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Grace Coolidge's legacy in letters

06/30/03 12:00AM

Grace Goodhue Coolidge was a Burlington native who became First Lady when her husband Calvin Coolidge, a native of Plymouth, became the 30th President of the United States. A collection of her private letters has just been given by the family to the Coolidge Foundation in Plymouth. This year they are being made available to scholars and the general public for the first time.

Grace Coolidge was a prolific letter writer. The director of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation, Cyndy Bittinger, says Grace Coolidge's correspondence offers a wealth of detail about life in Vermont and beyond at the turn of the last century. During a weeklong series on Morning Edition, Bittenger reads from Grace Coolidge's letters.

Monday: Grace's marriage to Calvin
Grace Goodhue, an only child, befriended Ivah Gale from Newport at the University of Vermont in 1897. Later in life, Grace wrote, "Totally unlike in every way, we became fast friends and I knew in her the strong ties which often bind together two sisters." Ivah couldn't attend Grace's wedding to Calvin, so on the eve of their marriage on October 4, 1905 Grace wrote to her best friend.

Tuesday: Death of their younger son
In July of 1932, while on vacation in Plymouth, Grace Coolidge walked their dog Timmy to the cemetery where their late son Calvin Jr. was buried. Later she wanted to share her thoughts of that occasion with their remaining son John (age 25) and his wife, Florence.

Wednesday: the Coolidges' at home in Plymouth
Obviously both Grace and Calvin had a special place in their hearts for Plymouth, Vermont. Grace knew how much her husband loved Plymouth and arranged their first summer White House there in 1924, after the death of their son Calvin Jr.

Thursday: Grace Coolidge's love of baseball
Grace Coolidge was a fixture at opening days, World Series, and ordinary games at Fenway. She told her friends, "Not one of you cares a hoot about baseball but to me it is my very life." When the First Lady could not attend a game, she listened to the play by play on radio. Her passion was recognized by the American League when their president sent her handbags with season passes each year.

Friday: 4th of July, love of family
Grace Coolidge was very close with her eldest son, John, as revealed in these letters between them on her birthday and the eve of his wedding.

Saturday: Grace Coolidge's unpublished poetry
Grace Coolidge was a keen observer of the world around her and a gifted writer with an optimistic spirit. In this, the last of our special series of commentaries on the letters of Grace Coolidge, we hear some of her observations about life and the natural world, and an unpublished poem.

Related links:
Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation
Biography of Grace Coolidge
Grace Coolidge's legacy as first lady
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