It’s not clear when William Howard Taft and Helen ‘Nellie’ Herron exactly first met, but it is believed to be no later than 1880. Around 1884, the two have been meeting consistently. While Nellie initially rejected William in 1885, she then agreed to marry him, and the wedding happened at the bride’s home on June 19, 1896. William remained devoted to Nellie through their 44 years of marriage. They’ve been blessed with three children, Robert A. Taft, a statesman and politician, Helen Taft Manning, an educator, and Charles Phelps Taft II, a civic leader.
Robert A. Taft
Robert A. Taft, the first child of William Howard and Helen Herron Taft
On the 8th day of September in 1889, Robert Alphonso Taft was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Being the son of President William Howard Taft, Robert would also take the road to politics and become the leading spokesman for the conservationist in the United States. Since he was elected as a Senator of the United States, he has become an active part of the opposition, contradicting the ‘New Deal’ programs of President Franklin D. Roosevelt aimed to extend the federal government at the cost of local and state control.
Robert also headed the Labor and Public Welfare Committee at the Senate. Here he aided in creating the 1947 Labor-Management Relations Act. More renowned as the Taft-Hartley Act, the federal law that ceased ‘closed shops’ and restricted the power and activities of the labor unions. The Senator also shared his sentiments regarding international issues. Being part of the Foreign Relations Committee, he heavily denounced the Chinese and Korean policies of President Harry S. Truman.
Dubbed as ‘Mr. Republican,’ Robert was revered for his courage, integrity, and equity, even if he chose critical stands during his term. These qualities weren’t enough, however, to earn him Republican presidential nomination in his three attempts in 1940, 1948, and 1952. In 1953, he became the Senate majority leader and became President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s advisor. Illness, unfortunately, hit Taft, forcing him to give up the Senate leadership in June of 1953. Robert A. Taft succumbed to cancer the following month at the age of 63. 368
Helen Taft Manning
Helen Taft with her father, William Howard Taft
Helen Herron Taft Manning was born on August 1, 1891, in Cincinnati, Ohio. She was the second child and the only daughter of President William Howard Taft and Helen Herron Taft. Much like her brother, Helen was an intelligent child and achieved academic success on her own right. She attained goals that her mother, Nellie, wasn’t able to get because of the limitations set on women during the latter’s time.
Helen got a scholarship from Bryn Mawr College. She was a student of the said institution when his father won the presidency. However, Nellie suffered a stroke, causing her to be invalid. With that, Helen had to halt her studies temporarily and move back to the White House. She helped her mother recover and regain her speech and bodily movement. During that time, Helen acted as the official hostess at several events in the White House while her mother was unable to do so. In 1910, she celebrated her debutante party at the White House.
After Nellie recovered, Helen went back to Bryn Mawr College to resume her studies. In 1915, she finished college, earning a degree in history. Two years later, Helen became a dean at the age of only 26. Then, in 1919, she became the acting president. After that, she went to Yale University and earned her doctorate in history. Helen returned to Bryn Mawr College in 1925 and served as the dean and professor. She continued to teach history and retired in 1957. As a suffragist, Helen also toured the country, provided talks and speeches about women and their rights.
Helen married his husband, Frederick Johnson Manning, in 1920. Frederick was also a history professor who then transferred from Yale University to Swarthmore College. They were blessed with two daughters who also both became educators, Helen Manning Hunter, an economics professor, and Caroline Manning Cunningham, an instructor at the Manhattan School of Music. Helen Manning Taft died in Delaware, Pennsylvania, in February 1987 at the age of 95.
Charles Phelps Taft II
Charles Phelps Taft II with his father, William Howard Taft, prior to leaving for World War II
Charles Phelps Taft II was the son and third child of President William Howard Taft and Helen Herron Taft. He was born on September 20, 1897, in Cincinnati, Ohio. His name was derived from his uncle, who was a U.S. Congressman. Charles was only 11 years old when his father won the presidency. He was a constant playmate of Theodore Roosevelt’s children.
Just like her sister, Helen, he also went to Yale University. However, he needed to drop out as World War I loomed in. After the war, he returned to Yale and earned his law degree in 1921. Charles embarked on successful law practice and became a renowned Republican. However, Charles was more liberal than his father and brother, Robert A. Taft. He supported reforms and went against political machines in his hometown.
During the Second World War, Charles became part of the Wartime Economic Affair’s State Department Office. In 1945, he became an advisor to the delegation of the U.S. in the San Francisco Conference. The said convention resulted in the establishment of the United Nations. During the same year, Charles started his twenty-year reign in the Cincinnati City Council and worked with the Charter Committee Party’s quest for better local governance.
Charles earned the Republican nomination for governor in 1952, but it went for naught as he lost Frank Lausche, the Democrat candidate. Three years later, he was elected as Cincinnati’s mayor and pushed for valuable works, such as public assistance for the needy, slum clearance, and better labor relations. Charles tried his second shot at the governorship but lost again. He continued law practice while still taking part in civic activities, more significantly in helping end racial discrimination. Charles Phelps Taft II died in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1983 at the of 86.