Ida McKinley was born on June 8, 1847, in Canton, Ohio, in a house owned by her maternal grandparents. She was the oldest of three children. Ida’s father was a successful banker, and the family grew up with wealth. Ida attended finishing school in Media, Pennsylvania, and toured Europe in her early twenties. Ida also worked as a cashier in her father’s bank until she met William McKinley in 1867, when he visited Canton to establish a law practice. They married on January 25, 1871. Ida was twenty-three years old. The McKinley’s would have two girls, but both died at young ages. Following the death of her second child, Ida injured her head and back, causing her to develop epilepsy. Ida sometimes suffered seizures in public and was totally dependent on her husband.
As president, William took care of his wife and insisted on accommodations for her. Many of the typical First Lady duties were passed on to Second Lady Jennie Tuttle Hobart, but Ida would sometimes receive guests and host events seated in a chair. Ida was also known for the slippers she crocheted that were given to friends or donated to charities. Still, Ida’s health was frequently a concern. While the couple was on a tour of the Pacific coast, Ida suffered a small cut on a finger that became infected and caused her to become gravely ill, though she would eventually recover. Later that year, she accompanied her husband to Buffalo, New York, when he was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz. Ida was helpless in her grief and was said to have visited his grave every day for thirty months. After the death of her husband, Ida’s health quickly deteriorated. She died on May 26, 1907, at the age of 59.