Prominent Columbus Black Women from Second Baptist Church

Recently, I met with Sandra Jamison who is a member of Second Baptist Church and part (board member?) of the James Preston Poindexter Foundation. Second Baptist Church is the oldest Black Baptist Church in Columbus and Reverend Poindexter was a very outspoken and prominent leader for this parish and community. Ms. Jamison and I met at the Ohio Local History Alliance Conference last weekend and shared with me a list of these wonderful women who once attended her church. The list was created by another woman in her church and she handed me a copy of it. I am listing these women here and sharing photos and notes if I can find them. If you are aware of any information on these women, I invite you to contact me with more information. Also, don’t hesitate to post on my FB group Ohio Women in History.

Blanche M. Van Hook – She was a society columnist featuring black women as well as working for the city. She was also known for writing about the Lucy Depp Park neighborhood. She was born in approximately 1896 in Ohio and died here in 1970.

Helen Carter Moses – She was a composer, organist and teacher (Sandra said that she learned to play piano from her).

Daisy Hall Rice – Beautician

Helen Jenkins Davis- She was born in the 1880’s and lived until the 1980’s. She was one of the first black teachers in Columbus. She graduated from her teaching college in 1916 but it would not be until 1921 that she was able to find a position because of her race.  In 1976, she was the first witness to be called in regard to a school segregation case that would eventually lead to the Supreme Court making a decision on this once again. She is mentioned in the book Beyond Busing: Reflections on Urban Segregation, the Courts and Equality. There is now a scholarship in her memory and a FB group.

Jessie Stephens Glover – Is the first black female to graduate from the Ohio State University in 1905 with a B.A. in Modern Languages. For awhile she lived in Florida and taught German and English at what is now Florida A&M University. She later moved to Virginia to teach at what is now Virginia State University before moving back to Ohio for marriage and to raise their two daughters.  She became an activist and volunteered to be a probation officer for the Domestic Relations court. She was born in 1882, in Ohio, the daughter of former slaves and lived until 1966. Her biography is featured in Profiles of Ohio Women 1803-2003.

Edna Bryce – She was a club woman and entrepreneur who owned a flower shop.

Isabella Ridgway – Founder of an “old folks” home for blacks, in the early 1900’s. It is named after her and continues to this day. There is also a foundation in her name which began in 2016.

Constance Jean Nichols – Born in Marietta, Ohio and a graduate of the Ohio State University. She was a devoted activist, was one of the founders of the Vanguard League— an organization dedicated to eliminating discrimination against African Americans in Columbus. She was also responsible for helping to get the Ohio Theater integrated.

E. Carrie Coles – Was a member of the Housewives League.

Nell Moffett – Was once a Principal at Mt. Vernon Avenue Elementary School.

Cora Jordan White – Executive Secretary at the Blue Triangle Branch Y.W.C.A.

Anna Hughes – Administrator, Ohio Avenue Day Nursery

Belle Carter – She was a Pioneer Teacher, Social Worker, and a Probation Officer in the Court of Domestic Relations.

Mayme Artis – Piano Teacher

Anna B. Jones – She was born in about 1871 and became a Philanthropist and Community Activist

Interview with Tracy Lawson, Ohio Writer

This is my first interview, here on Ohio Women’s History Project and I am starting with Tracy Lawson, whom I met at the recent Ohio Local History Alliance Conference. Tracy is an Ohio based writer who is known for her most recent work “Pride of the Valley,” which is a historical account of her ancestors. Tracy won “Best Non-fiction History,” in 2012 from the Ohio Professional Writer’s Association. In 2013, she was selected to present at Ohioana Book Festival. She also holds a 5-star selection from Reader’s Favorite Book Reviews. Tracy has written in several genre’s which you can find on Amazon and by clicking the book photo above. The following is the Q&A format I submitted to her:

  1. How long have you been a writer and what made you choose to go in this direction?

I always wanted to be a writer, from the time I learned how to read. But I finally found the time to try when my daughter was in high school. My first book was published in 2012, and since then I’ve published six more, and have two in progress.

