ride alongside her
husband down Pennsylvania Avenue onInauguration
Day (heretofore the outgoing
chief executive had accompanied the new president). Two months after entering
the White House, Mrs. Taft suffered a stroke, impairing her speech. She never
fully recovered. With the help of her sisters, however, she entertained
moderately. She received guests three afternoons a week in the Red Room.
The social highlight of the Taft administration was the silver wedding
anniversary gala (June 19, 1911) for some 8,000 guests. In her most lasting
contribution as First Lady, Mrs. Taft arranged for the planting of the 3,000
Japanese cherry trees that grace the Washington Tidal Basin; with the wife of
the Japanese ambassador, she personally planted the first two saplings in
ceremonies on March 27, 1912.
The Tafts were divided over Prohibition:
the former president was a Dry; Mrs. Taft a Wet. With Taft's appointment to
Court, Mrs. Taft became the only woman to be both First Lady and wife of a chief
She died on May 22, 1943, and was buried next to the president at Arlington