Jan 4, 2009

A First Lady a Day: Ida McKinley, 1897 & 1901

This is a sad story. Poor Ida. She had a very difficult time of it. Her childhood and younger years were fine. But she lost both her children and her mother within in few years, and after that - she seems to have become very delicate both emotionally and physically. It is thought now that she had phlebitis and epilepsy. She certainly had seizures, some of them in public. She spent her days as a confirmed invalid. William McKinley took wonderful care of her, though. Made it hard for the other husbands in Washington at the time. In her photos she does look like a very well dressed doll. Tiny and very richly dressed, but stiff beyond even the conventions of Victorian photography.
The papers of the time never mentioned her illnesses, or her seizures, but just talked about her clothes. She spent her well time making endless crocheted slippers. When her husband was assassinated in 1901, his last words were about her - to be careful how they told her. Ida retired to her home in Ohio, was inconsolable and died a few years later in 1907. It‘s a sad story all together.
for more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ida_Saxton_McKinley and http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/firstladies/im25.html

First , a portrait because you probably don't know what she looked like:

from http://www.whitehousemuseum.org/: Ida McKinley sitting for a portrait, circa 1899

The second inaugural dress:

from http://siris-collections.si.edu : Ida Saxton McKinley's 1901 Inauguration gown

from www.imageenvision.com , ca 1901

I don't think this is the same dress, although it is awfully hard to tell. There are several more of her in formal gowns at this site - take a look. Ida was always richly dressed. It must have been her one consolation. She was small - petite and a 19" waist on some of her dresses. The only level I can grade this on is that she seems overwhelmed by the clothes - they seem to own her. All surface and not too much depth of personality, but she may have wanted it that way. I give her a B.

1 comment:

Beth Odell said...

The tiara Ida McKinley is wearing in the photo (with the feather) is the one recently featured on Pawn Stars. the McKinley Museum, Canton, Ohio raised money and bought it. Just hoped you would find that interesting. Great post! I was trying to identify the 2nd inaugural gown when I found you. Thank you very much.