• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Has the US already secretly had its first female president?

·Assistant News Editor
·3-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The United States has never had a female leader, at least not one recorded in the official history books.

The 46 presidents of the US have all been male, but there is one woman considered to have held the seat of power in the White House – and it dates back to the last time the world was caught in the midst of a global pandemic.

Edith Wilson, the wife of Woodrow Wilson who served as the 28th US president, found her husband collapsed on the bathroom floor in 1919 after he suffered from a terrible stroke. 

Woodrow Wilson and his second wife, Edith, circa the mid 1910s.
Woodrow Wilson and his second wife, Edith, circa the mid 1910s. Edith was often referred to as the 'secret president' because of the important role she played in her husband's presidency. Source: Getty Images

It came months after the president became dreadfully ill during the Spanish influenza pandemic. Following the stroke, Woodrow was largely debilitated for much of the remainder of his presidency, which ended in March 1921.

While he was sick, Edith took a commanding role in her husband's political affairs, acting as a gatekeeper to the president, according to futurist Dr Richard Hames.

"She was privy to a lot of documents and papers and during the time he was sick she certainly decided which papers he should see, which things he should know about and which items should be kept from him," he told Yahoo News as part of its new Conspiracies Unpacked series.

It sparked rumours the rising superpower after World War I had effectively seen its first female president.

"The rumours come from the fact that she had so much influence on him," Dr Hames said.

The White House.
There were rumours that Edith Wilson was really in charge behind the scenes during her husband's presidency. Source: Getty

True extent of Wilson's condition kept from VP

According to historians, when individual cabinet members came to speak with the unwell president, they went no further than the first lady, who kept a tight lid on his true condition.

Edith referred to her control of the White House and the presidency as her "stewardship".

It was much easier to keep the public in the dark at the time and even the vice president, Thomas Marshall, didn't know the full extent of Woodrow's incapacitation, adding further credence to conspiracy theories Edith was really the acting commander-in-chief of the country.

Pictured is futurist Dr Richard Hames.
Was a woman president before they were even allowed to vote in America? Source: Yahoo News Australia

Today, the White House website credits Edith with "functionally running the executive branch of government" during the latter days of her husband's presidency. 

Ironically, Woodrow was against the suffrage movement at the time and didn't think women should have the vote.

"The position of women was very much to be seen and not heard," Dr Hames said.

Until her death in 1961, the former first lady insisted she never assumed the full power of the presidency. 

Nonetheless, conspiracies remained she had, in fact, assumed the role. 

"It is plausible," Dr Hames said. "But likely? No." 

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Storeor Google Play.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting