Eisenhower, Mamie Doud, 1896-1979

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1896-11-14
Death 1979-11-01
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Mamie Geneva Doud Eisenhower (Nov. 14, 1896 - Nov. 1, 1979), wife of President Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in Boone, Iowa, one of four daughters of John Sheldon Doud and Elivera Mathilda Carlson. John Doud had made a modest fortune in a meat-packing business begun by his father; he retired and moved the family to Denver when Mamie was nine years old. She had a privileged childhood, reared in an elegant Victorian house that was built for Doud and his family. Mamie attended public schools in Denver and completed her education with a year at Miss Walcott''s finishing school there. In her youth, she traveled with her family to Panama and the Great Lakes. Beginning in 1910, the Doud family spent the winter months in San Antonio, Texas. In the winter of 1915, Mamie met Second Lieutenant Dwight D. ("Ike") Eisenhower, a recent West Point graduate stationed at Fort Sam Houston. They became engaged in February 1916. Mamie''s father threatened to break off the engagement if Eisenhower followed through on his ambitions to become an army aviator. Doud said he would be irresponsible to allow his daughter to marry a man in such a dangerous profession. Mamie supported her father''s ultimatum and Eisenhower declined a transfer to an aviation unit. Dwight and Mamie were married on July 1, 1916, in the Doud family''s Denver home. Mamie, who was accustomed to a rather settled existence, made the difficult transition to military living. During Eisenhower''s military career, Dwight and Mamie moved twenty-five times, including seven moves in a single year. They lived at army base homes in Texas, the Panama Canal Zone, Colorado, Kansas, Georgia, and Maryland. From 1936 to 1939 the Eisenhowers lived in Manila, where Dwight was assigned in the Philippines as a military aide to General Douglas MacArthur. "I think I learned to be a good wife," Mamie wrote in a 1970 article for the Reader''s Digest. "As Ike rose in rank and his responsibilities grew, I tried very hard to make our home a place of calmness and good cheer, where he could relax in the midst of his strenuous life." After one of her husband''s first transfers, Mamie Eisenhower sold her wedding presents and her household furniture, which would have been too much trouble to move, for $92 and could not afford to replace them for years. Because of this incident, she would never part with other family belongings. What was not in use went into storage, even when the Eisenhowers lived in the White House. She filled her closets and attics with old clothes. Of her marriage, Mamie Eisenhower wrote in 1970: "We had our disappointments and our troubles, some of them devastating, yet between us there was a deep understanding, a feeling of contentment in each other''s company." There were difficult times in the Eisenhower marriage. Their first child died of scarlet fever at the age of three. Mamie Eisenhower could never speak of her first son without tears. "For a long time it was as if a shining light had gone out in Ike''s life," she recalled. "Throughout all the years that followed, the memory of those bleak days was a deep inner pain that never seemed to diminish much." A second son, John Sheldon Doud Eisenhower, was born in 1922. Mamie Eisenhower said that among the hardest times of their marriage "were the long periods when we were separated because there was no place for a wife where Ike was stationed." During World War II, when her husband was rising to prominence as supreme allied commander in Europe, she lived in an apartment in Washington, D.C. Dwight Eisenhower''s wartime letters to his wife indicate that she was troubled by rumors about his alleged relationship with his military driver and aide Kay Summersby. Eisenhower assured his wife that the rumors were groundless and his letters affirm his deep affection for her. During World War II, Mamie Eisenhower volunteered at service canteens and for the Red Cross. She also studied Spanish and played bridge with other military wives. After the war she said that she hoped to "unpack my furniture some place and stay forever." The Eisenhowers bought their first house in 1950 at Gettysburg, Pa., but did not live in it as a permanent residence for another eleven years. It is now a national historic site. Though Mamie Eisenhower was private and family-oriented, she was thrust into prominence in the 1940''s as the wife of America''s popular war hero. And for the next thirty-five years she was among the best known and most admired women in the world. For most of her life with Eisenhower, Mamie sought to remain in the background. "I was Ike''s wife, John''s mother, the children''s grandmother," she told the Philadelphia Inquirer in a 1974 interview. "That was all I ever wanted to be." The Eisenhowers lived at Ft. Myer, Va., from 1945 until 1948, when Dwight served as army chief of staff. They moved to New York City in June of 1948 when General Eisenhower was appointed president of Columbia University. Mrs. Eisenhower, who had talked her father out of enrolling her in college, had little enthusiasm for living in a university community. By arrangement with the trustees, Eisenhower relieved Mamie of the formal social schedule that had become a tradition during the long presidency of his predecessor, Nicholas Murray Butler. Socially, Dwight and Mamie preferred the company of army friends and their families to university officials and faculty. Mamie insisted that Dwight''s Sundays be spent with her at their Morningside Drive residence and said that it was the only day that Eisenhower did not belong to Columbia. In 1950 when Eisenhower was named by President Truman as commander of NATO forces in Europe, Mrs. Eisenhower set up their residence in a fourteen-room villa outside