Eleanor "Nellie" Randolph Wilson
The seventh White House wedding of a presidents' child.
Eleanor "Nellie" Wilson and William Gibbs McAdoo
May 7, 1914
She was almost First Lady
Nellie first met William Gibbs McAdoo at the governor’s mansion in New Jersey. He had been a guest of the Wilson’s and was taking an early morning train home. Nellie was assigned to see him off. McAdoo was a leader in the Democratic Party who had greatly impressed Woodrow Wilson and, unknown to the governor, had prompted a bit of a reaction from his youngest daughter, as well. Nellie was so nervous at breakfast that morning that she spilled the cream and almost spilled his coffee.
By the time Wilson was president, William McAdoo was actively pursuing Nellie Wilson, not that anyone noticed. He was the new Secretary of the Treasury, a fifty-year-old grandfather, a widower with six children. She was twenty-three and secretly engaged to a mysterious young man she had met months before on a Mexican holiday. Nellie was often seen riding horses along the trails in the Rock Creek Park and staying out at dances till three in the morning. The press, which had missed discovering Francis Sayre, was now on high alert. They speculated continually about each of Nellie’s dancing partners, but understandably missed the significance of the treasury secretary’s comings and goings at the White House.
One of the first times McAdoo had called late a servant had stepped into the Oval Room, interrupting the family with the imperious announcement, “The secretary of the treasury…” The president had almost stood until the servant added, “…for Miss Eleanor.” On her sister’s wedding day, Nellie had led Secretary McAdoo into the Blue Room, away from other guests, where she taught him the fox trot. In January, 1914 McAdoo proposed to Nellie and was rejected. But after the idea simmered awhile, when he proposed a second time she responded eagerly.
The wedding of Alice Roosevelt and Jessie Wilson had both been huge events involving widely-contrasting personalities. It hardly seemed likely that another one, happening so soon, could further pique the public’s interest or curiosity. But this one did it. Eleanor “Nellie” Wilson would be marrying a man who had a daughter her same age. She would instantly be a cabinet officer’s wife and a major social figure in the nation’s capital. McAdoo was often mentioned as a possible president himself. The press, including the new motion picture men, descended on the Secretary of Treasury and his new fiancée until they could hardly function. But there was a great tragedy afoot.
Read the whole story: All the Presidents' Children