Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in
The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
After cutting short a national tour to drum up support for U.S. participation in the faltering League of Nations, President Woodrow Wilson suffered a paralytic stroke that left him an invalid for the rest of his life. Wilson's second wife, Edith, decided it would be better for him to stay in office than to resign, and for many months it was she who determined who saw the president and to what business he would attend. She even guided his hand when he had to sign official documents. Critics took to calling her "the first woman president," although she denied shaping policy. An excerpt from The Post of Oct. 3, 1919:
By Albert Fox
President Wilson's condition has taken a decidedly unfavorable turn and precautionary measures have at once been taken to guard against a complete nervous breakdown. Dr. F.X. Dercum, one of the leading neurologists of the country, has been summoned from Philadelphia and with four other specialists is assisting Rear Admiral Cary T. Grayson, the President's personal physician on the case.
Former Secretary of the Treasury W.G. McAdoo, the President's son-in-law, has arrived from the West, and his daughter, Mrs. McAdoo, is on the way here. Another daughter, Mrs. Sayre, is on her way from Boston.
After a two-hour consultation at the President's bedside between Dr. Dercum, Rear Admiral E.R. Stitt, head of the Naval Medical School; Capt. John H. Dennis, director of the naval dispensary; Dr. Sterling Ruffin, Mrs. Wilson's family physician, and Admiral Grayson, the following bulletin was issued by the latter:
"10:00 p.m. -- The President is a very sick man. His condition is less favorable today and he has remained in bed throughout the day. ...
Dr. Grayson's diagnosis of the case was concurred in unanimously by the specialists. At 11 o'clock yesterday morning, Dr. Grayson issued the following bulletin:
"The President had a fairly good night but his condition is not at all good this morning." ...
For the first time since the President's illness he has been obliged to stay in bed and it was very evident that Dr. Grayson was much worried over his patient's condition, though this does not necessarily mean, it is explained, that there is immediate cause for alarm.
The President, despite the unfavorable turn in his condition, did not want to have specialists called, and it took considerable persuasion on the part of Dr. Grayson to convince him that this step was wise.
Only after Dr. Grayson had said that he himself needed relief from this strain did the President finally consent. ...
The suggestion of Dr. Grayson that the President spend part of the day in the White House grounds, getting the benefit of the open air, did not appeal to the President, and signs of exhaustion were otherwise manifest.
The President's illness is diagnosed as "nervous exhaustion," but the danger is that the present attack of neurasthenia may develop into nervous prostration, in which case it would be many months before the President would be able to resume his duties.