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Margaret Woodrow Wilson


Margaret was daughter of the 28th President of the United States of America, Woodrow Wilson, (1913-1921) whose vision and commitment to world unity eventually lead to the formation of the 'League of Nations'. She was an intelligent, capable, fiery woman of her times, a suffragette, and a famous concert singer. In an age before television, when the public might not instantly recognize a presidential child on the street, the Wilson girls took malicious delight in flitting about Washington, testing public opinion for themselves. Margaret, the firstborn, once instigated a sightseeing tour of Washington, with the sisters disguised as “hicks” from out of town. They patiently waited in line, bought tickets and then proceeded to ratchet up the farce by asking inane questions of the tour guide. With a whiny, high pitched voice, Margaret relentlessly implored the guide to let them go inside the White House itself. They wanted to see the family quarters, she said, where the Wilson girls actually slept. The exasperated guide patiently explained that it could not be done and then patronized them with his authority on the subject of the White House and his “authentic” stories of the first family. Neither he, nor the other sightseers, caught on to their true identities. Later, upstairs in the White House alone, the Wilson girls convulsed with laughter.

While Eleanor and Jessie were busy planning their weddings, Margaret continued her voice lessons. She had beaus of her own, but somehow never found the right one. One of them, Boyd Archer Fisher, was a graduate of Harvard, a writer, social worker and efficiency expert from New York. Margaret’s mother was impressed, describing him as “quick to take not only an idea but a point of view or an impression.” But Margaret was not in love.


Boyd pursued the first daughter, trying to win her by writing a one-act play, using it to describe his jealousy over a singing career with which he couldn’t compete. Aware of stories that suggested Margaret was the least attractive of the sisters, Boyd’s protagonist in the play told her character, “When I think about you, you begin to radiate until I think you are the most beautiful girl in the world.”


In one of his letters to her, Boyd described how he was attempting to make something of himself so she didn’t have to be ashamed of him, just in case “you do decide to take me.” He was her date at a party in Greenwich Village on February 14, 1914, after which Margaret was portrayed in a New York Times article as being the “chief factor in the evening’s success.” The article said that Boyd Fisher claimed Margaret for the first dance and “a share of the others,” but he was not able to monopolize her evening. “Miss Wilson distributed her time among the two hundred men and women, boys and girls at the party so evenly that when it was over she had exchanged a few words with every one of them.” Boyd and Margaret remained only friends for the rest of their lives.


When the First Lady died, Margaret Wilson, the only remaining daughter at the White House, stepped in as hostess, growing to hate the pressures as well as the role. In a note to her sister Jessie, she apologized for not writing sooner, saying she had to entertain houseguests and callers “every minute.”