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The Slipper Queen


Ida Saxon, born in 1847, was the daughter of a banker and was considered a catch—educated, bright and beautiful. The dashing Civil War hero William McKinley married Ida in 1871, and they subsequently had two children. The deaths of both children within a three-year period broke Ida’s spirits, and she was never quite the same again. From 1876 on, she complained about a variety of ailments, ranging from migraines to stomach problems, and it is likely that she suffered from epilepsy.

McKinley's fortunes within the Republican Party began to rise after he was elected to the House of Representatives, and he never wavered in his care for his wife. As President, McKinley always had time for Ida, and made every effort to make her comfortable, including breaking tradition and allowing her to sit next to him at state dinners. Listening for the sounds prior to an epileptic fit, McKinley would simply drape his handkerchief over her face, and remove it once the episode was over. Although heavily medicated, Ida McKinley insisted on participating in White House life and refused to let any other female family member take over the role of official hostess.

When not giving her opinions on matters of state, Ida spent much of her time crocheting; it is estimated that she crocheted over 3,500 pairs of house slippers!

When President William McKinley was shot on September 6, 1901, his first thoughts were of his wife Ida; he exclaimed to his secretary, “My wife—be careful, Cortelyou, how you tell her—oh, be careful." McKinley had been very attentive to his frail wife for over 25 years, but Ida not only held it together and made most of the funeral arrangements, she lived another six years!

Photo: McKinley Museum and National Memorial


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