  1. What plans do you have for your next book?

My next book is historical fiction, based on events in the life of my 6x great grandparents. I’ve written nonfiction history books, and also thriller novels, so this is like the perfect mash-up of what I like to write—a thrilling tale of a woman thwarting a conspiracy that could have changed the course of the American Revolution.

  1. What struggles did you face while working on your books?

I sometimes wrestle with writer’s block or, perhaps it’s better called writer’s insecurity. First drafts can be messy, and often the story doesn’t fully develop until it’s been through a few drafts. It can take a while for the story that’s in my head to emerge on the page.

  1. What woman in history has inspired you and why?

When I was younger, I found the story of Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher, fascinating. It showed just how vital it was to be able to communicate, read, and study to develop one’s mind. I’m also a huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder, both as a pioneer and as an author.

  1. What woman in your ancestry inspired you and why?

Anna Asbury Stone, the subject of my current work-in-progress, inspired me      because she was willing to risk her safety—not only to come to the aid of her husband and brothers, but to deliver a dispatch to General Washington while she was being pursued!

  1. What advice would you give young women about tackling their future?

Don’t be afraid of hard work and don’t expect to land in your dream job right away. Study something that will allow you to earn a living and support yourself. My daughter loved dance and theater—but she majored in economics in college, and is now in grad school and planning to be a college professor.

  1. When you think of the upcoming 100th anniversary passing the 19th amendment, what sticks out in your mind?

Wow this is a tough one. I wonder what the women who fought for our right to vote would think if they could see the candidates we have to choose from. I think they’d be disappointed.

Tracy Lawson

Names on the Ohio Women’s History Project Shirts

Ohio Women’s History Project T-shirts

Available at https://ohiowomenshistory.com/womens-history-store/

I want to be clear that this is just a sample of the names of women in Ohio History, it is not all of them. These are names that I could fit on a t-shirt and names of women I have begun to write about on this website, plus a few more. I made sure to get names of women that were “firsts” at something. I also tried to only get one name in different categories, and this is why all the first ladies from Ohio are not on here. If you haven’t bought your t-shirt yet, click on the link above and see the different items which are featured. Let’s educate others about Ohio Women’s History, ONE T-SHIRT AT A TIME!

Agnes May Driscoll – Coder/Mathmetician

Annie Oakley – Sharp shooter

Belle Sherwin – Activist

Berenice Abbott – Photographer

Bernice Pyke – First woman to be a delegate for the Democratic Nat’l Convention

Betsy Mix Cowles – Activist Abolition

Betty Zane – American Revolution Heroine

Charity Edna Earley – First AA woman to be an Army Officer

Dorothy Fuldheim – Journalist

Eliza Bryant – Humanitarian

Ella P. Stewart – First AA woman Pharmacist

Emma “Grandma” Gatewood – First woman to walk the Appalachian Trail

Erma Bombeck – Comedian

Evelyn Ryan – Prize winner of Defiance, Ohio (movie made about her life)

Florence Harding – First Lady

Florence Ellinwood Allen – First woman on the state Supreme Court

Florence Z. Melton – Shoe Manufacturer

Frances Jennings Casement – Suffragist

Frances Bolton – First woman to Congress/House of Rep.

Hallie Brown – Educator/Activist

Harriet Beecher Stowe – Writer

Henrietta Buckler Seiberling – Founder of AA/Oxford Group

Jane Scott – Journalist/Musicians

Jerrie Mock – First woman to fly solo around the world

Judith Resnik – Astronaut

Lillian Wald – Nurse

Lillian Gish – Silent film star

Lucy Stone – Suffragist

Lucy Webb Hayes – First Lady

Maude C. Waitt – One of the First women to the state Senate

Mildred Wirt Benson – aka Carolyn Keene (or Nancy Drew’s writer)

Nettie Cronise Lutes – First woman admitted to state bar as a Lawyer

Phyllis Diller – Comedian

Ruby Dee – Actress

Ruth Lyons – Radio/TV

Sarah Worthington – Philanthropist and daughter of Governor

Sharon Ann Lane – Vietnam Nurse

Sojourner Truth – Suffragist/Activist

Victoria Woodhull – First woman to run for President of the US

Ohio Local History Alliance Conference 2019

Thank you to everyone who came out and supported Ohio Women’s History Project this year at the conference! If you wished to have a receipt, don’t forget to email me at ladyjatbay@gmail.com and let me know your name and how many shirts or prints that you paid for and I can send this back to you. If you still wanted to purchase a shirt, you can click on the store at the top of this page.

