May 15, 2024

Ellen Axson Wilson

May 15, 1860

Ellen Axson WilsonEllen Axson Wilson—Born May 15, 1860 (Savannah, GA). Died August 6, 1914 (Washington, D.C.).

White House Years: 1913-1914

  • Ellen Wilson was an accomplished artist who had exhibits, often under a pseudonym. At the Paris International Exposition, she won a bronze medal of excellence. A skylight was added to the White House for her studio.
  • Ellen Wilson was a partner with Woodrow in every aspect of his career helping him with translations when he was a professor, hosting events when he was president of Princeton University, and advising him in politics.
  • Ellen Wilson devoted her cause as first lady to the improvement of housing in lower income neighborhoods in D.C. populated by Blacks and immigrants. She supported legislation to rehabilitate slums which Congress acted on when she was on her deathbed.
  • She died of Bright’s disease in the White House.


  • I am so exceedingly shy about my work that I should have probably gone on forever endeavoring to conceal the fact that I painted at all.”

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