Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924)

by Jennifer Woodruff Tait

Wilson took the United States into a European war.

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue 121 in 2017 ]

Devout Presbyterian preacher’s son Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born in Virginia. He held a PhD in political science from Johns Hopkins, and his distinguished scholarly career led to his becoming president of Princeton University, governor of New Jersey, and finally the nation’s twenty-eighth president, elected in 1912. 

[Woodrow Wilson—Wikimedia]

Wilson presided over the passage of socially progressive legislation, including the establishment of the Federal Trade Commission and the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. He also helped reintroduce federal income tax and oversaw the beginnings of Prohibition. But he is most closely associated today with America’s entry into World War I. 

During Wilson’s first term, he tried to keep the US out of European entanglements, and ran for re-election under the slogan “He kept us out of war.” But German actions early in 1917 led him to ask Congress to declare war. After the war concluded, Wilson was one of those who proposed a League of Nations to help keep the peace. Ironically, though the league was formed in 1920 and he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, the US refused to join, despite Wilson’s plea to the Senate, “Dare we reject it and break the heart of the world?”

After Wilson’s first wife, Ellen, died during his presidency, he married widow Edith Bolling Galt. Edith Wilson essentially served as de facto president after Woodrow was incapacitated by a stroke in 1919.

This article is from Christian History magazine #121 Faith in the Foxholes. Read it in context here!

Jennifer Woodruff Tait is managing editor of Christian History

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