Ohio Local History Alliance held an amazing conference and I think we all learned a great deal from these presentations. We now have good ideas about how to take our museums, non-profits and new businesses forward in the years ahead. Below are some of the workshops I attended and information that I learned. I have included some links so that you might be able to research this more on your own.

The first workshop that I attended was given by Megan Woods, Cultural Resources

Megan Woods

Division Director at the Ohio History Connection. Her workshop was “Ohio Women’s Suffrage Centennial.” Megan discussed how to be included on their event page on the Ohio Suffrage Centennial website. The Ohio Suffrage Centennial Commission was passed on May 2019 by Governor Mike DeWine. There is currently a travelling exhibit of banners and a trading card project going on in Northwest Ohio by the Trumbull County Historical Society.  There are also book discussion groups and you can get a list of books to read for your own groups through the Ohio League of Women Voters. In August of 2020 there will be a huge celebration that is in the planning stages at this time. Akron is working on a statue to honor Sojourner Truth. Case Western Reserve is hoping to get a play produced entitled the “Taming of the Anti.” All these and more can be found on their website above.

Harriet Taylor Upton

She spoke about three women in particular from Ohio, Harriett Taylor Upton who started in Ravenna and ended up in Warren. She brought the National Women’s Suffrage Association to Warren. She became the Vice Chairman of the Republican National Committee and was a part of the D.A.R. (Daughter’s of the American Revolution).

She also shared about Florence Allen who was the first female judge in Ohio but began her career first as a musician and journalist. She had left Ohio for New York to study law and then returned to eventually receive a nomination to the Ohio Supreme Court. Later she would be nominated by Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Federal Supreme Court. Florence also wrote several books about the law.

Haley Quinn Brown

The third woman was Haley Quinn Brown who was a black woman that eventually came to Wilberforce, Ohio. She was the Dean of Tuskeegee Institute, an International Public Speaker and the President of the Colored Women’s League. She was very involved in the temperance movement as well.

We listened to various people in the audience talk about their projects. One of which is that the Girl Scouts of Ohio are working on a badge to commemorate being a good citizen and learning about the voting process.

I then attended a Grant Management Basics workshop with Jennifer Souers-Chevraux who is the owner of Illumine Creative Solutions, LLC. Jennifer taught us about ways to be organized in a fashion that would help guarantee success with the grant already received. She also gave us several non-profit organizations to help with your business.

Tracy Lawson, the author of a historical book entitled “Pride of the Valley,” engaged

Savannah Homa, Tracy Lawson and Keilah Israel

with Mt. Healthy school in Springfield, to help kids become interested in their ancestry through family trees. Two young ladies came to report on their findings. These future female historians were Savannah Homa and Keilah Israel. There were a total of eight boys and girls involved in this project.

These young girls were very bright and had amazing insight into what they had discovered on this project. I was very impressed with their advanced level of thinking.

At lunch time, on Friday, we listened to Nekole Alligood from the Delaware Nation speak on re-patriating native American remains that might be found in a family member’s home. There is an organization called NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) which handles this type of service in a culturally appropriate way so as to bring peace to the departed. When such an event occurs it needs to be a sacred event with no press invited to the ceremony.  Nekole also made us aware of the fact that there are 44 federally recognized tribes that stem from Ohio. I wondered how many there were that were not recognized. We also learned that native American’s were not recognized or given U.S. citizenship until 1924. Even today, the issue of young women kidnapped from reservations, (which are often isolated locations with people living far from others) for purposes of human trafficking. The issue of rape was brought up many years ago in an article written for Amnesty International that I recall reading. I believe this took place in Alaska. It is interesting to note that girls are kidnapped from reservations but not outside of the reservation (i.e., non-natives). This is a huge concern because the reservations are meant to be protected lands – so why are the people on them not protected?

