Ida Eisenhower
Mother of Dwight D. Eisenhower
By Anne Adams

As General Dwight D. Eisenhower planned and then

directed the Allied assault on D Day, June 6, 1944 , it

was the high point in a long military career that

would later lead to the presidency. Yet what was

interesting and even ironic was that his family's

religious heritage did not support his profession, for

his parents and in particular his mother were devoted



Ida Stover Eisenhower was born May 1, 1862 in the

community of Sidney in Virginia 's Shenandoah Valley

with the Civil War raging nearby. Though she was but

an infant at the time her life would be greatly

affected by the devastation wrought to fields and

farms by the battling armies.

Ida's mother died when she was quite young and while

her father would live but a few more years, he did

leave enough savings that would provide a modest

inheritance to his seven sons and one daughter when

they turned 21. At his death Ida and her siblings were

raised by her maternal grandparents, in a somber and

parsimonious atmosphere that Ida left when she was

sixteen. While with her guardians she memorized 1,365

verses of the Bible in six months in a competition and

she always treasured the medal she won. There was

another side effect for from then on she could readily

quote an appropriate scripture to fit any situation

She moved to Staunton , Virginia to do domestic work in

exchange for room and board, and take advantage of the

opportunity to continue her high school education. She

taught for a while, and when she received her father's

bequest at age 21 she invested in a piano which would

remain a lifelong treasure.

The Stover family (as well as the Eisenhowers) were

descendents of German immigrants who had come to

America in the 1740s, bringing their religion with

them. They were affiliated with the Mennonites, though

they called their group the Brethren in Christ and

sometimes they were known as "River Brethren" since

they immersed in freshwater. They were generally

farmers, known for their hard work and the prosperity

of their farms, but they were also dedicated


Ida was anxious to further her education and in an

era when few young women did so, she decided she

wanted to go to college. She heard that her church had

established a college in Kansas and that they accepted

female students, so she joined some relatives in

moving to that area.

This was Lane University in LeCompton , Kansas and it

was there that Ida met and fell in love with fellow

student David Eisenhower, sixteen months younger than

she was. They were married in the college chapel on

September 23, 1885 .

David's father was a prosperous local farmer and was

anxious to support the young couple, so as he had done

with his other children, he gave them a sizable grant

of cash and a farm. Yet David was not interested in

agriculture and instead established a retail store in

Hope. When his business failed to thrive, he brought

in a partner who took off with their funds, and sent

the young couple into deep debt, The lawyer who was

brought in to settle accounts took all they owned

except Ida's piano. This left the young Eisenhower

with two aversions - to lawyers and to further debt.

They had already had one son, and Ida was expecting

another baby, but the only work David could find was

as a mechanic on the railroad. However, it meant

moving to Denison , Texas and there on October 14, 1890

their third son was born. He was first named David

Dwight, but they soon switched the order of the names

to avoid a mix-up with the father. However, two years

later the Eisenhowers moved to Abilene , Kansas where

David went to work in a creamery operated by a

brother-in-law. There Dwight and his brothers would

grow up and Ida and David remain,.

They settled in a large house with an acreage and

there Ida designed and enforced an organized routine

to get all the chores done and to keep five boys busy.

Funds were limited but as Eisenhower later commented:

"All we knew is that our parents - of great courage -

could say to us: ' Opportunity is all around you. Reach

out and take it.'"

The Eisenhower boys were encouraged to think

independently and their parents would not pressure

them into any pre-selected goals, Though David and Ida

had distinctly different personalities they were

united in this desire to nurture the boys to make

their own life plans. David had a fierce and at times

violent temper, making his boys frightened of him and

Ida was a contrast with her joyful, cheerful and

optimistic approach to life and to child raising. She

could spank where necessary but it was David who was

the disciplinarian of the family, and he did not

hesitate to harsh physical punishment. Eisenhower

later contrasted them: "His sullen father, who

communicated with his strap, 'had quick judicial

instincts,' His sensitive mother, ' had, like a

psychologist, insight into the fact that each son was

a unique personality and she adapted to the methods of

each.'" (Faith of Our Mothers by Harold I. Gullan - p.

226). The youngest son Milton, later to become a

prominent educator, summarized it this way: "'Father

and Mother complemented each other. Mother had the

personality. She had the joy. Dad had the authority.'"


In one particular incident Dwight Eisenhower learned

the futility of extreme anger. He had not been allowed

to go trick or treating with his brothers one

Halloween because he was considered too young so he

erupted in an angry fit, pummeling a convenient tree

till his fists bled. David responded with a whipping,

but afterward after Dwight had been exiled to his

room, Ida arrived to lovingly care for his injured

hands and offer some gentle Scriptural advice against

such unrestrained anger. He later called that "'one of

the most important moments in my life'" and it served

as an encouragement to contain future angry outbursts.


When it came time to think of college, Dwight decided

a military academy might be the way to go since funds

were limited. He applied for a West Point application

and was accepted. His peaceloving mother quietly told

him: "It's your choice," and only when he was on his

way did she finally break down and cry. As a

biographer put it: "Lawyers only cheated people,

soldiers killed them. Yet in time Ida Eisenhower, whom

Ike viewed as the most sincere pacifist he had ever

known, learned to accept her son's career and even

take pride of it. But, of course, she was proud of all

her sons." (Gullen, p. 229). Actually, her sons all

attained professional success and some of them

national prestige: Arthur was a banker, Edgar a

lawyer, Roy was a druggist, Earl was an engineer and

journalist and Milton was a college president.

All of the Eisenhower sons and their families

returned for David and Ida's 50th anniversary in 1935

in a time when the couple was more financially secure

than some of their neighbors in the midst of the

national depression.

After David's death in 1942, Ida's memory began to

fail and she needed help at home, but she had no

trouble recognizing her illustrious son when he

returned home for a brief visit in 1944. Two years

later, she passed away and Ike's praise was specific,

identifying her "serenity, her open smile, her

gentleness with all and her tolerance of their way."

Despite her philosophical difference with her son's

profession, in her own way Ida had given her son the

stability and vision that would enable him to succeed

not only professionally and nationally but for the

betterment of humankind. And that would perhaps be

Ida's own preference for her true legacy through her





Anne Adams is a writer/teacher in Houston, Texas. She has published in Christian and secular publications and her book "Brittany, Child of Joy" was issued by Broadman Press in 1986.