of Paris, which had been redecorated by the French government for the Eisenhowers. While in France, Mrs. Eisenhower received hundreds of letters urging her to use her influence to encourage General Eisenhower to become a presidential candidate in 1952. When Eisenhower decided to seek the presidency, Mamie was strongly supportive. With her warmth and vitality, she was viewed as one of her husband''s assets in his successful race for the presidency. One of the reasons that Republican strategists encouraged Mrs. Eisenhower to make frequent public appearances with her husband in the 1952 campaign was that the Democratic presidential nominee, Adlai E. Stevenson, had been recently divorced. As first lady in the 1950''s, Mrs. Eisenhower took a more traditional role. She did not give speeches, never held formal White House press conferences, and said that she only went into the Oval Office four times, "and I was invited each time." At social gatherings, Mrs. Eisenhower was a gracious hostess, with a remarkable memory for faces and names. To the White House staff, there was never any question about her authority in running the executive mansion. She was a frugal housekeeper and frequently read food advertisements in local newspapers and clipped coupons to be used by the White House staff to hold down the food budget. Former chief usher J. B. West said of Mrs. Eisenhower: "Underneath that buoyant spirit, there was a spine of steel, forged by years of military discipline.... She understood the hierarchy of a large establishment, the division of responsibilities, and how to direct a staff. She knew exactly what she wanted, every moment, and exactly how it should be done." Mrs. Eisenhower, who valued her privacy, trimmed down the White House social season, put staff members under a strict no-talking rule, and refused to put out a schedule of her visits outside the executive mansion. Disappointed by the lack of authentic presidential antiques, she worked to preserve the White House''s history by launching efforts to recover antique furniture and china. President Eisenhower observed: "I personally think that Mamie''s biggest contribution was to make the White House livable, comfortable, and meaningful for the people who came in. She was always helpful and ready to do anything. She exuded hospitality. She saw that as one of her functions and performed it, no matter how tired she was." Though Mrs. Eisenhower kept a low public profile during her husband''s presidency, she had considerable influence. Eisenhower acknowledged that he sought her advice about members of his administration and other political figures. "Mamie is a very shrewd observer," he once said. "She has an uncanny and accurate judgment of people with whom she was well acquainted. I got it into my head that I''d better listen when she talked about someone brought in close to me." It had done Secretary of the Treasury George Humphrey no harm that Mamie liked his wife; and Vice-President Richard M. Nixon, who was kept at a distance by the president, had a friend and defender in Mamie Eisenhower. On budget matters and economic problems, Eisenhower would seek his wife''s opinions. In 1952, Eisenhower was named one of the world''s twelve best-dressed women by the New York Dress Institute, one of many best-dressed lists she appeared on. Women throughout the nation wore "Mamie pink," imitated her short bangs, and adopted her style of pastel-toned stockings. She was five feet, four inches tall and weighed 138 pounds. Her favorite vacation spot was Elizabeth Arden''s Maine Chance health spa near Phoenix, Arizona. Following President Eisenhower''s heart attack in 1955, published reports maintained that Mrs. Eisenhower did not want him to seek another term in 1956. But she later divulged that she had privately encouraged her husband to run for another term. "I feared that for him to quit in the middle of things, to abandon what he deeply believed was his duty to his country, would do more violence to his health than to serve another four years." Mrs. Eisenhower campaigned with her husband for reelection but made fewer public appearances in Eisenhower''s second term. She further reduced the White House social schedule and, because she disliked flying, did not accompany Eisenhower on his 1959 and 1960 tours abroad. There were widely circulated rumors that she had a drinking problem. Mrs. Eisenhower said in a 1973 television interview that some people may have gotten that impression because she sometimes walked unsteadily as a result of a carotid sinus condition that affected her balance. In addition to her equilibrium problem, she also had claustrophobia. "I don''t like being closed in," she told the Philadelphia Inquirer. At the completion of Eisenhower''s second term as president in January 1961, he and Mamie retired to their Gettysburg farm. Mrs. Eisenhower said that their years in Gettysburg were their best years as a family. They spent winters in Palm Springs, Calif., and also had a cottage in Augusta, Georgia. Mrs. Eisenhower encouraged her grandson, David, to look up Julie Nixon, the daughter of the former vice president, when he was attending Amherst and she was attending Smith College. The two were married in 1968. Mrs. Eisenhower also influenced her husband''s endorsement of Nixon for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination. Following the death of her husband in 1969, Mamie Eisenhower continued to live in Gettysburg but was a frequent guest at the Nixon White House. Her public appearances were restricted to ceremonies honoring her late husband. She moved to the Sheraton Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., in 1978, but retained the use of her Gettysburg house. She died at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and was buried next to her husband in a small chapel at the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas.

