October 2nd, 1919 – The President is Paralyzed!


On October 2, 1919, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson suffered a serious stroke, leaving him paralyzed on his left side, and with only partial vision in the right eye.

Woodrow Wilson 680

The stroke came after a number of other health related complications. The immediate cause of Wilson’s incapacity in September 1919 was the physical strain of the public speaking tour he undertook in support of ratification of the Treaty of Versailles. In Pueblo, Colorado, on September 25th, 1919, he collapsed and never fully recovered, but October 2nd, 1919 was the final straw.

He was confined to bed for weeks and sequestered from everyone except his wife and physician, Dr. Cary Grayson. For some months he used a wheelchair and later he required use of a cane. His wife and aide Joe Tumulty were said to have helped a journalist, Louis Seibold, present a false account of an interview with the President.


He was insulated by his wife, who selected matters for his attention and delegated others to his cabinet. Wilson temporarily resumed a perfunctory attendance at cabinet meetings. By February 1920, the President’s true condition was public. Many expressed qualms about Wilson’s fitness for the presidency at a time when the League of Nations fight was reaching a climax, and domestic issues such as strikes, unemployment, inflation and the threat of Communism were ablaze.

No one, including his wife, his physician, or personal assistant, was willing to take upon themselves responsibility for the certification, required by the Constitution, of his “inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office”. This complex case became a motivation for passage of the 25th Amendment which deals with succession to the Presidency and establishes procedures both for filling a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, as well as responding to Presidential disabilities.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


Comments are closed.

Skip to toolbar