Grace and Calvin Coolidge on the Farm

President Calvin Coolidge loved to take his wife with him on Presidential out-and-abouts. She was pretty, she was stylish, and she had an impish humor. She was enormously popular.

President and Mrs. Coolidge

calvin and grace

President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge. He loved taking her with him when he appeared publicly.

Calvin Coolidge was arguably the most sexist president we ever had. He believed politics was a man’s business, in fact, ALL business was a man’s business. Women were for home and family and always as supporting players. “Don’t try anything new, Grace,” was his advice to her when they assumed the First Couple-hood.

If Grace didn’t like being shunted to the background, she never seemed to object. Despite her own college education (University of Vermont), and despite being a teacher of the deaf – back in 1900 – Grace Goodhue was content to be Mrs. Calvin Coolidge, housewife. He would always be the breadwinner, she the bread baker.

Nevertheless, despite the inequality of the marriage to modern eyes, it was a happy union. Calvin Coolidge loved his wife dearly and she knew it. And if anyone had suggested that he was dismissive of her, or disrespectful, he would have been crushed. His love went deep and it was true. And for her part, when her parents tried to dissuade their outgoing and personable daughter her from marrying such a silent and cold fish, she countered with, “But he makes me laugh.”

And indeed, a good part of the success of that marriage was due to their senses of humor. His was Saharan in its dryness, all the more so because of the unexpected wit from such a bland persona. And when it was delivered in his usual dead-panned expression, people were hilarious. Her humor was teasing and mocking; delightful when it was accompanied by her wall-to-wall smile. And they never seemed to tire of bantering with each other.

Smiling Grace

Grace Coolidge was enormously popular during her time as First Lady. She had an infectious smile.

At every opportunity, President Coolidge loved to have his pretty wife along wherever he was invited. Not only was she attractive to look at, but she had innate charm and a genuine love of people which came across all the time.  She could also be trusted to avoid making any public statements other than “thank you for the flowers.”

The Farm Story

One delicious (and oft-told) story about the Coolidge tease, is when the President was invited to inspect a government-run experimental farm. It was reputed to have some of the most modern technology for the 1920s. Coolidge was a farm boy himself, having grown up on his father’s farm in Plymouth Notch, VT. He knew about a lot about farming. Grace was not a farmer’s daughter, but ever since her marriage, regular visits to the Coolidge farm were on their agenda. Calvin and his dad were particularly close.

So Coolidge accepted the invitation, and brought his Missus. They were both treated to a comprehensive tour – but they were separate tours. She, to get the “overall” view, and he to inspect in greater detail.

The Coolidges

You would never guess from the serious expressions that both Coolidges had a delicious sense of humor.

En route, Mrs. Coolidge was taken to a large enclosure with a henhouse, filled to capacity with hens and little chicks, but she could see only one rooster. When she remarked about it, the farmer boasted of his “prize” rooster – one able to “service” the entire lot. She queried, “Just how many times a day does this prize rooster ‘copulate’?” When told that rooster could mate perhaps 35-40 times a day, Mrs. Coolidge twinkled to her host, “You must be sure to tell that to President Coolidge when he passes this way.”

Sure enough a half hour later, the President and his escorts passed that same henhouse, and was given Mrs. Coolidge’s “message.” Coolidge nodded, and was his usual silent self, until they were about to leave the area.

“Hmmmm. Thirty or forty times a day,” he twanged. “Same hen?” “Oh no,” said the farmer, “he services them all.” Coolidge didn’t miss a beat. “You be sure to tell that to Mrs. Coolidge,” he added.

Sources:

http://www.calvincoolidge.us/humor.html

http://www.trevorloudon.com/2011/09/calvin-coolidge-a-great-president-plus-a-bonus-chicken-story/

http://www.historyextra.com/blog/coolidge-effect

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About Feather Schwartz Foster

Feather Schwartz Foster is an author-historian who has made more than 500 appearances discussing presidential history. She teaches adult education at the Christopher Wren Association (affiliated with William and; Mary College), and adult Education programs at Christopher Newport University. She has been a guest on the C-SPAN "First Ladies" program. She has written five books.
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