From the description of Eisenhower, Mamie Doud, 1896-1979 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10677870

Wife of the thirty-fourth president of the United States.

From the description of Letters 1955-1967. (Denver Public Library). WorldCat record id: 46339928

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) was born in Denison, Texas along the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad but moved to Abilene, Kansas, after his birth from where Eisenhower entered the United States Military Academy, West Point, in 1911 and graduated at the top of the middle third of his class. During World War II, Eisenhower was transferred to the War Plans Division under General George C. Marshall.

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Eisenhower was assigned to the Washington-based General Staff to craft war plans against Japan and Germany. After June 1942, he was appointed Deputy Chief in charge of Pacific Defenses under the Chief of War Plans Division, General Leonard T. Gerow, whom he succeeded follow Gerow’s appointment as commander of V Corps in the European Theater of Operations. Eisenhower was appointed Commanding General of the European Theater of Operations in 1942, then Supreme Commander Allied (Expeditionary) Force of the North African Theater of Operations. His authority expanded several times, encompassing more of the Mediterranean basin, until in 1944 when President Roosevelt appointed him Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force. He gave the order to begin landing on the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) and accepted the Nazi surrender eleven months later. Eisenhower was appointed the Military Governor of the United States Occupation Zone based in Frankfurt am Main and oversaw the distribution of food and medical supplied to the German refugees.

Eisenhower returned to Washington in November 1945, to replace General George C. Marshall as Chief of Staff of the Army. His primary responsibility was to oversee the demobilization of millions of soldiers. He briefly served as President of Columbia University in 1948, taking leave in 1950 to become the Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). He retired from military service on May 31, 1952, and resumed his position at Columbia University until January 1952. Later that year, Eisenhower accepted the Republican nomination for President, following several years of demurring. As President, Eisenhower continued many of Roosevelt’s social reforms while insisting on greater fiscal responsibility in the federal government. Eisenhower left office in 1961 and died eight years later at Walter Reed Army Hospital outside Washington, D.C.

Source:

Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. Eisenhower, Dwight D., http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/EE/fei1.html (accessed July 8, 2010).

From the guide to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Scrapbook 1953., 1942-1945, (Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin)

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) was born in Denison, Texas along the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad but moved to Abilene, Kansas, after his birth from where Eisenhower entered the United States Military Academy, West Point, in 1911 and graduated at the top of the middle third of his class.

During World War II, Eisenhower was transferred to the War Plans Division under General George C. Marshall.

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Eisenhower was assigned to the Washington-based General Staff to craft war plans against Japan and Germany.

After June 1942, he was appointed Deputy Chief in charge of Pacific Defenses under the Chief of War Plans Division, General Leonard T. Gerow, whom he succeeded follow Gerow's appointment as commander of V Corps in the European Theater of Operations. Eisenhower was appointed Commanding General of the European Theater of Operations in 1942, then Supreme Commander Allied (Expeditionary) Force of the North African Theater of Operations. His authority expanded several times, encompassing more of the Mediterranean basin, until in 1944 when President Roosevelt appointed him Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force. He gave the order to begin landing on the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) and accepted the Nazi surrender eleven months later. Eisenhower was appointed the Military Governor of the United States Occupation Zone based in Frankfurt am Main and oversaw the distribution of food and medical supplied to the German refugees.

Eisenhower returned to Washington in November 1945, to replace General George C. Marshall as Chief of Staff of the Army.

His primary responsibility was to oversee the demobilization of millions of soldiers. He briefly served as President of Columbia University in 1948, taking leave in 1950 to become the Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). He retired from military service on May 31, 1952, and resumed his position at Columbia University until January 1952. Later that year, Eisenhower accepted the Republican nomination for President, following several years of demurring. As President, Eisenhower continued many of Roosevelt's social reforms while insisting on greater fiscal responsibility in the federal government. Eisenhower left office in 1961 and died eight years later at Walter Reed Army Hospital outside Washington, D.C.

From the description of Dwight D. Eisenhower Scrapbook, 1942-1945 (University of Texas Libraries). WorldCat record id: 759407665

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Subjects:

  • Presidents' spouses--Archives
  • World War, 1939-1945--United States
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • President's spouses

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • Boone, IA, US
  • Washington, D. C., DC, US