Mamie Eisenhower was the former First Lady of the United States (1953-61), and wife of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Biographical fast facts
Full, original or maiden name at birth: Mamie Geneva Doud *
Error corrections or clarifications
* Contrary to many published reports, Mamie was actually christened Mamie Geneva Doud, not "Marie Geneva Doud," or "Mary Geneva Doud." Mamie's own family has repeatedly addressed this issue and quashed these rumors, but for some reason, this erroneous data continues to
The most in-depth of more than four dozen sources consulted in preparing this profile:
Biography - Hobbies
Mamie was the second of four daughters born to a prominent Denver businessman and his wife. As a child, she attended Denver public schools, but when the Colorado winters became too much for her mother, the Doud family began wintering in San Antonio, Texas. Her education was thus divided between the two cities, but was completed at a private Denver finishing school for girls. Her older sister Eleanor had a heart condition, and was in frail health most of her life. Eleanor's death in 1912 cast a shadow over what had been a relatively carefree childhood for Mamie.
While in San Antonio, Texas in October 1915, she met the man who would become the center of her life, the liberator of World War II Europe, and ultimately, the leader of the free world. Dwight D. Eisenhower's courtship of young Mamie was brief. They were formally engaged Valentine's Day 1916. The couple had originally planned a November wedding, but circumstances forced them to move the date up several months. At 12 noon on July 1st, 1916, they were wed in the first-floor music room of the Doud family home at 750 Lafayette Street, Denver, Colorado. The ceremony was performed by the Reverend William Williamson, visiting from Leicester, England.
The newlyweds set up housekeeping in Ike's bachelor quarters at Fort Sam Houston. It would be the first of more than thirty homes they would share, as necessitated by his military and political career. She often moved with Ike to various Army posts around the world as he quickly worked his way up in the ranks. Conditions during the early years were sometimes less than ideal. One good example was their "home" in the Panama Canal Zone, which leaked badly during the frequent torrential rains, and was infested with bats. Mrs. Eisenhower, who had been raised in prosperous surroundings, admitted that it was actually Ike who taught her to cook. Military life necessitated a change of mindset from her previous affluent upbringing. She became a frugal shopper and continued her thrifty ways long after her husband's pay made it unnecessary.
They had two sons, Doud Dwight Eisenhower, born September 24th, 1917, and John Sheldon Doud Eisenhower, born August 3rd, 1922. Tragically, their first son died of scarlet fever at the age of three. His death remained an open wound from which the couple would never fully recover.
Though she tried to be by her husband's side as much as possible, there were long stretches--especially during World War II--when it was simply impossible. As one might expect, she occasionally suffered from loneliness due to long separations from her husband. Mamie saw even less of him when he was named Supreme Commander of World War II Allied Forces (1943-45). In the 1940s, she did a great deal of volunteer work for the Red Cross and at an Army canteen in Washington in support of U.S. servicemen.
Following the defeat of Nazi Germany, his duties as the U.S. Army chief of staff (1945-48), continued to keep Ike busy, and Mamie was sometimes still waiting at home for her General to return. At least now, he wasn't half a world away, as he'd been during the war.
It was during the period General Eisenhower served as President of Columbia University (1948-53), that they purchased a farmhouse at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was the first real home they owned together.
During her eight years as first lady of the United States (1953-61), she and President Eisenhower entertained more heads of state than any of their predecessors. Mrs. Eisenhower was known for her short hairstyle, trademark bangs, and her favorite color, pink. Not only were her outfits frequently pink, but pink was a central color in the decor of their private quarters at the White House.
Mamie suffered from Meniere's Disease, a disorder of the inner ear. It caused her to suffer bouts of severe dizziness that caused her to stumble at times. This resulted in false rumors that she was an alcoholic based on her public stumbling.
Following two terms in the White House, they retired to their Gettysburg farm. Mamie had overseen the major reconstruction of the home, and they were finally able to actually enjoy some quiet time alone. They traveled extensively, Ike was able to really enjoy his golf, and they were both doting grandparents.
Mamie's frugal disposition didn't change following the White House years. The former first lady often did her own grocery shopping after carefully studying the advertised weekly specials. She could be seen pushing her cart down the aisles, her coupons in hand, searching for the best values. This, and the fact that she always insisted on waiting her turn at the checkout line, further endeared her to local residents, and illustrated her unpretentious nature.
Ike's health worsened as the 1960s progressed. He died March 28th, 1969, and Mamie followed him November 1st, 1979.
Mrs. Eisenhower played the piano, organ, enjoyed dancing, sewing, and quite enjoyed playing cards. She was especially fond of bridge, mahjong and canasta. Mamie planned all aspects of state events at the White House during Ike's two terms in office, and was active in fundraising activities for several organizations and charities. She was also instrumental in raising funds to establish a home for Army widows who, at the time, received minimal benefits from the government. Originally called the Army Distaff Home, it was founded to provide affordable, secure retirement housing and health care services for Army widows. Mamie helped break ground for the facility which opened its doors in 1962, and was named Knollwood.
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