OCR Interpretation

Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, August 29, 1909, Image 35

Image and text provided by Library of Congress, Washington, DC

Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1909-08-29/ed-1/seq-35/

What is OCR?

Thumbnail for 9

The President and His Family
Mrs. Taft.
MOST of our Presidents have been called from
the shadows of a secluded family fireside or
the slight eminence of a local "stump'' to
the office of Chief Executive of the nation; their
wives stepping from plainest domesticity to struggle
with the social intricacies of White House rule. So
that President Johnson's daughter voiced the trepi
dation of not a few of her predecessors and those follow
ing her as hostess in the White House in her remark on
the threshold, " We are plain people from the moun
tains of Tennessee. You must not expect much of us."
But the election of Mr. Taft brought an element
of worldwide experience into the White House, and a
regime of rigid formality; an adoption of modified
court etiquette would not have r>een illogical?it
was thought. For had not Mr. Taft been the first
ruler to succeed Spanish absolutism in the Philip
pines, had he not been set to govern there an order
of civilization that recognized authority only by its
regal pomp? Moreover, he and Mrs. Taft had been
favored guests in European courts, received by the
Dowager Empress of China and by the Pope in
Rome, enjoying hospitality in the throne circles of
Russia and Germany. It would not have been un
natural for the point of view regarding leadership in
our Republican Court to have been tinged by tnese
experiences. At least no "hominess'' in White
House management could be expected.
Yet the morning before inauguration Mrs. Taft ap
peared, short skirted and businesslike, in Center
Market, that red brick shelter rambling over several
blocks in Washington's business district and spilling
over into huckster trade and old " Virginny Aunty''
stands along its edges, which is three days in the
week the Mecca of all good housekeepers.
Mrs. Taft had with her the housekeeper she had
engaged for the White House, and there followed an
initiation into the methods and means of marketing
that Mrs. Taft had always practised during their
Washington residence in other official capacity. The
housekeeper, Mrs. JatTray, learned where the best
stalls for different supplies were located, and with great
care were indicated tne particular cuts of meat, the
variety of fruit and vegetable, preferred by Mrs. Taft.
This practical action on Mrs. Taft's part is signifi
cant of the attitude toward family life in the White
House under this administration. There is still to be
a Taft household, with certain traditions of unpre
tentious routine and close relationship preserved,
outside that absorbing demand for social generalship
in public entertainment that comes with" the occu
pancy of the White House.
After Something to Eat
COME WHAT after the opening of Government of
^ fice hours one morning not long ago, when the
Taft children had returned for the holidays, a mem
ber of the executive corps of stenographers was seen
walking rapidly across tne park in front of the White
House and headed away from that building.
"Aren't you going the wrong way, or playing
hooky, or something?" queried a jocular Senator.
" No, I'm just going home to get something to eat.
I've been working with the President since five
The Senator whistled his astonishment. "Is the
Copyright, 1909, b) Harris & lluiiif
President putting the daylight hours' scheme
to a personal test?" he asked.
The clerk smiled. " Whenever he has anything
important to get off, he does this. He says he
doesn't like to go to the breakfast table worried,",
he returned, as if a President who gave up sleep
to appear interested and carefree at the morning
meal with his familv was a matter of course.
It is?in the Taft administration.
And this quiet regard of inner household
courtesy is reflected in President and Mrs. Taft's
attitude toward the people as merely a large
family circle. Mrs. Taft's one touch in substi
tuting her colored butler for "plain clothes"
officials at the front door of the White House
gives the visitor at once the impression of enter
ing a home, and not an institution.
To have grasped immediately this one telling
point as expressive of the President's and her
own feeling of hospitality was characteristic of
Mrs. Taft.
Contrast of the Family
A ND here a word or two regarding the con
trast of temperament in this most successful
partnership may not be amiss. Mr. Taft's nature
is vivid and impulsive. " He takes to the colors
in life" an army officer traveling with him re
marked, and, once out of range of the call for cal
culating, weighing, processes in legal matters,
