Childhood & Early Life
Born Mamie Doud on November 14, 1896, in Boone, Iowa, she was the second of the five children of John Sheldon Doud (1870–1951) and Elivera Mathilda Carlson (1878–1960). Her father was the owner of the meatpacking company 'Doud & Montgomery' ("Buyers of Live Hogs"). She got her middle name, “Geneva,” from the famous song 'Lovely Lake Geneva.'
Mamie had three sisters, Eleanor Carlson Doud, Eda Mae Doud, and Mabel Frances "Mike" Doud, and one younger brother. One of her sisters died in 1918.
Mamie was educated at 'East Denver High School' and 'The Mulholland School' in San Antonio, Texas. She had also attended 'Miss Wolcott School for Girls' in Denver.
Even though Mamie was from an affluent family, she knew the value of money and had great budgeting and financial skills that had been passed on to her by her father.
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In October 1915, after completing her studies at 'Wolcott School,' Mamie met Dwight Eisenhower in San Antonio and soon began a relationship. He often invited young Mamie to accompany him on his rounds.
On St. Valentine's Day the following year, Eisenhower presented Mamie with a miniature of his ‘West Point’ class ring, and they were engaged. Reverend Williamson of the 'Central Presbyterian Church' in Denver officiated the wedding on July 1, 1916, at Mamie's parental home in Denver, Colorado. She was just 19 then, while Eisenhower was 25.
The two had their honeymoon at the ‘Eldorado Springs’ resort in Colorado. Their first child, Doud Dwight "Icky," born on September 24, 1917, died of scarlet fever on January 2, 1921.
Mamie's second son, John Sheldon Doud, born on August 3, 1922, was a ‘U.S. Army’ soldier, an author, and an ambassador to Belgium.
Life as an Army Officerï¿½
Eisenhower's promotions led them to live in places across the United States, the Panama Canal Zone, France, and the Philippine Islands. Mamie, who had grown up enjoying luxuries, readily adjusted with the frugal facilities of military posts.
During World War II, Eisenhower was stationed in Europe, while Mamie lived at the 'Wardman Park Hotel,' Washington, D.C. The two lived apart for almost 3 years and communicated only through letters. It was Mamie's first experience of being isolated.
While in Washington, D.C., Mamie and the other army wives worked at the 'Red Cross' canteen.
After Eisenhower returned from the war in 1948, he became the president of 'Columbia University' and purchased their first home at a farm (presently the 'Eisenhower National Historic Site') of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.
However, Mamie and her husband's dream home was completed in 1955, because his duties as the supreme commander of the 'North Atlantic Treaty Organization' (NATO) force (in 1950) and hers as the hostess at their little chateau outside Paris, France, had delayed the work.
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Life as the First Lady
In 1953, Eisenhower took over as the U.S. president. Mamie regularly accompanied him on his campaign trips. As the First Lady, she projected herself as the president's partner and even appealed to the voters.
As the couple moved to the ‘White House,’ the domestic staff working under Mamie dubbed her the "Hostess in Chief." She turned out to be an amicable in-charge who often sent birthday cards and gifts to the crew.
Mamie was an efficient household runner, who even collected grocery coupons from the paper. She displayed her remarkable hosting skills whenever Eisenhower had any domestic or foreign political guests.
Mamie always maintained her individuality. When in public, she was a great hostess and a perfect First Lady. However, in private, she shared political opinions with her husband.
Eisenhower trusted Mamie's judgments and considered her advice. She was also his biggest confidante. She managed Eisenhower's schedule and ensured his excellent health, too.
Mamie disliked Senator Joseph McCarthy and ensured he did not attend any of the ‘White House’ events. She was a massive supporter of ‘Republican’ candidate Ellen Harris's run for a ‘Congress’ seat.
As an honorary member of the 'National Council of Negro Women,' Mamie invited African–American children to the annual ‘Easter Egg Roll’ and arranged the '4-H Club Camp for Negro Boys and Girls' as part of the ‘White House’ tour.
Mamie was the first honorary chairperson of the 'Girls Clubs of America' (now 'Girls Inc.').
Apart from her hosting skills, Mamie was known for her impeccable dress sense. Scaasi designed most of her dresses.
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Throughout her tenure as the First Lady, the 'New York Dress Institute' considered Mamie one of the 12 best-dressed women in the U.S. Her dress sense inspired the "Mamie Look" that consisted of a full-length dress, delicate jewelry, little hats, and her trademark hairstyle.
Some of Mamie's other designers were Mollie Parnis, Trifari, and Sally Victor.
Mamie loved a specific shade of pink, which was often known as "First Lady Pink" or "Mamie Pink." It made pink clothing, housewares, and bathrooms a trend back then.
She was a great cook, too. "Mamie's million dollar fudge" was a highly popular recipe among housewives back then and was also printed in many journals.
Reportedly, in 1958, Mamie became the first First Lady to initiate the trend of Halloween decorations at the ‘White House.’
A gracious hostess, Mamie was a private person. She had Ménière's disease, causing uneasiness on her feet. This gave rise to rumors that she had a drinking problem.
According to many biographies, such as J. B. West's 'Upstairs at the White House,' Mamie was discontented with the idea of John F. Kennedy succeeding her husband. The new First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, had had a caesarean section delivery just 2 weeks before the new president entered the ‘White House.’ While showing the ‘White House’ to the Kennedys, Mamie neither offered Jacqueline the available wheelchair nor informed Kennedy about it.
Kennedy confronted Mamie in Eisenhower's absence, to which she bluntly replied: "because she never asked."
Later Life & Death
The Eisenhowers left the ‘White House’ in 1961 and moved to their Gettysburg home. Eisenhower died in 1969, and Mamie devoted all her time to her family and friends.
The Eisenhowers also owned a retirement home in Palm Desert, California. In the late 1970s, Mamie bought an apartment in Washington, D.C. In 1972, she was featured in a commercial for the political campaign of Eisenhower's former vice president, Richard Nixon.
The marriage of Mamie's grandson, David Eisenhower, with Richard Nixon's daughter, Julie, strengthened the bond between the two families.
On September 25, 1979, Mamie suffered a stroke and was admitted to the 'Walter Reed Army Medical Center.' On October 31, she told her granddaughter, Mary Jean, that she would die the following day.
Mamie died peacefully in her sleep on November 1, 1979.