Book Summary

Ida Saxton: The Early Life of Mrs. McKinley  
By: Carl Sferrazza Anthony

To outsiders, she was a daughter of Victorian wealth and privilege. In reality, she was delivered into the world by a leading abolitionist, educated by a leading women's suffrage advocate, and urged by her father to earn her own living in what was then an exclusively-male world of banking. Those are just a few of the myths reversed about the 25th U.S. President's wife in the new book Ida Saxton: The Early Life of Mrs. McKinley.

Usually viewed with melodramatic pathos as the idealized Victorian "invalid," Ida Saxton McKinley's story is a rich and unusual one before she married William McKinley. Granddaughter of two founders of Canton, she always considered the Ohio city her only true home - yet at age 22, embarked on a six-month exploration of Europe that forever altered her view of the world. Especially conscious of the challenges faced by self-supporting women, she made no great rush into marriage with the Civil War hero and young lawyer she called "the Major," William McKinley, a transplant to Canton. In fact, McKinley was neither her first love nor the only man she dated. As new evidence also discloses, it was Ida's prominent family, the Saxtons, whose success McKinley used in his climb to political power.

As much a look at early Canton as it is the early life of a First Lady and her family, most of the story in Ida Saxton is centered on the now-restored Saxton-McKinley House, part of the National First Ladies Library complex. It is one of only five such house museums in the nation, among those of Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, Mary Lincoln Bess Truman, and Mamie Eisenhower.

Ida Saxton: The Early Life of Mrs. McKinley is ultimately the story of the strong, intelligent and outspoken young woman whose early years reverberate her tenure as First Lady at the turn of the twentieth century and Spanish-American War, when the United States rose as a world super-power.