On 8 December 1914, Wilson delivered his Annual Message to Congress where he focused on national defense, or to be more accurate, the lack thereof. Wilson did not want to commit the US to the development of a large standing army, and in subsequent speeches Wilson repeated the mantra of neutrality. Former President Theodore Roosevelt attacked Wilson in the press, basically calling Wilson a coward. Wilson sent his main adviser, Colonel Edward House, to Europe to get accurate information on what was really occurring in the war. Already, Wilson saw the Great War as a way to expand his ideal of liberating people from autocracy.
In early-1915, Great Britain enacted a naval blockade on the German coastline in the North Sea, and Germany responded by expanding their naval engagement zone, meaning that all enemy ships, naval or commercial, were subject to being sunk in the war zone around Britain. On 10 February 1915, Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan wanted assurances from Germany that American ships would be left alone in the war zone. But even before his communique was sent, in January 1915 Germany had sunk the SS William P. Frye that was carrying wheat. Adding to the tension was that by 1 May 1915 the Germans had sunk two more US merchant ships.
One day Wilson saw Edith in Grayson's presence, and he asked his doctor about that beautiful woman that he had seen. Grayson took it upon himself to introduce Edith to Wilson, and that task wasn't easy in that Edith wasn't smitten with DC society or its politics. Grayson arranged it so Edith became friends with Helen Bones, Wilson's part-time hostess (Wilson had
lost his first wife, Ellen, not long before, so there wasn't a First Lady). Edith was the first woman in DC to drive her own automobile, and she and Helen took short drives in her electric car (Also of interest: it appears that Edith was a direct descendant of Pocahontas). Edith liked hearing stories about Wilson from Helen, finding out that the President was very different from how he was portrayed in the press.
Helen arranged things one day so that Edith visited the White House when Wilson had come back from golfing with Grayson (who was in cahoots with Helen), and sure enough the four had tea. Edith did not stay for dinner, not wanting to overstay her welcome. On 23 March 1915 Edith was invited to the White House for dinner, where Wilson entertained Helen and Edith. Two weeks later Wilson and Edith and Helen took a drive in the White House limousine which led Wilson to invite Edith to go with him to a Washington Senators game where he was to throw out the first pitch. For appearances (and politics) sake Helen accompanied Wilson and Edith when they were out in public.
On 7 May 1915 Wilson had just finished lunch when he was told of the sinking of the Lusitania; initial reports had no loss of life, but soon changed. Wilson canceled his golf game and instead went for a drive in order to process what he had been told. The sinking of the Lusitania became a rallying cry for the Jingoes (especially Theodore Roosevelt) to declare war in Germany, which was also the prevailing view of at least a few members of the Cabinet. Wilson was upset that Britain had indeed used passengers, including Americans, as human shields to protect luxury liners that were carrying weapons (The Lusitania sank in less that 20 minutes due to the German torpedo igniting coal dust, which was the source of the second explosion that doomed the ship . . . but that knowledge came decades later in the early-1990s due to the efforts of Bob Ballard).
Wilson admitted that he wasn't sure what he said in that speech in Philadelphia, since Edith was foremost on his mind. The next day Wilson did some damage control saying that he was not afraid of war, but that the Lusitania disaster didn't necessitate a declaration of war. The next day former President William Howard Taft publicly supported Wilson, but SecState Bryan disagreed with Wilson's tough diplomatic response to Germany, wanting to play peacemaker.
Wilson finally received a reply from Germany, and while the communique wasn't conciliatory, there was a promise to not target neutral ships. SecState Bryan again disagreed with the tone of Wilson's drafted response to Berlin, and resigned as SecState a few days later after meeting with Wilson. Wilson was overjoyed with Bryan's resignation as was Edith; Wilson truly enjoyed and appreciated that Edith saw things the same way he did, which meant they were able to vent their frustrations to each other in private. Wilson decided to nominate Robert Lansing as Acting Secretary of State to replace Bryan; little did Wilson know that he would have far more difficulty with Lansing as Secretary of State after the Armistice was signed in November 1918.