First Lady Grace Coolidge.

January 23, 2009 at 10:09 am | Posted in First Family | Leave a comment
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Grace Coolidge with two dogs, holding the front paws of one, July 26, 1924.

Grace Coolidge with two dogs, holding the front paws of one, July 26, 1924.

They lived modestly; they moved into half of a duplex two weeks before their first son was born, and she budgeted expenses well within the income of a struggling small-town lawyer.

To 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. She bore a second son in 1908, and it was she who played backyard baseball with the boys. As Coolidge was rising to the rank of governor, the family kept the duplex; he rented a dollar-and-a-half room in Boston and came home on weekends.

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. Her zest for life and her innate simplicity charmed even the most critical. Stylish clothes–a frugal husband’s one indulgence–set off her good looks.

After Harding’s death, she planned the new administration’s social life as her husband wanted it: unpretentious but dignified. Her time and her friendliness now belonged to the nation, and she was generous with both. As she wrote later, she was “I, and yet, not I–this was the wife of the President of the United States and she took precedence over me….” Under the sorrow of her younger son’s sudden death at 16, she never let grief interfere with her duties as First Lady. Tact and gaiety made her one of the most popular hostesses of the White House, and she left Washington in 1929 with the country’s respect and love.

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