WOMEN: Martha & Bob

In William Howard Taft's gay, leisurely Washington of 1910, Martha Wheaton Bowers, 19, Minnesota-born daughter of the U.S. Solicitor General, was a brown-eyed debutante whose beauty demurely covered a formidable character and a brilliant, Sorbonne-trained mind. At a White House dance she caught the eye of the President's youngest son, Robert Alphonso Taft, who, though only a round-eyed senior home from Yale, had the wisdom to fall totally, silently in love with her and had the mettle to persist until she married him two years later. For the next 39 years, the union of these two, a warm, affectionate...