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 Helen “Nellie” <I>Herron</I> Taft

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Helen “Nellie” Herron Taft

  • Birth 2 Jun 1861 Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio, USA
  • Death 22 May 1943 Washington, District of Columbia, District Of Columbia, USA
  • Burial Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA
  • Plot Section 30, Lot S-14, Grid Y/Z-39.5
  • Memorial ID 7396

Presidential First Lady. She was the wife of 27th US President and later Chief Supreme Court Justice William Howard Taft. The 4th child of Judge John Williamson Herron, a law partner of the 19th US President Rutherford B. Hayes, she received her primary education from 1866 until 1879 at the Miss Nourse School in Cincinnati, then graduated from the Cincinnati College of Music and briefly taught school. After meeting William Howard Taft at a bobsledding party, he proposed to her in 1885 and they were married in June 1886 at her parent's home. She was supportive in every aspect ho his political career, from Ohio state senator, US Solicitor General, federal court judge, Governor General of the Philippines, and Secretary of War. After his election as US President in 1908, she became the first First Lady to ride next to her husband down Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day in January 1909. Two months after entering the White House, she suffered a stroke that impairing her speech and she never fully recovered and had a residual speech impediment. As First Lady, she replaced the all-white male ushers with African-American ushers in uniform and made the decision to convert the presidential transportation mode from horse-drawn vehicles to automobiles. In her most lasting contribution as First Lady, she arranged for the planting of the 3,020 Japanese cherry trees that grace the Washington Tidal Basin, personally planting the first two saplings in ceremonies on March 27, 1912. After her husband's defeat for the presidency in 1912, she returned with him to New Haven, Connecticut and started working on her memoirs, "Recollection of Full Years," which was published in 1914. She eventually came to support the women's right to vote, which became the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution after being passed by Congress in June 1919 and ratified in August 1920. In 1921 her husband was confirmed as the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court and she returned to Washington DC. With her husband's appointment to the US Supreme Court, she became the only woman to be both the Presidential First Lady and wife of a Chief US Supreme Court Justice. After the death of her husband in March 1930, she remained in Washington DC and died there at the age of 81. She was the first of two First Ladies to be interred at Arlington National Cemetery, the other one being Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Her son, Robert Taft Sr, went on to serve as a US Senator from Ohio and her grandson, Robert Alphonso Taft, Jr also served as a US Senator and Congressman from Ohio.

Bio by: William Bjornstad


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 29 Nov 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 7396
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Helen “Nellie” Herron Taft (2 Jun 1861–22 May 1943), Find A Grave Memorial no. 7396, citing Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .