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Helen Nellie Taft

Front of the Helen Taft gold coin with her portrait.

Helen Herron (nicknamed "Nellie") Taft was first lady from 1909 to 1913.  She was born on June 1, 1861, in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Nellie visited the White House when she was 17, a guest of her parents' close friends President and Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes.

She later met "Will" Taft when he was a student at Cincinnati Law School and they married in 1886.  She was particularly excited when he became president in 1909, because she had been eager to live in the White House ever since that first visit.

Mrs. Taft was an active first lady.  She had a bandstand built at the Tidal Basin so the Marine Band could play there on Sundays.  She also supported the establishment of the First Ladies Collection at the Smithsonian, starting the custom of first ladies donating their inaugural gowns to the institution by donating her own.

When President Taft later served as the Supreme Court's chief justice, she continued to be active in Washington.  She lived in the capital until her death in 1943.

Design on Reverse

Back of the Helen Taft gold coin

Mrs. Taft is best known in connection with the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin.  The Japanese trees were a gift from the mayor of Tokyo to the American people.  She planted the first two of these trees herself in March of 1912.

A branch of Japanese cherry blossoms is the image that fills the reverse of Mrs. Taft's coin.  The branch symbolizes her important role in bringing the cherry trees to Washington, D.C.

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