Helen “Nellie” Taft was married to William Taft, the 27th President of the United States, and served as First Lady from 1909-1913. She was the first First Lady to own and drive a car, ride in her husband’s inaugural parade, to publish her memoirs and to smoke cigarettes.
Additionally, she was the first to support women’s suffrage, even though her husband did not. President Taft was against women voting since he believed they were too emotional. On November 2, 1909, just a few months into his Presidency, he also reiterated his opinion on suffrage. “I am not in favor of suffrage for women until I can be convinced that all the women desire it; and when they desire it I am in favor of giving it.” Nelle described herself as a “qualified” suffragist, this meant that she supported the right for women to vote, only if the women demonstrate that they have knowledge of political issues and candidates. She also felt this standard should apply to men as well. While serving as First Lady, Nellie was quiet on the issue of suffrage, but was a charter member of Bryn Mawr’s Suffrage Club.
She made her feelings on women’s suffrage known on the last day of her husband’s Presidency. Suffragettes had rallied in Washington to try to convince the soon-to-be President Woodrow Wilson to support their cause. Nelle took a prominent place on the grandstand to review a suffragist parade. In this symbolic move, Nelle showed everyone that she supported the movement. The Tafts’ daughter, Helen, would later follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a strong activist for women’s rights
Helen Taft’s Biography on FirstLadies.org