and affairs of state, he is spendthriftilv generous,
magnetically unreserved, and compellingly opti
Against this Mrs. Taft's character on first ac
quaintance appears rather austere. And though
much of her apparent restraint had its origin in
diffidence, which she has overcome as constant
appearance in public brought self confidence and in
terest in her husband's career awoke determined effort
to express cordiality, still, the wife of the President
is natively introspective, rather than radiant.
The practical phase of things makes foremost ap
peal to Mrs. Taft, and she has a ready grasp of utili
tarian details and a cautious eye for results. She is a
splendidly adequate, never aggressive, supplement
to President Taft's nature.
Whenever congratulated upon his administration
of the Philippines, the President's incisive reply is,
"Mrs. Governor General is fifty per cent, of the rule
over there." And certain incidents bear at least
contributive testimony to that effect.
The shocking rate of infant mortality in the islands
at once claimed Mrs. Taft's appalled attention, and
she took it as her problem. Gradually she persuaded
the native women to accept medical attendance and
proper food for the babies. When she saw what
might be done, she took the matter to Mr. Taft and
suggested official organization in the work. As a result
there is now a far reaching charitable society known
as The Drop of Milk which dispenses sterilized
milk and has accomplished wonders in the phys
ical regeneration of young Filipino children. So,
when several years after Mr. Taft's governorship
they returned and Mr. Taft stood in the great hall
The President in. Hia Office.
Miss Helen Taft
calling by name the Governors of all the provinces
who had journeyed to Manila to greet " Santa Taft,"
at the same time scores of native women were seeking
out Mrs. Taft, bringing, as to a devotion, the children
her work among them had saved.
Then, too, in lighter diplomacy Mrs. Taft is a
practical helpmate. The idea of a Venetian Carnival
to be given in the Governor's palace at Manila was an
inspiration of Mr. Taft; but it was Mrs. Taft who
developed the suggestion into the brilliant fete from
which the annual Carnival of Flowers now held in
the river and canal crisscrossed islands is an out
growth. The guests, following directions, ap
proached the palace by the river, and lords and
ladies, peasants and queens, stepped from twinkling
launches and lantern-strung barges up the marble
steps, to be met by host and hostess in wonderful
Venetian costumes of the fourteenth century. Mr.
Taft as the "Doge of Venice" was an absolute re
production of that historic portrait, even to the
whiskers, and the Taft children considered this a
triumph of diplomacy on their mother's part, since
there has never been any masquerading as Santa
Claus by Mr. Taft in all the family history of many
very, very merry Christmases.
An apparent triviality that gave the Taft regime
a strong impetus forward in the estimation of native
official society in Manila was the introduction at the
Governor's receptions of the "rigadon," a famous
Filipino dance on the order of the minuet, but of
much more complicated steps. Mr. Taft was learn
ing the dance because it afforded an exercise adapted
to the Tropics and because he, for all his weight, can
make of any dance a most artistic performance and
the rigadon he found particularly interesting.
Mrs. Taft, witnessing a lesson, saw the possibility of
'a tactful adaptation of his accomplishment.
"I will learn the rigadon. too," she said, "and we
will dance it together at our next entertainment."
And they did, Mr. Taft afterward choosing partners
for this dance from his native guests. The compli
ment deeply impressed this people, to whom chivalry
and courteous consideration make a strong Old
World appeal.
Tr.bute to a Wife
15 UT no graceful incident so well illustrates the
basic helpfulness of President Taft's domestic
partnership as his own tribute to Mrs. Taft's man
agement. Everyone knows how easily his magnetic
nature has always won and held valuable friendships,
how his sense of justice and his stalwart principles
have carved his name in public confidence; yet he
says quite simply in regard to his personal affairs,
"Mrs. Taft has always kept my feet on the ground."
In their early married life, when Mr. Taft was on a
small salary, it was Mrs. Taft who guarded the bal
ance of income and outgo, that no flights of impulsive
expenditure might come to settle back with black
wings over the home.
A short time ago some one was offering sympathy
to President Taft on the discouraging way in which
the Philippine legislators seemed bent upon bringing
to naught all his efforts for their industrial salvation;
but he said:
"No; all we need is patience. Did you ever watch

xml | txt