A Brief Biography of Woodrow Wilson

By Tim Lambert

Woodrow Wilson was the 28th president of the USA. He was born in Staunton, Virginia on 28 December 1856. His father, Joseph Wilson was a Presbyterian minister. His mother Janet Woodrow Wilson was born in Carlisle, England.

When Woodrow was a child he lived in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Wilson attended Princeton University from 1875 to 1879. Afterward, he studied law at the University of Virginia and he became a lawyer in 1882.

However, in 1883 Wilson went to John Hopkins University and, in 1886 he obtained a Ph.D. in political science. Afterward, he worked as a lecturer. In 1902 he became president of Princeton University.

Meanwhile, in 1885 he married Ellen Louise Axson. The couple had three daughters. Sadly his first wife died in 1914.

In 1910 Wilson was elected governor of New Jersey. In 1912 he was nominated by the Democratic Party and that November he was elected president of the USA. Wilson presided over a series of reforms including the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914. When war broke out in Europe in 1914 Wilson was determined to keep the USA neutral. In 1916 he was re-elected as ‘the man who kept us out of war’. But it was not to last.

On 1 February 1917, Germany began unrestricted submarine warfare. That meant that any neutral ship attempting to trade with Britain was a target for submarines. Furthermore, British intelligence intercepted a telegram from Arthur Zimmermann, German Foreign Secretary. It stated that in the event of a war between Germany and the USA, efforts should be made to persuade Mexico to attack the USA. The Mexicans were offered parts of the USA as a reward if they did so.

On 6 April 1917, the USA declared war on Germany. America had a strong navy but a relatively small army. However, conscription was introduced and the USA began to raise a huge army. The first US troops were sent to France in June 1917 but it was the spring of 1918 before large numbers arrived.

In January 1918 Wilson put forward 14 points that he believed should be the basis of a peace treaty. However, the US Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles.

Meanwhile, in 1915 Wilson married his second wife Edith Bolling Gatt. In 1919 he suffered a stroke. Wilson left office in March 1921. He became a partner in a law firm but he was too ill to do very much work. Woodrow Wilson died on 3 February 1924.