This unique account, written by the wife of a Congressman from Texas and just brought to light, is a tart, lively, and enormously diverting firsthand report about people and events in a fascinating period of American history.
In 1897 Ellen Maury Slayden accompanied her newly elected Congressman husband to Washington. James Luther Slayden served as a member of the House of Representatives for the next twenty-two years. His wife, an inveterate diarist, a discerning and socially aware woman, made a record of the social, political, and historical events of her time.
Beginning with the drafty, inept receptions of the McKinleys, she has re-created official White House entertaining under four Presidents, as well as lavish embassy parties, salon soirees, and intimate dinners with Congressional friends and many famous people outside political circles.
But Ellen Slayden's interests were not limited to the social scene. She was involved in the woman's suffrage movement, and both she and her husband gave much of their lives to the cause of international peace.
There also were trips back to Texas every year, sometimes for campaigning, which afford a rich lore of Texas humor. Mrs. Slayden writes movingly about a Confederate reunion, waspishly about Woodrow Wilson's pedagogical approach to the Presidency, and disparagingly about Prohibition. She re-creates political conventions, dramatic sessions of Congress, and the climate of Washington during wars and threats of war.
In his introduction, Walter Prescott Webb, the distinguished historian, says:
"Washington Wife is among the best contemporaneous records of the period between the Spanish-American War?which announced that the United States was a world power?and World War I, which defined the duties and fixed the cost of holding first place."