Sue Plummer and Christine Anderson

Another workshop I attended was on the “Women of King Records.” King Records was a recording studio, manufacturer and shipping warehouse run by Syd Nathan between 1943-1971, in the Cincinnati area. Christine Anderson, a professor from Xavier University in Cincinnati and Sue Plummer an Ohio History Service Corps Alumni, have been conducting research to uncover the women who produced music during that time. They shared a spreadsheet with their findings which held 2,054 recordings of various genres including hillbilly, Doo-Wop, funk and soul. They gave us access to this spreadsheet which includes links to YouTube videos if they were available. I am not sure whether or not it is acceptable to share this link so I will keep that to myself. You can however access this website which appears to be linked to Xavier University.

As you can imagined I had a wonderful time at this conference but I feel safe in saying most people seemed to be having a good time. There were smiles on these eager faces, as they walked about and the people I talked with all agreed that they enjoyed attending.

Remember #olhaempowers to follow on Instagram or Twitter.

Hungarian Americans Celebrate!

All over Ohio, we have Hungarian churches that once flourished and now are seeing a decline in membership – often closing doors (i.e., Cleveland several of them). However, the festivals, all over the state, still seem to see a rise in numbers coming out to share in their cultural identity. Here in Columbus we not only have Hungarian festivals in the summer but Italian, Irish, Greek, among the remaining European ethnicity. These festivals are put together by dedicated European/American women and men who tirelessly put in volunteer hours to share their passion with the public. This past weekend, braving 100 + degree temperatures, people flocked to St. Ladislaus Catholic Church where, once again, the Hungarian Cultural Association (HCA) put on their (50th? approximately) annual fete. It is important to keep the old ways alive through: stories, dances, folk songs, recipes, family so that the next generation won’t forget their history. Here are some photos taken by myself and Olga Kovacs both members of the HCA.

 

Ohio Writer Margaret Peterson Haddix

This time I am not giving you an account of an Ohio Woman in History but a female writer from Ohio who writes children’s books. I chose her book, “Uprising” which is about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire which occurred on March 25, 1911. This tragedy occurred in New York and claimed the lives of 146 people (123 women and 23 men). The majority of the victims were between the ages of 14-23 years old. Ms. Haddix chose to do a historical fiction to discuss this terrible incident by focusing her story around three women who might have been involved. She carefully researched her book in great detail (which she tells you in an author’s note at the end).

This included a strike that occurred between the months of 1909-1910. This strike demanded many things, hoping to make working conditions fairer and safer. The union caved too quickly and did not even secure a “closed” shop which would have meant that Triangle could not hire non-union workers. Shortly after sending the strikers back to work, the “promises” quickly faded. It is odd that the union wasn’t called to the mat in court, as well as the owners of Triangle Shirtwaist Company, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris. Had the union succeeded in securing rights for the worker’s this horrible event would not have happened.

The story which unfolds is beautifully told. Ms. Haddix breaks the story up by the three girl’s names, so that we hear each of their voices. One is a Russian Jew, Yetta; then there is Bella an Italian that had recently arrived and finally there is Jane, a wealthy young American woman ripe on the heels of the suffragist’s movement. At first none of them even know each other but through various events are brought together. At the end, only one of them will survive and this is not a secret as you are told this at the beginning of the book. And, like with “The Nightingale,” by Kristen Hannah (another historical novel but about German occupied France) the ending is a surprise.

The story has romance, it is of course ripe with suspense and the characters all have self-reflection. In the end, the writer tells us how she knows what happened to the other two characters. This is Ms. Haddix’s way of answering all of the reader’s questions. The most significant is “How could she possibly know.”

