Woodrow Wilson Children

Margaret Woodrow Wilson

Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) was the 28th president of the United States, serving two terms from 1913 to 1921. He was a Democrat from Virginia who oversaw the country during World War I. Wilson was married twice and had three daughters: Margaret Woodrow Wilson (1886–1944), Jessie Woodrow Wilson (1887-1933), and Eleanor Randolph Wilson (1889-1967).

Margaret Woodrow Wilson

Margaret Woodrow Wilson was the first child of President Woodrow Wilson and his first wife, Ellen Louise Axson. She was born on April 16, 1886, in Gainesville, Georgia. The “Woodrow” in her name is from her paternal grandmother’s surname and her father’s middle name. Both of her grandfathers were Presbyterian ministers.

By the time she was born, her father was teaching at Bryn Mawr College, a women’s liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. But because her mother wanted her children to be born in the South, Edith went to Georgia to stay with family for the births of her first two daughters.

Margaret attended local schools before she studied at Goucher College in Baltimore. She then went on to become an accomplished pianist and singer. She made multiple songs, one of them titled “My Laddie” and released by Columbia Records.

After her mother died in August 1914, Margaret took on the role of First Lady until her father remarried in 1915. During World War I, she toured the United States to help raise money for the Red Cross. She was an advocate for women’s suffrage and was the second First Lady to support it, after Helen Herron Taft (wife of President William Howard Taft).

When her father died in February 1924, she was only 37 years old. In his will, he left her an annual allowance of $2500 (which is worth $39,529 today) as long as she remained unmarried and it didn’t exceed one-third of the estate’s income. Fourteen years later, Margaret visited an ashram to Pondicherry, India. She became a devotee of the ashram and remained there for the rest of her life.

The spiritual leader Sri Aurobindo gave her the name Nistha which meant “dedication” in Sanskrit. Along with Joseph Campbell, she edited the English translation of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Margaret Wilson died from uremia on February 12, 1944, at age 57. She never married or had children and was buried in Pondicherry.

Jessie Woodrow Wilson Sayre

Jessie Woodrow Wilson Sayre

Jessie Woodrow Wilson was the second child of President Woodrow Wilson and his first wife, Ellen Louise Axson. She was born on August 28, 1887, in Gainesville, Georgia. Like her older sister, Jessie’s middle name came from her paternal grandmother’s surname and her father’s middle name. She went to a private school in Princeton, New Jersey, and then to Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. Jessie was part of the sorority Gamma Phi Beta. After graduating from college, she worked for three years at a settlement house in Philadelphia.

Four months after her father became the president, her engagement to Francis Bowes Sayre, Sr. was announced. Francis Sayre was the son of Robert Sayre, the general manager of Bethlehem Iron Works. At the time of their engagement, Francis was working at the district attorney’s office. They got married on November 25, 1913, and their wedding was marked as the thirteenth White House wedding. Rev. Sylvester Beach of Princeton officiated the wedding. It was a simple affair, with only a few guests in attendance. Wilson was 26 years old when she got married, and her husband was 23.

The couple had three children together. Two years after they were married, Jessie gave birth to her son, Francis Bowes Sayre, Jr., at the White House on January 17, 1915. Like his mother, Francis Jr. became a noted social activist when he grew up. On March 26, 1916, Jessie gave birth to her daughter, Eleanor Axson Sayre. On February 22, 1919, they had their third and final child, Woodrow Wilson Sayre.

When World War 1 ended, the family moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Francis, Sr. started teaching at Harvard Law School. Meanwhile, Jessie became involved with women’s rights and the League of Women Voters. She also served as a national board member of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), a non-profit organization that empowers women and is focused on eliminating racism.

During the last years of her life, Jessie battled ill health. She suffered from a gall bladder disorder and died after an emergency appendectomy on January 15, 1933, at the age of 45. Jessie was buried at the Nisky Hill Cemetery in Pennsylvania.

Eleanor Randolph Wilson McAdoo

Eleanor Randolph Wilson McAdoo

Eleanor Randolph Wilson was born in Middletown, Connecticut on October 16, 1889. She was the third child of President Woodrow Wilson and his first wife, Ellen Louise Axson. Eleanor was the only one of President Wilson’s children not to be born in the South.

She went to school at Saint Mary’s School, a boarding school for girls located in Raleigh, North Carolina. Eleanor married William Gibbs McAdoo, a lawyer. He served as Treasury Secretary during the first five years of her father’s administration. William actually proposed to her twice before she accepted. The couple wed on May 7, 1914, in a private ceremony at the White House.

Their marriage attracted media attention since McAdoo was a widower with two young children from his previous marriage. One of his daughters was even Eleanor’s age. Nevertheless, they were together for 20 years and had two daughters: Ellen Wilson McAdoo (1915–1946) and Mary Faith McAdoo (1920–1988). William and Eleanor divorced in July 1935. At this time, William was elected as a senator from California. Even after the divorce, Eleanor decided to stay in California. Not much is known about her later years except that she had written a biography about her father. She was also asked to be an informal counselor in the biopic titled Wilson by Director Henry King. Eleanor suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1965, so she became largely incapacitated. She died at her house on April 5, 1967, at 77.