Books: The President Who Was Not

WHEN THE CHEERING STOPPED by Gene Smith. 307 pages. Morrow. $5.95.

Though few historians have recorded it and not many voters realized it at the time, the U.S. has already had, in effect, a woman President. Her name is Edith Boiling Gait Wilson.

For 17 months, while Woodrow Wilson lay grievously ill in his White House bedroom, his wife Edith was his only contact with the outside world. Gene Smith, 34, a Washington freelance reporter, who once worked for the New York Post, spent months burrowing through the huge mass of Wilson papers in the...

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