Do you know…About Woodrow Wilson’s ‘flirtatious relationship’ in Bermuda?
By Horst Augustinovic
Born in 1856 in Virginia, Thomas Woodrow Wilson did not learn to read until he was 12 years old, yet he became a professor at Princeton University in 1890 and its president in 1902, Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913 and finally the 28th President of the United States, serving from 1913 to 1921.
Frail in his youth, he seemed to be without prospects until he met Ellen Axson in 1883 and married her less than two years later. She encouraged him to continue his education and finish his doctorate at Johns Hopkins. They had three daughters. Suffering from hypertension, Woodrow Wilson began to have physical breakdowns, which he was hoping to cure in Bermuda while his wife was holding down the fort in New Jersey, declaring ‘I must stay with the house, like the fixtures.’
During his first trip to Bermuda in 1907, Woodrow Wilson met Mrs. Mary Allen Hulbert Peck, a charming forty-one-year-old widow who spent the winters in Bermuda. They began a flirtatious relationship, which he described as a ‘dalliance’, leaving him ‘guilt-stricken’ as he had put aside ‘standards of honourable behavior’. A complete opposite of his wife Ellen, Mary Peck was considered frivolous and fashionable and obviously amused by the strict Presbyterian. In her memoir she commented ‘I found him longing to make up as best he might for play long denied. That, I think, is why he turned to me, who had never lost my zest for the joy of living.’
In August 1914 Ellen Wilson died in the White House. The president was devastated. ‘I never dreamed such loneliness and desolation of heart possible,’ he declared. Concerned, his physician arranged an encounter with Edith Bolling Galt, a wealthy Washington widow. They were married one year later. When Woodrow Wilson was disabled by a stroke in 1919, she held the White House together for the remainder of his term and was at his side until he died in 1924.
And what became of Mary Peck? Crushed that Woodrow Wilson did not ask HER hand in marriage, she died penniless in California in 1939.