One of the things I love about bridge is that it is a classic. It has a tradition in America through its forbear whist back to George Washington–it has class, it has lineage. And from earliest days of America, First Ladies Dolly Madison, Elizabeth Monroe, Louisa Adam played that era’s version of bridge–whist.
I wrote to Carl Sferazza Anthony, head of the First Ladies Library in Washington, to ask if he had anything to add to information I already had on First Ladies who played bridge. He responded that Woodrow Wilson’s wife Edith was perhaps the most avid bridge player in the White House, refusing to give it up even when her husband had suffered a stroke, and it was rumored Edith was running the country. He would sit nearby the foursome.
Mrs. Harding, Coolidge and Hoover played bridge in the 20s and 30s (although in my book I don’t list Mrs. Hoover–just learned that fact recently).
As far as I know Eleanor Roosevelt did not play bridge but the president did. As did Winston Churchill, incidentally, who was termed an enthusiastic but not very good player.
Bess Truman fit right in with the card-playing tradition of Dolly, Elizabeth and Louisa. She had her Tuesday afternoon bridge club back in Independence when she spent summers there and sometimes those bridge friends visited her in Washington. Mr. Anthony says, “She seemed to play whenever she could, with old friends, new friends, her brothers and sisters-in-law, acquaintances she encountered during long sea voyages and train excursions.”
And when World War II ended, she invited her whole bridge club to Washington to celebrate!