President Woodrow Wilson, who had just cut short a tour of the country to promote the formation of the League of Nations, suffers a stroke on October 2, 1919.
The tour’s intense schedule—8,000 miles in 22 days—cost Wilson his health. He suffered constant headaches during the tour, finally collapsing from exhaustion in Pueblo, Colorado, in late September. He managed to return to Washington, only to suffer a near-fatal stroke on October 2.
Wilson’s wife Edith blamed Republican opponents in Congress for her husband’s stroke, as their vehement opposition to the League of Nations often took the form of character assassination. Edith, who was even suspicious of the political motives of Vice President Thomas Marshall, closely guarded access to her husband. She kept the true extent of Wilson’s incapacitation from the press and his opponents.
While Wilson lay in bed, unable to speak or move, Edith purportedly insisted that she screen all of Wilson’s paperwork, in some cases signing Wilson’s name to documents without consulting the convalescing president. Edith, however, denied usurping her husband’s position during his recovery and in her memoirs insisted she acted only as a “steward.”
Some historians now refer to Edith Wilson as America’s First Female President; unofficially, of course.
Wilson slowly regained his health, but the lasting effects of the stroke—he remained partially paralyzed on one side—limited his ability to continue to campaign in favor of the League.
In 1921, Republican Warren Harding’s election to the presidency effectively ended efforts by the League’s supporters to get it ratified. Wilson died in 1924.
LEAGUE OF NATIONS
Woodrow Wilson created the League of Nations after World War I (1914–18). He presided over the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote, and laws that prohibited child labor and mandated an eight-hour workday for railroad workers.
WOMEN’S RIGHT TO VOTE in 1920
For years Woodrow Wilson favored women’s suffrage at the state level but declined support for a nationwide constitutional amendment that would give women the right to vote. This was probably because his party was divided on the issue. However after the major role played by women during World War I, Wilson made a strong and widely published appeal to the House in favor of the suffrage amendment. Wilson’s approval was crucial to the cause. The nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was formally signed in 1920. It prohibits any United States citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex.
THE FEDERAL RESERVE CREATED in 1913
The Federal Reserve Act was signed into law by President Wilson on December 23, 1913. It created and established the Federal Reserve System, the central banking system of the United States. It also gave the newly established system legal authority to issue Federal Reserve Notes (U.S. Dollar). The act had far-reaching implications including the internationalization of the U.S. Dollar as a global currency.
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION WAS ESTABLISHED in 1914
Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Trade Commission Act in September 1914 which established the Federal Trade Commission, a five-member board, to regulate questionable business practices. The two antitrust laws and the Federal Trade Commission are instrumental in protecting “the process of competition for the benefit of consumers, making sure there are strong incentives for businesses to operate efficiently, keep prices down, and keep quality up.” They are the core of antitrust laws and remain relevant till today.
WILSONIANISM – Foreign Policy
HIS IDEOLOGY ON FOREIGN POLICY GAVE RISE TO WILSONIANISM
In January 1918, Wilson put forward his famous Fourteen Points to achieve world peace in a speech on War Aims and Peace Terms. These points along with Wilson’s ideology on foreign policy gave rise to Wilsonianism. Among other things, Wilsonianism calls for the advocacy of democracy and capitalism. Several presidents of the U.S. including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have been repeatedly referenced as continuing the tradition of Wilsonianism in America.
8 HOUR WORK DAY FOR AMERICANS
HE PREVENTED ECONOMIC DISASTER BY HIS MAX EIGHT-HOUR WORKDAY PROPOSAL
In 1916, a strike by railroad workers threatened the U.S. economy. Wilson settled the issue by his maximum eight-hour workday proposal. The Adamson Act was passed incorporating the president’s proposal. It established an eight-hour workday, with additional pay for overtime work, for interstate railroad workers. The strike was canceled and Wilson was praised for averting a national economic disaster.
THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE IN 1919
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded in 1920 as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. President Woodrow Wilson was one of the primary persons responsible for the formation of the League and he strongly influenced the form it took. Due to his efforts toward international peace, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 1919.
Wilson, a southern racist and arguably America’s most racist US President, failed to meet the challenge facing race relations in the 20th century.
Before the election of President Woodrow Wilson, Black Americans worked at all levels of the federal government. But when Wilson assumed office in 1913, he mandated that the federal workforce be segregated by race—leading to the reduction of Black civil service workers’ income, increasing the significant income gap between Black and white workers, and eroding some of the gains Black people had made following Reconstruction. The set back cost the US generations of unnecessary strife and terrible delay on the march to equality for all that we are still suffering today.