Grace Anna Goodhue was born on January 3, 1879, in Burlington, Vermont. She was the only child of Andrew and Lemira Goodhue. Following her graduation from Burlington High School in 1897, Grace attended the University of Vermont, and joined the women’s fraternity Pi Beta Phi. Following her graduation in 1902, Grace entered training at the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, Massachusetts. She continued to teach children at the school until 1905.1
While living in Northampton, Grace met a lawyer named Calvin Coolidge, and the pair married on October 4, 1905. She gave birth to two children, John in 1906 and Calvin Jr. in 1908. Grace supported her husband’s emerging career in local and state politics. While he served as lieutenant governor and governor of Massachusetts, Grace operated their family home in Northampton raising her sons and traveled regularly to join him in Boston. When Coolidge began serving as vice president under President Warren G. Harding in 1921, Grace settled into a suite at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. As the wife of the vice president, she found herself in charge of the Ladies of the Senate volunteer organization and began hosting luncheons, teas, and charity events.2
Following the death of President Harding on August 2, 1923, Calvin Coolidge became president and they moved into the White House on August 21. Grace recorded her thoughts on the monumental moment in her autobiography:
“There was a sense of detachment—this was I and not yet I, this was the wife of the President of the United States and she took precedence over me; my personal likes and dislikes must be subordinated to the consideration of those things which were required of her.”3
Although Grace felt the weight of her role and understood the increased public attention on the first lady in the press, she rose to the challenge. As first lady, she demonstrated an appreciation for pop culture and sports, attending baseball games and inviting celebrities to the White House. She was also well liked by Washington, D.C. society and was known for her hospitality and entertaining. On one memorable occasion, Grace hosted the 1927 White House Easter Egg Roll along with her pet, a racoon named Rebecca.4
Grace Coolidge also suffered tragedy at the White House. In 1924, Calvin Coolidge, Jr. developed a blister on his toe after playing tennis on the White House tennis court. The injury soon became serious and on July 7, 1924, he died from septicemia and his funeral occurred several days later in the East Room.5
Following her son’s death, Grace began working to improve the White House. She decorated the family quarters in a colonial style and worked to return historic furnishings previously removed from the White House. To accomplish these goals, in 1925 Congress passed a joint resolution allowing the White House to accept donations of art and furniture. Grace also worked with an advisory committee to acquire antiques and other American historical furnishings.6
In 1929, the Coolidges left the White House and retired to Northampton. Calvin Coolidge died on January 5, 1933, of a heart attack. Following his death, Grace continued her lifelong advocacy for the deaf and those hard of hearing, serving on the board and later as board president for her former employer, the Clarke School for the Deaf. She also remained an active community member in Northampton, volunteered, supported charities, and traveled in Europe. She passed away on July 8, 1957, at the age of seventy-eight.7
You Might Also Like
Podcast U.S. First Ladies: Making History and Leaving Legacies
Since the founding of America, spouses and relatives have served as White House hostess, public servant, and unofficial presidential adviser....
Collection Native Americans and the White House
Native Americans hold a significant place in White House history. For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples, including the Nacotchtank and...
Collection Presidential and First Lady Portraits
Since 1965, the White House Historical Association has been proud to fund the official portraits of our presidents and first ladies,...
Podcast Conversations from History Happy Hour
In this first episode of 2021, White House Historical Association President Stewart D. McLaurin introduces the Association’s popular virtual program Hi...
Collection The White House Behind the Scenes
While the presidency is often in the eye of the public, those who ensure operations at the White House run...
Podcast Entertaining at the White House
From diplomatic dinners to holiday gatherings, the White House has always played a central role in the nation’s official en...
Collection Women and the White House
While there has yet to be a female president, women have played an integral role in shaping the White House...
Collection Cherry Blossoms
Since the first cherry blossom planting in 1912 by First Lady Helen Herron Taft, Washingtonians have celebrated the scenic beauty and...
Podcast Fearless Leadership: A Conversation with Jean Case
Fearless leaders have walked the halls of White House for centuries. In this episode, White House Historical Association President Stewart...
Collection The Presidents
Biographies & Portraits
Podcast Death in the White House
Death comes to every home, including the White House. From the loss of cherished family members to presidential funerals, there...
Collection Holiday Cheer at the White House
The White House observance of Christmas before the twentieth century was not an official event. First families decorated the house...