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Presidential Prose

Famous courtships shaped by correspondence

Throughout history, Americans have written letters to stay in touch with loved ones — and presidents are no different. Their correspondence with girlfriends, wives and children offer a glimpse into the private lives of our first families.

Here’s the second installment in a series of stories about presidential prose.

Richard Nixon There was Richard Nixon, the reserved president whose administration ended in scandal, and there was Dick, the shy yet passionate husband. In contrast to his political career, Nixon’s courtship and eventual marriage to Pat Ryan in June 1940 was marked by romantic and flirtatious letters during World War II, when he was stationed overseas.

“Let’s go for a long ride Sunday; let’s go to the mountains weekends; let’s read books in front of fires; most of all, let’s really grow together and find the happiness we know is ours,” Nixon wrote.

The letters offer a more tender view of the president during wartime, when his marriage was vulnerable. Their correspondence through pen and paper strengthened their love, ensuring their commitment lasted a lifetime.

Woodrow Wilson A statesman and a gentleman, Woodrow Wilson knew the power of pen and paper. He was married twice and expressed his love for both wives through hundreds of letters, written throughout their courtships and marriages. He once wrote to his first wife, Ellen Axson, “Why, my darling, I can’t tell you how completely I am yours, in my every thought.”

After Ellen died Aug. 6, 1914 — during the second year of Wilson’s administration — the distraught president found happiness when he spotted Edith Galt while driving through Washington, DC. Wilson sent her eager notes of affection in attempt to win her love.

“Please go to ride with us this evening, precious little girl, so that I can whisper something in your ear — something of my happiness and love, and accept this, in the meantime, as a piece out of my very heart, which is all yours but cannot be sent as I wish to send it by letter,” Wilson wrote. The couple married Dec. 18, 1915.

Which is your favorite presidential prose story?


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