Naturally, I knew about this piece of history and as it happened, it came up at least twice, prior to reading this, while I was judging National History Day. Since I had purchased the book a year prior, at Ohioana, I knew I needed to sit down and pour over the pages which were now begging to be read. While reading this book, another issue kept gnawing at me that always has since our factories were signed over to China under the Clinton regime. What a waste! For years since the trade agreement was signed and our small towns (quite a few in Ohio, including Middletown which you read about in “Hillbilly Elegy” by another Ohioan, J.D. Vance) have been turned into meth labs and are screaming for answers to bring back a dwindling economy stolen from them 20+ years ago. All the work that these men and women went through, several decades ago, to create: fair wage laws, equal employment, age limits and humane working conditions; completely lost by the stroke of a President’s hand. Now, American factories are in communist countries, third world environments that have none of these rights at hand.

When I read this book and I hope many of you will as well, I think particularly of 146 workers who died in vain. What would Yetta think if she saw that what the striker’s worked for only became a temporary fix? What has happened to unions that were there to protect the worker’s jobs? I keep wondering if the unions had caved just like they did at the end of the shirtwaist worker’s strike. Max and Isaac, the owners of Triangle Shirtwaist Company are just two CEO’s not unlike those of our big corporations today. These multimillion dollar companies, today, are no more interested in their employees or even their customers. Perhaps we have better laws now to protect employees from a fire breaking out in a building but there are just different issues at hand in this generation. As I am a therapist in my day job, I often hear employees talking about how 1. They can’t talk to Human Resources anymore because they are in another country or state (different time zones). 2. They are expected to work off the clock (or on salary) and take text messages and phone calls 24/7 in some cases. That is to say, whenever the boss has a question. Meanwhile, as a customer, when was the last time you called a corporation and actually spoke to a receptionist? Likewise, how often did you get the right person on the phone or had to call back several times. How long was it between the time you first called the company, till the time you got your answer?

Serious questions that politicians always fight about to get votes but never really solve.

Victoria Woodhull Documentary

Eden Valley Enterprises is seeking donations for their documentary on Victoria Woodhull. As you can see by this trailer, it is going to be a great success! They have already created a wonderful documentary on Emma “Grandma” Gatewood, which I got a chance to see at a screening at the Ohio History Connection. The film entitled “Trail Magic: The Grandma Gatewood Story,” was nominated for an Emmy! So you know your donations are in good hands. Both Grandma Gatewood and Victoria Woodhull’s stories are available in a storytelling program for presentations.

Senate Bill 30 – Suffrage Centennial Commission

When I went to Ohio’s Statehood Day in February, I learned that they were putting together a bill for an Ohio Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission. The good news is that it was passed on April 11th and is now awaiting Governor DeWine’s signature. This bill was sponsored by both a Republican (Stephanie Kunze – Hilliard) and a Democrat (Sandra Williams – Cleveland), which is a good thing in and of itself. I say this because it is nice to bring back some balance in politics which is how the journey for women’s suffrage began. Women from all different backgrounds came together in support of this cause. Unfortunately, there was a lot of drama between these women which caused the groups to split up into different factions as well. This would result in our suffrage taking much longer (approximately 70 years) before being ratified in 1920. Now, we have had 100 years of being able to vote in the elections and create an impact on who will serve in office.

The established date is 1848, at Seneca Falls, New York, for when women’s suffrage “began.” However, in order for them to get to New York and have this convention, there were many more years of going door to door and speaking to women locally. Women met in their homes or other local establishments that might allow them to hold a public meeting. Women’s suffrage meetings were going on all over the United States and the United Kingdom prior to Seneca Falls.

The main suffrage group established, in the United States, was (NAWSA) National American Women’s Suffrage Association. NAWSA became the League of Women Voter’s after women gained the right to vote in 1920. Alice Paul had created the National Women’s Party. Victoria Woodhull had formed the Equal Rights Party, as her short lived party when she ran for president in 1872.She also spoke to the House Judiciary Committee, a year prior to argue that women already had the right to vote (the Constitution did not say women could not). This was trumped by a lot of drama within the women’s suffrage factions that did not want Ms. Woodhull to go down in history for bringing us the right to vote. She had a lot of controversy surrounding her. One of the issues of concern was outing an affair, in her newspaper, of a highly revered minister; who was the brother of one of the top women in NAWSA.

