“WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOU, AND WE HAVE COME TO STAY!” In 1892, Judith Ellen Foster addressed these words to the men assembled for the Republican National Convention. But Foster and other women in party politics during the next 80 years have been largely forgotten. For the last two decades, Kristie Miller has been working to write them back into history.
Kristie’s new book is Ellen and Edith: Woodrow Wilson’s First Ladies. Their story – filled with drama, romance and sex – sheds light on our country’s important, complicated 28th president.
The Wilson women were strikingly different from each other, yet each played a significant role in the White House. Ellen Axson Wilson, quiet and intellectual, died after just a year and a half in the White House. She is thought to have had little impact on history, but her example influenced Eleanor Roosevelt.
Edith Bolling Wilson, who assumed many of the executive functions after her husband suffered a stroke, was flamboyant and confident but left a legacy of controversy.
Last year, Kristie Miller and Robert H. McGinnis published A Volume of Friendship: The Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt and Isabella Greenway, 1904-1953.The book contains more than two hundred letters between the first lady and the Arizona congresswoman that chronicle the transformation of two young society women into pragmatic political leaders.
Kristie published a full-length biography, Isabella Greenway: An Enterprising Woman, in 2004. Greenway married three times, and was at various times a rancher, US Representative, and founder of the legendary Arizona Inn. The book won the Willa Award (Women Writing the West) and was a finalist for the Spur Award (Western Writers of America) in 2005. It was also a 2004 Southwest Book of the Year. It is available in hard cover and paperback.
Kristie’s first book, Ruth Hanna McCormick, (1992) told the story of a congresswoman who represented the entire state of Illinois in 1928, and later became Thomas Dewey’s campaign manager. (She was also Kristie’s grandmother.) The book won the Chicago Friends of Literature Vicki Penziner Matson Award and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Biography.
Ruth McCormick was just one of many women in partisan politics at that time. Kristie, Melanie Guustafson and Elisabeth I. Perry edited a book of essays, We Have Come to Stay: American Women and Political Parties, 1880-1960 (1999). Kristie currently edits the American Women’s Biography Series for the University of New Mexico Press.
Kristie has also written more than three dozen free-lance articles and biographical articles for encyclopedias. She says that full-length biographies are like marriages: you’d better really like the person you’re with. Articles are more like dating around.
Kristie’s introduction to writing biography came with her first job, at 17, writing obituaries for the Montgomery County Sentinel in Rockville, Maryland.
She attended Brown University. As editor of the Brown Literary Review, she published the early fiction of Marilynne Robinson (neé Summers). Kristie was the first female managing editor of the Brown Daily Herald. She studied creative writing at Brown with the poet John Berryman.
From 1969 to 1984 Kristie taught English on four continents while serving with her diplomat husband. In 1977 she earned a masters degree from Georgetown University, studying linguistics to teach English as a second language.
From 1981 to 2001 she was a director of the Chicago Tribune Company.
For a quarter of a century, from 1984 to 2009, Kristie wrote a weekly column on women, history and current events for her hometown paper, the NewsTribune of La Salle, Illinois.
Kristie has two grown children and two granddaughters. She and her husband, TL Hawkins, live in McLean, VA, near Washington, DC.