© 2022
Virginia's Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Wytheville residents plan celebration to honor former first lady Edith Bolling Wilson

 Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum is located in downtown Wytheville, Virginia
Roxy Todd
/
Radio IQ
The Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Museum is located in downtown Wytheville

In downtown Wytheville, nestled next to a coffee shop, and a legendary hotdog restaurant called Skeeter’s, stands the historic home of Edith Bolling Wilson. It’s an old storefront, and Bolling grew up there with 10 of her siblings and extended family.

Residents are planning a celebration in her honor on Oct. 15 at the Bolling Wilson hotel, to mark the 150th anniversary of her birth.

In 1915, Bolling married President Woodrow Wilson. He suffered a stroke four years later, and she became his right-hand assistant. Some historians argue she was the first acting woman president.

Woodrow Wilson and his wife Edith Bolling holding flowers in 1919
Library of Congress
/
Woodrow Wilson and his wife Edith Bolling holding flowers in 1919

“Edith Bolling grew up to become one of the most influential and historically significant women of the 20th century,” said Farron Smith, founder and director of the Edith Bowling Wilson Birthplace museum.

Smith and her husband bought the Bolling Wilson birthplace, which they opened as a small museum in 2008. “We see little girls when they come in to visit in our educational programs, their little eyes light up, when they think, ‘here is this lady, born in the little town of Wytheville.’ And who knows if one of these little girls might grow up to be the first woman president?”

Edith Bolling as a young woman
Library of Congress
/
Edith Bolling as a young woman

At the celebration on Oct. 15, reenactor Betsy Ely will portray Bolling. Another reenactor, Thom Moor, dressed as Chef Boyardee, will serve appetizers, because there’s a legend that before an Italian chef named Boiardi rose to fame with his line of spaghetti sauce, he catered Bolling and Wilson’s wedding reception in 1915.
The featured guest will be Rebecca Roberts, daughter of NPR journalist Cokie Roberts, whose biography about Edith Bolling Wilson is set to be released next spring.

The event, titled “Dinner Wythe Edith” is a fundraiser to help restore the birthplace.

Tickets may be purchased online on the museum’s website at www.edithbollingwilson.org, or by calling 276-223-3484.

historical marker.jpg
Roxy Todd
/
Radio IQ
Historical marker in downtown Wytheville

Roxy Todd is Radio IQ's New River Valley Bureau Chief.