President Woodrow Wilson is the leader who finally gave in, under duress from his wife and signed this bill once it was approved in the House and Senate. He was no more in favor of suffrage than President Lincoln originally was of ending slavery. In the end, they were swayed by a majority of their constituents and realizing it was the popular thing to do.

Thusly, a century later, our state is forming a commission to hold events and raise awareness about the importance and historical significance of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Stay tuned to learn more!

Statehood Day 2019 – What I learned

Happy 216th Birthday Ohio! We celebrated today at the Capital Building in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Part of the building was built in 1861 and then an addition was added in the early 1900’s. I took a tour of some of the building and later went back to get a look at the museum after the Statehood Day events were over with. There is a “Ladies Gallery” room on the first floor that is not part of the museum. There isn’t much in there for the moment but a lot to learn in a short amount of time. It is mainly focused on the first six women elected to the Ohio Senate and State Representatives in 1920 when Women’s Suffrage was ratified. These women were: State Representatives -Nettie Mackenzie Clapp, Lulu Thomas Gleason, Adelaide  Sterling Ott, Mary Martin Van Wye and then State Senate – Maude Comstock Waitt and Nettie Bromley Loughead.

Adelaide Sterling Ott

Lulu Thomas Gleeson

Mary Martin Van Wye

Nettie MacKenzie Clapp

Maude Comstock Waitt

Nettie Bromley Loughead

Sorry the photo spread looks horrible – this is WordPress for you. Here are some of the other interesting tidbits that I learned as well today:

Jo Ann Davidson, above, was the First Woman to be the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives from 1995-2000.

in 2020 six women will be featured at the Delaware Country Historical Society Museum. They featured six women a year ago and they are doing this every two years it sounds like.

Prior to the 19th Amendment being ratified, Ohio had 30 Suffrage Organizations. Tennessee was the late state to ratify this Amendment. They were worried about black women having the right to vote.

Ohio has more sites on the National Historic Register than any other state (with the exception of two other states).

National History Day began in Ohio in 1974.

Kirby’s Mill in Richfield, Ohio is a popular Girl Scout retreat, as well as being used for other things.

Indian Burial grounds are ripe for poachers in Ohio and for some reason, even though the Ohio History Connection is loaded with artifacts from the native people’s who once lived here, there has never been a law passed in respect to this. There is now a request to support legislation sponsored by Gary Scherer (R-Circleville) to protect unmarked burial places and abandoned cemeteries.

Overall, the day went very well. I thought I had brought my camera home and it turns out the box was empty, so now I have to figure out where it is at my office! My intention is to go back and get lots of photos, which I will have to put on Instagram since WordPress is just not set up to properly display photos (not unless you want to read a bunch of stuff online about it and are a software designer or graphics artist which I am not).

This is my second time to attend Statehood Day and each time I find it very educational. I forgot to mention that there was a group of people in costume, who serenaded us at the beginning of the day with their rendition of Beautiful Ohio, which is a very lovely tune!

 

 

 

Florence K Harding – Marion, OH

Her favorite painting of herself

Florence Mabel Kling – Harding (August 15, 1860 – November 21, 1924 Leo/Hera) was the 29th First Lady of the United States. When searching for a book to read about her, my first First Lady to do an article on, I chose the book by Katherine A.S. Sibley. The reason being that there was a lot of controversy associated with the Warren Harding presidency (posthumously) and this book came from a more positive angle. I wanted to find out more about Mrs. Harding as a woman. As I began to read her story, I realized I had so many things in common with her. I was able to identify with her life (pre-White House years) and could empathize with some of the ways in which she behaved as a mother and grandmother; in her time period.

