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Helen Taft was born June 2, 1861, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father, John Williamson Herron, was a district attorney, judge and Republican Party activist. Her mother, Harriet Collins Herron, was the daughter and sister of U.S. congressmen. Fifth of ten children; seven sisters, two brothers Herron Parsons, unnamed infant sister Jane “Jennie” Herron Anderson, second unnamed infant sister, Maria Herron, William C. Herron, John W. Herron, Eleanor Herron More, Lucy Herron Laughlin Lippitt.Helen went to private schools before studying for one year at the University of Cincinnati. She met “Will” Taft At a sledding party in the winter of 1880, the couple married in 1886. Taft was a young lawyer with aspirations to become a U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Three children, two sons, one daughter: Robert Taft (8 September 1889 – 31 July 1953); Helen Taft [Manning] (1 August 1891 – 21 February 1987); Charles Taft (20 September 1897 – 24 June 1983). President William McKinley appointed Taft governor of the Philippines. Helen traveled with him, and made an effort to learn the Filipino language and culture. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt offered Taft the position of secretary of war. In 1908, after Roosevelt decided not to run for re-election, Helen met with him privately and convinced him to support her husband for the presidency.
In November 1908, Taft won the election against Democrat William Jennings Bryan. After William Howard Taft lost his bid for re-election in 1912, the couple moved to Connecticut, where Taft taught law at Yale University. In 1921, when Taft was confirmed chief justice of the Supreme Court, the couple returned to Washington, D.C., where Helen would remain until her husband’s death in 1931. Helen Taft died on May 22, 1943, in Washington, D.C.
Helen supported the rights of woman to vote. (Women did not have the right to vote until 1920. She made significant contribution towards the development of the West Potomac Park, the plantation of approx 3000 cherry blossoms all around the park area. Within 11 days of becoming the First Lady, Nellie started to work on the federal working conditions and strove with the cabinet members to improvise them especially for the women workers, promoting herself as a “Qualified Suffragist”, she proposed the idea of women voting but only for the ones having considerable knowledge about politics. Nellie Taft was the first First Lady to publish an autobiography ‘Recollections of Full Years’ in 1914.
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