Calvin & Grace Coolidge — Helping the Disabled (1923 – 1929)
Former Executive Director, Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation
Editor’s Note: Compiled in October, 2006. Cyndy Bittinger is the author of the book, Grace Coolidge, Sudden Star.
Calvin Coolidge met Grace Anna Goodhue who was a teacher of deaf children at the Clarke School for the Deaf in 1904. They were married in October of 1905. Grace taught deaf children for three years and developed a lifelong interest in their education. Obviously her interests transferred to her husband as well. These events are taken from the Book of Days typed by Jozy Hall from the Washington Post as a gift to Mrs. Coolidge.
November 8: There was a presentation by L.B. Clark of the disabled American Veterans to Mrs. Coolidge. She was observing forget-me-knot day and given a special flower. The Coolidges and Hardings were very concerned with veterans. Their administration followed World War I and they were very aware of the sacrifices made in that war.
December 26: The Coolidge family including their two boys, age 17 and 15, visited Walter Reed Hospital and former service men recovering there. They cheered up wounded soldiers.
January: They began the year with a charity ball for the Children’s Hospital held at the Willard Hotel.
May 4: Mrs. Coolidge and Mrs. Stearns visited Mount Alto Hospital as part of hospital day.
June 6: Two thousand veterans of World War I who are wounded and disabled soldiers, sailors and marines were guests at the White House. President Coolidge signed a bill to provide $6 million for three hospital programs. He gave his pen to Charles H. Seddon, a wheel-chair veteran.
September 26: William F. Garcelon of Boston director of Coolidge and Dawes clubs since they were running for office, announced thousands of people will be mobilized through “Deaf and Dumb” clubs. Clubs will be organized in all states.
Nov. 3: Forget-me-not day flower given to Mrs. Coolidge.
January 3: Benefit for the Children’s Hospital.
March 4: Inauguration and the Great Charity Inaugural Ball
May 5: Veterans of Foreign Wars Poppy received by the Coolidges in a ceremony
May 22: 1,000 World War veterans from hospitals in the Washington area were invited to the White House for the first garden party of the season.
May 28: Mrs. Coolidge visited the Mount Alto Hospital and wounded veterans. She also placed a cornerstone for a new hospital, Florence Crittenton Home.
May 31: The President and Mrs. Coolidge received visiting disabled servicemen from local hospitals at a garden party at the White House.
July 16: At Swampscott, MA at their summer White House: President and Mrs. Coolidge were honorary patrons for a fete to be given to aide the disabled war veterans.
October 29: The first flower of the annual Forget-Me-Not celebration of the District of Columbia department of the Disabled American Veterans to be held November 16 was presented to Mrs. Coolidge by Michael Insulbush who lost both his eyes in France during the war.
Nov. 29: The formal opening of the annual Christmas seal campaign of the National Tuberculosis association.
Dec. 5: Mrs. Coolidge visited Walter Reed Hospital and highlighted articles made by wounded veterans.
Dec. 22: Mrs. Coolidge attended the recital at Poli’s Theatre for the benefit of the American Legion Endowment fund for disabled world war veterans and orphans of the veterans.
Dec. 24: Mrs. Coolidge visited Children’s Hospital.
Jan. 3: Mrs. Coolidge entertained youngsters at Children’s Hospital. A charity ball will be held on Jan. 4 to benefit the hospital.
Grace Coolidge & Helen Keller
January 12, 13, 14: Helen Keller visited the White House. She placed her fingers on the lips of President and Mrs. Coolidge to communicate with them. Mrs. Coolidge received Ms. Keller, her teacher, Mrs. Macy, and her secretary, Miss Thompson. Miss Keller is raising $2 million for the fund for the Foundation for the Blind. At a gathering at the Washington auditorium, Miss Keller addressed 2,000 people to raise funds.
June 4: A garden party was held for 1,000 World War heroes, veterans from the service hospitals in the Washington area. The Coolidges spent more time with those in wheel chairs and those who were very injured. They also thanked the nurses. Mrs. Coolidge often visited service hospitals and brought her dogs to cheer up the men.
October 1: President and Mrs. Coolidge received 200 delegates from the First Pan-American conference of National Directors of Public Health and the International Union Against Tuberculosis.
Nov. 28: Mrs. Coolidge sponsored the official opening of the annual Christmas seal sale in support of the health work of the Washington Tuberculosis Association. They hung the gift of health on the national Christmas tree.
Dec. 22: Mrs. Coolidge went to the Children’s hospital to cheer the patients. She distributed flowers to 102 children. She also went to the “colored wards” (There was segregation in Washington).
Jan. 4: Annual Charity ball for the benefit of the Children’s hospital, both President and Mrs. Coolidge attended.
January 29: Mrs. Coolidge yesterday received the graduating class of a public school for the deaf from New York City.
Feb. 24: Mrs. Coolidge received Mr. Walter Godaert, the blind Belgian flutist. He was brought to the White House by the Belgium Ambassador.
June 2: Mrs. Coolidge received the graduates of a school for the deaf from New York City.
June 10: The only garden party was the one held for disabled heroes of World War I. 1,000 attended. The Coolidges spoke with a Civil War veteran and spent much time with the badly wounded.
November 13: Mrs. Coolidge, in a visiting nurse uniform, visited the veterans at Walter Reed Hospital.
Nov. 25: Mrs. Coolidge attended the opening ceremonies of the new Red Cross building at Walter Reed hospital.
January 10: President and Mrs. Coolidge attended the charity ball for the benefit of the Children’s Hospital.
June: Mrs. Coolidge visited Dr. Caroline A. Yale, head of the Clarke School for the Deaf, and the woman who trained Grace as a teacher of the deaf.
June 18 and June 25: Superior, Wisconsin, the Summer White House. President Coolidge chose to worship at a church conducted by a blind preacher, John Taylor. Mrs. Coolidge was well enough to attend the June 25 service.
July 2: Son John joined them at the church. The Coolidges attended every Sunday they were there.
August 16: Mrs. Coolidge presented huge bouquets of roses to the veterans of the state of Wisconsin.
Oct. 30: Mrs. Coolidge received the first forget me not of the 1928 campaign by Disabled American Veterans. This highlights their sales on Nov. 9-11 and Armistice Day. Coolidge signed a $6 million dollar hospitalization bill for disabled veterans.
November 16: Tea with representatives from the Clarke School for the Deaf. There was a lunch for sponsors and $2 million is to be raised for the school. The Coolidges hoped that this will “arouse a greater interest in the problems of the deaf and in this humanitarian work which has so seemingly failed to keep pace with progress in other fields.” The fund was to be used for the modernization of buildings and creation of a research department.
Dec. 17: Mrs. Coolidge received a ship model used for the Christmas seals, the fund raising program for the National Tuberculosis Association.
March 3: $2 million was raised for the Clarke School for the Deaf. Mrs. Coolidge will present the check when she arrives in Northampton and leaves the White House.
March 4: Upon taking the train and leaving Washington, they thanked the donors who raised $2 million for the school. The funds created the Clarence W. Barron Research Department which would study experimental phonetics, the heredity of deafness, and the psychological difficulties of the deaf child.
Calvin Coolidge lived until January 5, 1933. One of his last visitors was Charles B. Hayes, the Field Director of the American Foundation for the Blind.
Mrs. Coolidge continued to campaign on the behalf of deaf children’s education the rest of her life. In 1935 she was head of the board of trustees at the Clarke School for the Deaf and in 1955 began another fund raising drive for 3 million dollars to improve the school. One of the trustees was Senator John F. Kennedy. The school grew to 17 buildings, and she often visited classes. All the students knew her by name.