Florence was not a stranger to controversy, it met her every step of the way from the moment she was a frisky young adult of 19 and married the wrong guy. She was meant to become a concert pianist and study at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Instead, she eloped (they could never find records of a marriage certificate) to Henry Atherton De Wolfe. He was a drunk and this lasted six years. In the meantime, however, she gave birth to her only child Marshall Eugene. Being a divorced woman in 1886 and a single mother at that, her father decided that it was in her best interests to let he and her mother raise the child. They took over and allowed her to spend time with her son but he made the decisions as to how the child would be raised. Florence lived alone and made a living off of giving piano lessons.

She met Warren G. Harding four years later and he was five years younger than she. He owned the “Marion Star,” when they met. They married a year later and Florence immediately went to task in becoming, not just his wife, but his business partner as well. This would continue throughout their marriage. Mr. Harding tried to take an interest in her son, who continued to be raised by her father and it made somewhat of an impression on Marshall.

Marshall would go on to Michigan State to study journalism and played football there as well. He made some attempts at going into business but eventually became like his own father instead. At 34 years old, he died of alcoholism an tuberculosis. His own father had died by this point as well. At his death he left a widow (Esther Naomi Neely) with a young boy, (George) and girl, (Eugenie) to raise. Mrs. Harding would keep in touch with this family (Esther eventually re-married) and she gave monthly checks to Esther for child support.

In this time period, people did not divorce and the gossip columns and social media outlets of today were, thankfully, unavailable at that time. When Warren G. Harding became the 29th president in 1921, Mrs. Harding circumvented any knowledge of her previous family from getting into the press. As she was a newspaper woman herself, she played to the journalists by becoming their friends and gave them information but refused to do interviews. In return, they respected her anonymity. Mrs. Hardings grandchildren were never at the White House. She did not visit them, during the time they were in office but she did maintain correspondence with their mother.

This is an interesting point about Mrs. Harding. A lot can be said about her pushiness toward her daughter-in-law; giving advice on how to raise the children. She was frugal with her child support (it was a lot in those days but she could have afforded more than she did). Florence would also send hand-me-down dresses (of her own) to be used as fabric to make Eugenie’s clothes. I am sure Esther did not appreciate all the meddling but we don’t really know because only Mrs. Harding’s letters were preserved. We do know though that Mrs. Harding began to regard Esther in more of a confidante type of way, telling her more intimate details about her life. I see this as a bit narcissistic though, and while I am empathic toward Mrs. Harding, I can still imagine this might be the case. She had no real relationship with Esther, other than her letters and money. They rarely saw each other from what I can detect in this book. So, for her to be so forward, appears a bit narcissistic or entitled to do so. In the end however, Mrs. Harding left a great fortune to her grandchildren and they were only in their mid-20’s at this time.

With regard to her marriage to Mr. Harding, Florence faced many struggles. He was a philanderer, like many presidents before and after him. Still, she remained strong and stalwart and it appears he did appreciate this. While he was not faithful, it does seem that he respected his wife very much and took her opinions. He nicknamed her “The Ducchess,” which she evidently enjoyed hearing. While Mrs. Harding is not given the credit that Eleanor Roosevelt would receive (she was only in office for two and a half years); she was just as involved in politics and in advising her husband. Meanwhile, Mr. Harding, had two major affairs – one to a woman who was married herself and best friends with the Hardings. The other woman was more clandestine and produced a child. However, the only child of Warren G. Harding, (Elizabeth Britton) was not proven with DNA results, and published in the New York Times, until 2015 (using Ancestry.com). So in the book I read, written by Ms. Sibley and published in 2009, she continues to state that it was highly unlikely (since the Hardings were married for 32 years and never had a child). This was an affirmed belief by all of the doctors involved with the Hardings at that time as well. Nonetheless it was true but the DNA was done posthumously as Ms. Britton did not wish to clear it up for herself. Ah, secrets and lies!!

