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“And, Folks, Here's My Mamie!” by Bethany Poore

The Story of Mamie Eisenhower

The train marked “Eisenhower Special” announced its arrival with a shrill whistle at the Keyser, West Virginia, station on the morning of September 25, 1952. An excited crowd 3,000 strong met the train. Schoolchildren dismissed from classes to attend the big event made the crowd all the more lively. Dwight D. Eisenhower, or “Ike,” was the much-loved general who had served his country in World War II as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces. He was campaigning to be America’s next President.

West Virginia’s Republican candidate for governor introduced the general and the crowd erupted in cheers. Eisenhower gave his standard 10-minute campaign speech about the current administration, the war in Korea, the need for change, and promises for his own administration. After he finished his speech, he grinningly said to the crowd, “And, folks, here’s my Mamie!” Eisenhower’s wife Mamie stepped out onto the platform to stand beside her husband. She smiled warmly and waved to the crowd. The crowd burst into shouts and applause. The Eisenhowers received two special locally-produced gifts from the people of Keyser: a box of apples from Cheat Mountain Orchard and, especially for Mamie, a pair of soft deerskin gloves. With thanks and quick farewells, the Eisenhower Special chugged away from the waving crowd.

Dwight and Mamie EisenhowerMamie Doud and her future husband met at Fort Sam Houston near San Antonio, Texas, in 1915. He was a soldier stationed there and she was staying in San Antonio with her family. They were married in 1916 when Mamie was 19 and Ike was 25. They had been married for almost 53 years when Ike died in 1969. Even though Ike had a distinguished and busy military career spanning nearly 37 years, for most of their marriage Ike and Mamie were together. But for Mamie that meant packing up the household and moving many, many times as her husband was assigned to one post and then another.

Mamie estimated that during her life she lived in 37 different houses. She moved with Ike to army bases all over the United States and to Panama, the Philippines, and France. Their first son, Doud Dwight, was born in 1917 and died in 1921 of scarlet fever. Their second son, John, was born in 1922. He grew up to become a soldier like his father and also served as Ambassador to Belgium. In the early 1950s, Ike was urged by influential Republicans to run for President. They believed that the country needed his proven leadership. Eisenhower became convinced that it was his duty to serve his country in that way.

Mamie was a modest, retiring woman who happily stayed out of the limelight that surrounded her world-famous husband. She had never before had the least political involvement. When her husband decided to try for the White House, she walked into the political arena by his side. Mamie, no longer able to stay quietly in the background, became a staunch, active advocate for her husband’s election, working 16 hours a day because she believed as much as anyone else that he was the right man to be President. Ike’s opinion was, “She’s a better campaigner than I am.”

Mamie EisenhowerMamie connected with people by being herself: genuine and unpretentious. During the election, her hairstyle became a big conversation topic. She received many letters urging her to change it, but her hair stayed the way she liked it. When she was interviewed, she was able to converse sincerely as a normal American woman that understood other normal Americans and their worries about high grocery prices, taxes, and sending their sons off to war. During the campaign, Ike and Mamie said goodbye to their son, John, as he left to fight in the Korean War.

Americans were drawn to her sincerity and caring. They could tell by the way she looked at Ike that she deeply loved and admired her husband of 36 years. No matter how many times she heard him give the same speeches, Mamie always listened with full attention when her husband spoke on the campaign trail. Her respect for him deepened the respect that other people had for Ike.

As the campaign progressed, Mamie became the first candidate’s wife to have campaign songs written about her, called “Mamie” and “I Want Mamie.” “I Like Ike” was the most famous slogan of Ike’s campaign (and one of the most famous of all time). Mamie’s fans coined the slogan, “I Like Ike, But I LOVE Mamie!” Campaign buttons read: “Mamie for First Lady” and “I Like Mamie, Too.” Reporters liked Mamie, too. On one 6:45 a.m. whistle-stop in Salisbury, North Carolina, Ike and Mamie peeked out from their railroad car wearing their bathrobes and waved to the crowds. Photographers who hadn’t been up that early asked Ike and Mamie to put on their bathrobes and do it again so they could catch it on film. The Eisenhowers smilingly complied.

Mamie Eisenhower accompanied her husband as his campaign wound its way over 51,276 miles, stopping at 232 towns in 45 states, traveling by train and propeller plane. She stepped out to stand beside Ike, smile, and wave many times.

Ike won 39 states on Election Day that November. He was inaugurated as the 34th president of the United States on January 20, 1953. After he took the oath of office, Ike turned to his most loyal supporter and became the first President in U.S. history to kiss his wife on the inauguration platform for all the world to see.

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