Taft marries Helen Herron - HISTORY
Year
1886

Taft marries Helen Herron

Future President William Howard Taft marries Helen “Nellie” Herron in Cincinnati, Ohio, on this day in 1886.

According to biographers at the National First Ladies Library, Nellie was strong-willed, bright and ambitious but hid deep-seated insecurities about her looks and worried that she would never be taken seriously because she was a woman. Her father was a law partner of former President Rutherford B. Hayes. She studied music in college and considered going to law school. After college, she organized a literary salon and taught school. Her earliest ambition, however, which she discovered on a trip to the White House at age 16, was to become first lady of the United States.

Nellie met William Taft at a literary meeting and, although it was not love at first sight, she admitted that he made her laugh. Their personalities were polar opposites: while she was outspoken and passionate about politics–qualities considered unseemly in a woman of the 19th century–he was more reserved and relaxed. Biographers claim that Nellie goaded Taft into pursuing politics. In 1890, after Taft’s tenure as an Ohio Supreme Court judge ended, Nellie embraced the opportunity to move to Washington, D.C., where her husband accepted a post as U.S. solicitor general to President Benjamin Harrison. She cultivated a friendship with Theodore Roosevelt and his family. After Harrison’s term, she and Taft moved back to Ohio, where he served on the U.S. District Court.

Following an appointment as commissioner to the Philippines, Taft continued to climb the political ladder, with his wife’s encouragement. In 1904, he became President Theodore Roosevelt’s secretary of war. Four years later, Roosevelt asked Taft which job he would prefer: president or chief justice; Nellie insisted he try for the presidency. With Roosevelt’s backing, Taft won the election of 1908.

A year into Taft’s presidency, Nellie suffered a stroke that left her partially paralyzed; it took her several years to recover. Despite this setback, Nellie organized the planting of cherry trees along the Potomac and designed the scenic Washington Drive. After leaving the White House after one term, Taft taught law at Yale University from 1913 to 1921, when he was appointed chief justice of the United States by President Warren Harding.

Nellie Taft was the first first lady to publish her memoirs and is the only first lady besides Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

CSS Alabama sinks off coast of France

Off the coast of Cherbourg, France, the Confederate raider CSS Alabama loses a ship-to-ship duel with the USS Kearsarge and sinks to the floor of the Atlantic, ending an illustrious career that saw some 68 Union merchant vessels destroyed or captured by the Confederate raider.At ...read more

Emperor of Mexico executed

Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, installed as emperor of Mexico by French Emperor Napoleon III in 1864, is executed on the orders of Benito Juarez, the president of the Mexican Republic.In 1861, the liberal Mexican Benito Juarez became president of a country in financial ...read more

Rosenbergs executed

On this day in 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of conspiring to pass U.S. atomic secrets to the Soviets, are executed at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. Both refused to admit any wrongdoing and proclaimed their innocence right up to the time of their ...read more

Ky becomes premier of South Vietnam

Air Vice-Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky assumes the premiership of the ninth government to be installed within the last 20 months in the country. The Armed Forces Council had chosen Ky as premier on June 11, and Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu was chosen for the relatively powerless position of ...read more

Curt Flood case decided

On June 19, 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court rules against Curt Flood in Flood v. Kuhn, denying Flood free agency as a baseball player. Flood was trying to break the reserve clause that had tied baseball players to one franchise since the establishment of professional baseball.Curt ...read more

Father De Smet talks peace with Sitting Bull

Attempting to convince hostile Indians to make peace with the United States, the Jesuit missionary Pierre-Jean De Smet meets with the great Sioux Chief Sitting Bull in present-day Montana.A native of Belgium, De Smet came to the United States in 1821 at the age of 20. He became ...read more

Carole King has her first #1 hit as a performer

Carole King began her career in music as a young newlywed and college graduate, working a 9-to-5 shift alongside her then-husband, Gerry Goffin, in Don Kirshner’s songwriting factory, Aldon Music. It was there, working in a cubicle with a piano, staff paper and tape recorder that ...read more

First nickelodeon opens

On this day in 1905, some 450 people attend the opening day of the world’s first nickelodeon, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and developed by the showman Harry Davis. The storefront theater boasted 96 seats and charged each patron five cents. Nickelodeons (named for a ...read more

Montana flood causes train wreck

On this day in 1938, a flood in Montana kills 46 people and seriously injures more than 60 when it washes out train tracks. Custer Creek is a small winding river that runs through 25 miles of the Great Plains on its way to the Yellowstone River. Minor streams like Custer Creek ...read more

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Execution

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a married couple convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage in 1951, were put to death in the electric chair on June 19, 1953. Their dual execution marked the dramatic finale of the most controversial espionage case of the Cold War.Julius was arrested ...read more

USS Kearsarge sinks CSS Alabama

The most successful and feared Confederate commerce raider of the war, the CSS Alabama, sinks after a spectacular battle off the coast of France with the USS Kearsarge.Built in an English shipyard and sold to the Confederates in 1861, the Alabama was a state-of-the-art ship—220 ...read more