Top Ten Demonstrations of Love- page 10 | History | Smithsonian
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(Bettmann / Corbis)

Top Ten Demonstrations of Love

The inventor, the celebrity and the royal highness couldn’t resist the draw of making a grand gesture to the love of their life

A Romantic (State) Dinner

William McKinley and Ida
(The Granger Collection, New York)
President William McKinley’s wife, Ida, was once a high-spirited socialite, but the deaths of her two young daughters and epileptic seizures left her frail and withdrawn. As McKinley’s political career blossomed, “Ida spent most of her waking hours in a small Victorian rocking chair that she had had since childhood,” crocheting slippers and waiting for her husband to come home, according to the White House Historical Association.

But when McKinley took office in 1897, he didn’t hide Ida from view. Instead, defying the protocol of the day, he insisted that his wife be seated beside him at state dinners, so he could help if a seizure struck, or cover her face with a hankerchief to ward off an impending attack.

And when President McKinley was fatally shot in 1901, his thoughts were of fragile Ida, whispering to his secretary: “My wife—be careful…how you tell her.”

Visit the National First Ladies' Library located in Ida McKinley's family home as well as other first ladies' homes.

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