First Lady Biography: Ida Mckinley
IDA SAXTON MCKINLEY Born:
Place: Canton, Ohio
Date: 1847, June 8
James Asbury Saxton, born 1816, May 1 in Canton Ohio, banker; died 1887, March 16. James Saxton's father, John Saxton, founded the Ohio Respository in 1815
Katherine DeWalt Saxton, born 1827, August 18, in Canton, Ohio; married James Saxton in 1846 in Canton, Ohio; died, 1873, March 14, in Canton, Ohio.
After Ida McKinley's mother died, her father married secondly in 1882 to Hettie B. Medell
German, Scottish, English; All of Ida McKinley's maternal great-grandparents were German immigrants, the two great-grandfathers being Philip DeWalt (1761-1844) and Michael Harter (1774-1847). One pair of Ida McKinley's paternal great-grandparents Jacob Laird (1755-1791) and his wife Jane Johnston (1746-?) were immigrants from Scotland. One paternal ancestor James Harlan was born in England in 1625 and immigrated to Delaware. The origin of the Saxton line is unknown.
Birth Order and Siblings:
Eldest of three; one brother and one sister; Mary "Pina" Saxton Barber (1848-1917), George Saxton (1849-1898)
During his sister's tenure as First Lady, George Saxton was murdered in Canton, Ohio, on October 7, 1898, not far from the present-day Saxton House where he lived with his sister Mary Barber and her family. He was approaching the home of his lover, the widowed Eva Althouse, when his former love, Anna George, shot him.
Short, blue eyes, auburn hair
Raised Presbyterian, some time after her marriage she joined her husband's Methodist faith.
Miss Sanford's School, Cleveland Ohio
Brooke Hall Female Seminary, Media, Pennsylvania, founded in 1856
Occupation before Marriage:
Throughout her youth, Ida McKinley was a remarkably independent woman. Upon her return from Brooke Hall Female Seminary, Ida McKinley became a Sunday school teacher in the Presbyterian Church that her family helped to build. Letters she wrote home during an eight month chaperoned tour of Europe that she made with her sister in 1869 show her to be an acutely intelligent person who preferred an active life with an interest in not only art and architecture but current events, even a budding sensitivity to the plight of working women. She also displayed a great skill in managing money and accounting, and her father soon employed her as a clerk at the Stark County Bank, which he owned. She was soon promoted to cashier and some sources claim that James Saxton entrusted her with managing the bank when he was absent from Canton.
23 years old, married 1871, January 25 to William McKinley (1843-1901), lawyer and Civil War veteran, at the First Presbyterian Church in Canton, Ohio; the wedding was the first to take place in the church, which Ida Saxton's father and grandfather had helped to build and the ceremony was jointly performed between her Presbyterian minister and his Methodist one. After a honeymoon in New York, they moved into the Canton home given by her father to them as a wedding present.
Two daughters; Katherine McKinley (1871-1875), Ida McKinley (1873, died at four months old)
Occupation after Marriage:
Beginning with the second year of her marriage, when her second child died suddenly, Ida McKinley began to fail in health. Within five years, after the death of her first child and her mother, her physical condition rapidly deteriorated. Through the years he served as a U.S. Congressman and then Ohio Governor, her health fluctuated. She was well enough to be charged with care of President Hayes' younger children in the White House when he and his wife were away, for example, yet experienced a seizure so severe as to warrant a real fear for her life. It is not clear whether her condition was entirely one resulting from a mild case of epilepsy or was psychologically induced, or a combination of both. McKinley, however, committed himself to a lifetime as a caregiver for her. Her financial assistance permitted him to pursue a public service career. She also shared her astute and sensible reaction to political issues with him; it had been her influence that led to his commitment to the temperance movement in 1874, a move that proved to be politically savvy.
Presidential Campaign and Inauguration:
Throughout the 1896 campaign, as delegations came to the McKinley home in Canton to hear the candidate speak from the front porch of his home, Ida McKinley managed a partial public role. On some occasions, she was healthy enough to speak with and meet political figures; other times, she simply sat on a rocking chair to hear his speeches; at still other instances, she was entirely absent. As rumors circulated that there was some darker reason she was often kept out of public view other than her illness, campaign managers decided to publish a romantic biography of her, the first campaign public relations material ever printed about a presidential candidate's wife. Although women did not have universal suffrage in the 1896 election, the fact that she was an invalid and her husband devoted to her was turned into an attribute by the campaign, made to appeal to male voters who would use his character as part of their decision on Election Day. Ida McKinley managed to endure the ceremonies and public exposure of the 1897 inauguration, until the procession at the ball, when she went faint. She endured the 1901 inauguration without incident.
1897, March 4 - 1901, September 14
49 years old
Limited by her precarious health, Ida McKinley nevertheless determined to fulfill as much of the First Lady role as she could, her hostess activities augmented by the helpful presence of the vice president's wife Jennie Hobart or one of the visiting Saxton or McKinley nieces. On occasion, special visitors were permitted to call on her in the private quarters, where she sat in a wood chair. At larger events, she remained seated as guests in the receiving line nodded to her and at dinners the President changed protocol to be seated beside her. Although she did make several excursions to nearby cities on her own, her travel to Texas, California, Georgia and Massachusetts were always in the company of her husband. While confined to the private quarters, she worked on her unique contribution to local and national charities which she supported: herself knitting bedroom slippers that were auctioned for large sums. Despite the fact that she was also often medicated with sedatives, several figures believed that Ida McKinley had keen and accurate political observations, particularly in assessing the motives of those ambitious for appointments. In 1899, she successfully urged the President to name General Leonard Wood to lead the military forces in Cuba during the Spanish-American War and an acquaintance who belonged to the Daughters of the American Revolution to the presidential advisory commission on the Philippine Islands. According to presidential military aide Colonel Benjamin Montgomery, it was Ida McKinley's unrelenting lobbying on behalf of Methodist missionary efforts in the islands that factored into the President's decision to retain the Philippines for the U.S. Although she pledged her commitment to the centennial celebrations of the city of Washington in 1900, she made it clear that she would permit no renovations of the White House to take place during the McKinley Administration. In Buffalo with the President to visit the Pan-American Exposition in September of 1901, she was not with him when he was shot at the Temple of Music.
Although emotionally crushed by the assassination of her husband, Ida McKinley survived him by nearly six years. During that period there is no documentation of her suffering any further seizures or fainting episodes, suggesting that they may have largely been emotionally and psychologically induced. Her few trips outside the home were to visit his nearby grave and she spoke often of wishing to join him. She was awarded the presidential widow's franking privilege.
1907, May 26
59 years old
West Lawn Cemetery, Canton, Ohio
*Incumbent President Theodore Roosevelt attended the funeral of Ida McKinley.