The Daily Star’s thoughts on the First Lady:

Mrs. Harding is far better looking than her pictures…her smile is the essence of sweetness and graciousness, while her photographs often give her the appearance of sternness

It appears that President Hardings time in office was somewhat similar to that of President Trump now. He brought a lot of friends with him to the White House who assumed a great many roles. Some of them did take advantage of their positions but it seems as if they kept the President in the clear. How this would be handled now, since President Harding was a Republican, I would assume he would get the same treatment as President Trump. President Harding differed though because he was well-liked by the public at that time and this was in great part to his wife’s role in orchestrating public events. Mrs. Harding, began inviting the public to the White House and in fact this became the precedent that has continued to this day. Of course at that time, the fear of terrorists was unheard of. The Hardings actually went out and met with the public – and shook all of their hands – when they were present for these occasions. The public were also offered food and drink. Large soiree’s occurred during the Hardings time in office as well. People who throw good parties, have great numbers of friends. Especially when you are making them feel welcome in the highest office of this country.

Florence took her role to heart and was not just involved in planning parties and decorating the house. Suffrage was ratified right before they went into office and so Mrs. Harding was the very first wife to vote for her own husband. She was very involved in helping Warren choose cabinet members (some of their friends) and writing the speeches he would present. She was involved with women’s concerns and took part in the conditions faced by female criminals and creating a Women’s Prison. She had gatherings with women journalists at the White House. She invited notable women to the White House such as Madam Curie. Not only was she involved with raising awareness toward women and their issues, she was also passionate about war veterans. She toured many hospitals and gave public functions for soldiers and their families. Florence and Warren Harding had a great love for animals. While their family did not include children of their own, they did have several dogs and a horse. As a result, philanthropy toward animal rights was another great cause they both shared. Ms. Sibley took offense to this though, in writing that Florence had no problems with wearing a fur coat. In that time period, it was normal to wear furs and being “Politically Correct” was unheard of. While people enjoyed pets and wanted to protect them, the issue of non-pet animals was really not a concept at that time. I don’t feel confused by this at all.

A journalist asked First Lady Mrs. Harding about women in politics and this is her short but typical response to the press:

What do you think of women in politics?” “I believe it is a good thing under certain circumstances

A separate item of interest I noted from reading this book, was the support and affiliation with the Native American tribes during their travels in office. I thought to myself, “When was the last time we heard of a President smoking a peace pipe?” For that matter, when was the last time we saw photo ops with the Native American people? Presidents don’t attend Pow Wow’s or even talk about these people, not unless there is a protest. I hadn’t thought of that until I saw a photo in this book and read about the time the Hardings spent with the Native Americans.

Émile Coué

Unfortunately, another struggle with the Hardings marriage was the health and wellness of both of them. Florence almost died in office and Warren did die. Mrs. Hardings health was an issue throughout their entire marriage but came to an almost fatal blow within the first year of the presidency. The top doctors were called in and lived there for many months. One of them was Dr. Boone (an ancestor of Daniel). She was a great fan of a French motivational health speaker at that time, Émile Coué and would use his mantra: Every day, in every way I am getting better and better. This worked and she would eventually heal, though the sickness would continue to come and go. By the time her husband died, she began to lose interest in remaining and she followed him a year and three months later.

Warren’s death would even become a controversy as well, much later. It was surmised that she orchestrated this by poisoning him. The theory is based on the fact that she did not want an autopsy. Many family members do not do this when they are assured by their doctors as to the cause.  I find this reasoning hard to believe as there were nurses in the room when he died and a doctor was by his side up until the last half hour. I also find this hard to believe when you look at the emotional toll it took on Florence and how quickly she would follow him. Doctor’s today, attribute his death to being a mistake of his doctor’s who assumed it was one thing and ignored other signs (but also as they were not as knowledgeable at that time). My feeling is that Florence died of a broken heart, loneliness, and giving up her will to live.

We often want to search for posthumous theories, to try and understand or to make history fit with our own concerns in modern day times. Sometimes this makes good sense but many more times, it is best to let a “cigar just be a cigar,” to rephrase a Freudian quote.

What I also enjoyed, in reading about Florence K. Harding, is that she was a follower of the occult and enjoyed talking to psychics and astrologers. She was very well aware that Warren would win the presidency but also that he would die in office. Yet, even though people do believe in metaphysics and the supernatural, it doesn’t take away the excitement when it is proven and he is announced as the next President. Nor, does it eliminate the pain when the person does die as predicted.