Mamie Geneva Doud was born on November 14, 1896, in Boone, Iowa. She was the daughter of John Sheldon Doud and Elivera Mathilda Carlson Doud. The Doud family later moved to Colorado, eventually settling in Denver. Mamie attended local public schools and graduated from the Wolcott School, a private school for girls in 1915. That fall she met Second Lieutenant Dwight D. Eisenhower, and on February 14, 1916, the couple announced their engagement. They were married on July 1, 1916, at the Doud family home.1
The Eisenhowers had two sons—Doud Dwight Eisenhower and John Sheldon Doud Eisenhower. Doud, also called “Little Icky,” passed away in 1921 after contracting scarlet fever. John was born the following year, and for the next two decades the Eisenhowers lived throughout the United States and around the world. These experiences as a military spouse shaped Mamie’s sense of duty, frugality, and hospitality, as well as affirmed her support for her husband’s career and devotion to her family. These priorities remained at the forefront for her entire life, including her time as first lady.
During World War II, Dwight Eisenhower was elevated to General of the United States Army and Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. Mamie took up residence at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., where she lived for most of the war. She volunteered for the American Red Cross and was present when her son John graduated from Dwight’s alma mater, the United States Military Academy at West Point, on June 6, 1944.2
In 1948, the Eisenhowers moved to New York City when Dwight became the president of Columbia University. He later left to serve as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and head of NATO military forces. As a result, Dwight and Mamie lived in Paris, France, until they returned to the United States when Eisenhower campaigned as the Republican nominee and handily won the 1952 presidential election.
As first lady, Mamie Eisenhower festively decorated the White House for holidays such as Christmas and Halloween. In 1953, she and the president brought back the White House Easter Egg Roll, which had been suspended since 1942. The Executive Mansion also served as the backdrop for many memorable family moments with their grandchildren—Dwight David, Barbara Anne, Susan Elaine, and Mary Jean. The president and first lady hosted birthday parties, holiday meals, and family events, including Mary Jean’s Blue Room christening in April 1956.3 The role of first lady did not change Mamie’s familial obligations. She later said, “I was Ike’s wife, John’s mother, the children’s grandmother…[and] that was all I ever wanted to be.”4
Mamie’s love of pink—in her accessories, clothing, and décor—was well known. She not only refreshed the master bedroom with “Mamie pink” but also used splashes of the color at Camp David and the Eisenhower property at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Women imitated her famous short bangs, and her popularity surged with the American public.
Mamie generally avoided politics and publicity, focusing more on the White House and events, as well as managing the residence staff. She met with the chief usher nearly every morning to discuss the day’s schedule and visitors. She spent most of her time planning and attending social events, responding to correspondence, answering requests, and greeting guests.5 “As the wife of a career army officer, she understood the hierarchy of a large establishment, the division of responsibilities, and how to direct a staff,” recalled White House Chief Usher J.B. West.6
During the Eisenhower presidency, there were several significant donations made to the White House. One of Mamie’s friends, Margaret Thompson Biddle, gifted a collection of 1,575 pieces of vermeil (gilded silver). This later became the basis for the Vermeil Room on the Ground Floor. The Eisenhowers also accepted an assortment of early nineteenth-century American furnishings for the Diplomatic Reception Room. This was the first time an entire room was furnished with high-quality American antiques and set a precedent for future occupants.7
After leaving the White House, the Eisenhowers retired to Gettysburg. When Dwight passed away in 1969, Mamie continued living at the property and was a frequent guest at the Nixon White House. On November 1, 1979, Mamie Eisenhower passed away in Washington, D.C. She was buried next to her husband and Doud in the Place of Meditation at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas.8
You Might Also Like
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,...
Collection The Nixon White House 1969 - 1974
On January 20, 1969, Richard Nixon was inaugurated as the thirty-seventh president of the United States. During his time in the White...
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 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 First Ladies
Biographies & Portraits
Podcast The White House in the Age of Eisenhower
President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s White House helped set the tone for an era of peace, economic prosperity, and technological ad...
Collection The Presidents
Biographies & Portraits
Collection Animal Ambassadors
Animals, whether pampered household pets, working livestock, birds, squirrels, or strays, have long been a major part of White House...
Podcast The Legacy of First Lady Patricia Nixon
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Pat Nixon entering the White House as First Lady. Through hard work and...
Collection The 2019 White House Christmas Ornament
Every year since 1981, the White House Historical Association has had the privilege of designing the Official White House Christmas Ornament....
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 Eisenhower White House 1953 - 1961
Dwight D. Eisenhower was the only army general elected president in the twentieth century. His achievements were many — he was an...