(Host) 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 and commentator Cyndy Bittinger says that her correspondence offers a wealth of detail about life in Vermont and beyond at the turn of the last century.
(Bittinger) 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.”
Both graduated from the University of Vermont and entered the teaching profession. Grace taught at the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, Massachusetts and she started dating Calvin Coolidge who was living in a nearby boarding house.
Ivah couldn’t attend Grace’s wedding to Calvin, so on the eve of their marriage on October 4, 1905 in a letter recently donated to the Coolidge Foundaton, Grace wrote to her best friend…
“My dearest beloved sister:
“It isn’t without a great big sigh and a bigger little pain down in my heart that I begin this my last letter before the scene is changed. That might surprise my mother who claims to believe that I have no feelings, because I don’t talk about them. I sometimes think that those who can speak of them don’t always have the most sensitive ones.
“I am sure that you and Calvin are going to like one another very much. He is quiet and doesn’t say much but what he does say amounts to something. That’s one thing I like about him. Miss Willoughby was having some work done at the dentists in Northampton the other day and Dr. Nichols said that he was glad Coolidge was going to get married and he hoped his wife would be somebody who would train him right. He said he didn’t talk enough, that people thought him unfriendly when quite the opposite was true. I knew that would amuse Calvin so I wrote him about it and he wrote back that he expected I’d make a great deal better man of him but that he didn’t believe I’d ever get him to talking much.
“…your letter did me no end of good. These last weeks have been pretty hard for us all, I guess. Mother isn’t very strong and she feels a little bit hard because I am going so hurriedly and sometimes she says things which strike in pretty deeply. She and Calvin set the time but she says he was very persistent. He talked with father later in the day and he called him very reasonable.
“Be sure and write to me at the usual time, and send the letter here, then I’ll get it on my way back. I’ll be looking for that note before the fourth.
With unending and unbounded love,
Always your own devoted Sister.”
Grace kept up her devotion to both Calvin Coolidge and Ivah Gale throughout her life. Her mother never warmed up to her husband. Ivah moved to Grace’s home in 1946 and lived with her until Grace died in 1957.
This is Cyndy Bittinger documenting the Coolidge legacy in Plymouth Notch.
Cyndy Bittinger is executive director of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation. Tuesday in this series, we’ll hear Grace Coolidge’s reflections on a family tragedy.
Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation