tv First Lady Florence Harding CSPAN October 5, 2013 7:00pm-8:36pm EDT
>> next, our original series, first ladies, focuses on the life of florence harding. after that, news briefings. >> florence harding once said she had only one real hobby. war and harding. force in significant her husband's presidency. harding set many precedents that would help define the role of the modern first lady.
>> good evening. we are going to tell you the story of florence harding, who has been neglected and derided throughout history. and harding's came in as popular people. we are going to learn about her and her husband's time in office. let me introduce you to our guest. katherine sibley is a history professor at st. joseph college. her book is called "behind the tragedy and controversy." david pietrusza is a guest as well. authorntial historian, of the book "1920, the year of the six presidents." when he came to office, it was in a landside. set the stage for what brought
these people into office. >> the mood of the country is bad. it is the year when any republican who ran, the trick was to get to the nomination. tr was supposed to be the nominee. there was a big split. that is patch. tr dies in his sleep. there are people who want to fill the void. the governor of illinois. which leads you to the fourth man, the available man, andrew sinclair, warren harding. too cold,too hot, not
not too much of anything. he is handsome and a fairly good speaker. he has been on the national stage at the 1916 republican convention. he nominated taft in 1912. he is the alternative. in that year, the alternative to wilson as him wins. they were the publishers of a newspaper. give us the short history of publishing a newspaper to national politics. paper when small harding required it. he made it successful over time thanks to the efforts of his wife, florence. they will talk -- we will talk later about how they met. she was a key element. what happens is they are working in the paper. it is going well.
it is a little doll. she liked seeing him get involved in other things. he was a very good speaker. he didn't alexander hamilton -- he did and alexander hamilton oration. he ran for governor, was not successful. he was positioned. he was visible in ohio. when there of 1913, was a new law that allowed senators to be elected popularly, he is positioned to run. he is elected to the senate in ohio. he thus becomes the first popularly elected senator from that state. the first senator to become president as a sitting senator. florence is right there alongside him. significant.uite
>> you write in your book that he was unconvinced about his of viability as a candidate, even among his congressional republicans. it was a matter of his health. he did die early. then there was a matter of terri phillips. there were other women as well. his personal life was a mess. do people look the other way and these days? >> in those days? there were a lot of things which were not talked about. scandal of public figures were not written about. unless there was a divorce. unless something went into the courts. the papers would not touch it. something that has never occurred to me until now, he is
a newspaper man. maybe he is part of the club and they're not going to write about it. that may work in his favor. there are other infidelities going on. is certainly some issues about woodrow wilson in the bahamas or bermuda, before he is president. there is the famous incident of alice roosevelt, and her child, deborah, she wanted to name it deborah. it becomes pauline. that is the illegitimate daughter of a famous guy at that time. then franklin roosevelt cheating on eleanor roosevelt in 1917. the rich have their
prerogatives. they take them. >> one of our viewers asks how did mrs. harding respond to the rumors? >> it is a great question. there is a debate about these relationships that warren harding had. he had this affair with kerry phillips. a couple whole world related -- who were related in ohio. lauren falls in love with carrying -- war and falls in love with caring. florence discovers about this affair. they were still friends and vacationing together. how did it she reacts? not very happily. consider him to
divorce. he knew he needed her for his career. he agreed to downplay the affair, and i believe he committed to and did it. he did not, as it turns out. as he is running for president, it is an embarrassment. it hasn't been an active affair for several years. they were flaring years of it. in the end, she is essentially bought off by members of the republican party who come up with funds to get her out-of- the-way. florence was not happy at all. there are wonderful quotes in her diary where she expresses how difficult it was dealing with an unfaithful husband like hers was. >> we have one of her diary quotes. how much is preserved? >> her diary is not very reliable as far as dates. i believe it is an authentic
version of her thoughts. it was a small book discovered 15 years ago in ohio. recipes, remembrances, and the things we're want to share with the audience. there is a clear sense of her own views and beliefs. i think it is credible. it is not extensive and dated. we have to take that into account. >> it is a very informal diary. it is like a datebook or calendar. it seems to be real. >> one quote we will share with you to caption her thinking --ut this, the iniquity of man, did she make the best foreign
harding? >> i think she did. >> she went after him. when she saw he could be someone that could rise. him,metimes hear she made too simple.at is that takes away from his abilities, which are not stumbling -- which are not in the maccabee bracco and -- which is not something that can be reckoned with. >> dave murdoch asks, was in his personer one newspaper who did was his own father-in- law. would criticize his son- in-law. >> this is a long story.
>> he is a banker, a businessman. >> doesn't he buy a competing business -- newspaper? >> with the caller is getting to is that he helped to fund an opponent when harding ran for senator. >> he funded another republican newspaper in the town and siphon business away. to call him a newspaper person would be -- he is a banker. he is the father-in-law. he likes being a banker. >> there was a long history. we can talk about the history of florence's first marriage. he did not like her first husband or her second husband. the only got reconciled when his first wife died, the mother florence. he decided he would make some effort with her.
they came back together. it was a difficult relationship for the first years. >> the first seven years, there was nothing. aboutharding's -- talk about harding's audio. about theearn campaign, the way that they decided to conduct their campaign from marion, ohio. not accusation, but adjustment. not surgery, but serenity. not that dramatic, but the dispassionate.
but theriment, triumphant. >> all of the action took place on this porch. warren during speeches, would stand here with florence beside him. they would wave to the crowd parading down towards his house. tos was a perfect backdrop the campaign. not only did it show the human side, the fact they did not live in the mansion, they lived in a normal house like most of the folks coming to see him speak, they wanted to feature the town as well. warren said the campaign was taking main street to the white house. florence was a part of this message.
she was a visible part of the campaign. she was always near him on the front porch when he was speaking. she gave interviews herself to magazines, especially women's magazines. she alternated between being the savvy politician, to being the home but he -- homebody. she knew how politics works. she knew the different sides of her that but have to be per trade as part of the campaign in order to make the campaign successful for him. she is not afraid to wait into a crowd. she is in the line shaking hands along with the president. going through hundreds if not thousands of people, standing there as long as it will take to shake hands and greet people. we see florence harding, who
knows how her husband is going to get to the white house, through the vote. it is important politically, and she believes in the people of the united states. >> she seems as good or better politician as her husband. when she is more out there th with her strengths. he pushes on. she continues. thehink of how ill she was, kidney ailments, it is astounding. she would recover from days like 48 hours to recover from shaking hands. she wanted to be accessible. she wanted to be a people person. >> we welcome your participation. we are getting comments on facebook and twitter. you're welcome to join that conversation.
the c-span facebook pages easy to follow. twitter, two ways you can be involved. we will look at those. here are the phone lines. -- you can't talk about the campaign without talking about harry dorning. he is the campaign manager. he is the man behind the throne, especially the way he tells it. he elevates his influence and power great deal. he does help harding out.
udc correspondence where he is saying you think if i listen to the gossip i swallowed all. i don't. i know exactly what is going on. harding is incredibly savvy. he is good. he is an excellent people person. people like him. even his enemies like him. exuding human kindness. this is something overlooked about him. -- and ifnuinely kind hisshove out aspects of life, he's a good person. >> he is very lovable. but daugherty is run-of-the-
mill. too shady to make the trip himself. he gets behind harding. himuns, he says i found sunning himself like a turtle on along, and i push them into it. did harding make himself? john dean in his biography makes the point that harding's protestations of inadequacy, of humbleness, is not necessarily an act, but that harding from the beginning was a very sharp guy. career is good. he learns things quickly.
he is giving speeches of the age of four years old. people get jealous of people who were good. >> he didn't necessarily want to be president did he? lex i do not think so. -- >> i do not think so. >> he enjoyed being in the senate. they thought he was popular. he didn't. it seemed increasingly there was urgings on him. that -- in the big letter which he sends to kerry phillips regarding the blackmail. she had the letters. 98 ofwere approximately them.
not all torrid love letters. a lot of the mwere. i will say this. in reading history, people skip over to the dirty parts. these he is aof good writer. charm.s a certain she has the goods on him. this is the smoking gun. this is the blue dress. she has it, and she and her husband in 1920, because she is become so incensed at him, she tells her husband, and they determine they are going to put the hammer to this one of the president, and they will drive
him out of office or drive them into bankruptcy. >> the party responded. >> they offered money to her. $5,000. >> 5000 dollars year. $25,000 up front. paid trip to the orient. go far away during the election campaign. he's in the dry goods business. >> they tried to argue with her, i can do good if you would let me carry out this presidential election. there was this disagreement there. she is pretty much out of the picture at that point. i argue that is the end of the relationship, but it is the end of all the relationships. many might suggest that were
other relationships. other names have been heard. i do not find a credible. was a child. florence had a child. was that an issue? >> it is interesting. this is a sad story. she married to escape her overwhelmingly powerful father. we alluded to that. we don't actually have any records she literally married this man. but she certainly a lot with them and they had a child. he was someone who had a difficult past and future. he left her. he was a drunk. there she was trying to raise this boy on her own. her father steps in and says you can't do this. i will take over.
she was a single mother who taught the nl. -- who taught piano. she was making money doing that, but not enough. she has to live with her father. when she marries her husband, -- or maybeusband, her first, she divorces from pete. this is the first or second case of divorce in ohio. first divorced first lady. he doesn't live very long after his young children are born. it is an interesting story. it is him and that could have humanized the hardings. she doesn't want to acknowledge this.
issue she didn't want brought up in the election. she tries to downplay it. i have not found evidence that the children were invited to the -- therese, or that wasn't much of a public presence. on why she the story didn't raise her son? >> it had to do with this issue of being a single mother, and not a wealthy one. >> she didn't have the money? >> you probably could have done it. she was trying to. there were issues at the time, the interesting thing was that when she married warren, marshall seems to have lived parley with them and probably with their grandfather. it is an interesting relationship they worked out.
>> she doesn't seem that maternal. i think that is part of that. your original question has to do with the 1920 campaign. doesn't become an issue? not inng divorced was favor of the time. it is a case of mutually assured destruction. is the first divorced person to run for president. he had been married once before. his wife had mental problems. he marries again. there is no great scandal. >> marries a much younger woman. >> yes. they are not about to bring that up. if they had brought up the immense hardship which florence had to go through, and she spent a great deal of time not dealing
with until she gets into the there could have been more sympathy generated for her. hard.fe is tremendously take away the infidelities. she comes from the richest family in town. with this go and live fellow when she is pregnant at the time of the marriage. when she gets back to town, abandoned, it is on christmas eve. she has to hitch a ride on a train on christmas eve to get home. then she is afraid to go see her in to annd must break abandoned home to spend the night. she sees her father, and it's no
i will not help you. the deals brokered after quite a while. i will take your son. not you. this is like downey's. this is like dw griffith and lillian gish. 19th-century melodrama. it happened to her. this is a very hard life. the illness. this series of things. in that way, she's a sympathetic person because she is a survivor. >> a think you are right. >> going to phone calls, high bill. >> thank you for taking my call. i have always thought florence harding was misaligned regardless of the scandals in the administration. i think she was probably very
opinionated and very bossy. came, iible rumors that am sure you will discuss them later, that she plays in the presidency. i think she was probably in the top 10 first lady's because of her accomplishments and the amount of first that she had. thanks for taking my call. i appreciate you and your guests for the job you're doing. >> we can't leave in 1920 campaign without making note of it along the way. the is the first election first lady can vote for her husband. how important was the woman's vote in 1920? >> it is very important. the number of women voters in
1916, by 1920 the number of actual voters jumped to 25 million because women were voting. was a significant shift. it is also important in the election. florence become someone who is attuned. she has been attuned as a woman, a single mother. she is someone who is attend the plight of women and the opportunities that women are going to get now that they are voters. she is interested in women's involvement in politics. she listens closely to many who come to the white house. the vote itself is a moment of real triumph for her. she is there at the front porch. she travels 25,000 miles with him after they leave the front porch. she is reaching out, there are number of problems. she is excited about women's
possibilities. there is a quote you can perhaps allude to, where she talks about how thrilled she is to see women succeeding in active in politics, wanting to cultivate that. >> they vote -- they break the boat down by sex in 1920. i believe the harding-coolidge team does well. to then advantage republicans. use the pre-scenes in massachusetts where the immigrant areas do not do as well. it is the republican party which puts the amendment through. the south is not particularly into it. neither is the traditional immigrant culture. it is the native american or older stock, republican areas to
more interested in putting suffragette. is something which boosts harding that year. he is a hell of a lot better looking than james cox. >> this is the first presidential election that had radio coverage as a result. the reported the election results across the nation. harding liked astrology. it was to her very important way information, gathering strategies. she had a relationship with an astrologer. >> madame marcia. she wasn't alone in this. interesting theory at
the time. lots of people believe this. if anything, people were more criticized who were following astrology than even now. nevertheless, she found in porton. it shows up in her diaries. it shows up in her writings. of course, madame marcia told her that harding was going to , but he was going to die in office. decides all the same that she's going to back into the help and make sure this happens. it does seem to have an uncanny effect on her relationship as first lady. wife see in 1909, jewelers
goes to madame marcia and g prediction, but she ends up being the second wife to woodrow wilson. >> i was wondering why mrs. harding was a well-liked but respected. >> that is an interesting question. you are suggesting that her to notity is understood be very high, but her respectability is high. it is interesting. iss gets into the discussion where she falls as a first lady. mentioneden, it was she was not very maternal. i would disagree with that. i think of her relationship with the men who worked for her. on the same note, perhaps she was kind of a hard person to be around.
she could be strong and perhaps difficult, more a year than yang with her husband. i actually have found in reading her papers and looking at her to be much more likable. there was a kindness about her. there was a caring nest. had many causes she believed in. we can talk more about that. she should be both respected and liked. likes -- >> was she an early day nancy reagan? there are number of aspects that connect with modern presidents. a happy partng in of the 1920 campaign. accusations about warren
harding's heritage. >> that goes back to the friction between harding and his father-in-law. the rumors have been going around that part of the country for a while about the harding family. roseheory now is that it werese the hardings abolitionists. when you did that, people started rumors about you. the rumors would be that the hardings were part black. these rumors were floating around. -- he the reasons why doesn't trust her judgment and men after the first marriage. also, he believes harding is part black. he is vociferous about it. i will not print his language.
he goes around town saying what he thinks harding is. he gets used to harding, but the stories do not go away. there is a fellow named chancellor who is a distinguished professor, went to , historianf colleges and author, but a thorough racist. the 1916at democratic convention. when harding is going to be the nominee, he becomes obsessed ancestry,ng's collecting stories. my theory is -- they go around the country.
the right quarter million copies of the handbill alleging he is black. how do they get there? it is my long crackpot. he has held. i believe it was the ohio democratic party. there is an interview with the cox family in 1920. they say war and is one of our relatives. he used to come visit. mrs. cox's name was harding. to get this up and running because maybe your children have harding blood, which means you have other sorts of blood. >> florence harding's nickname was duchess. we are going to learn how she
earned that nickname. >> this key is special. it is hinged. it fits in your pocket. mr. harting carried it in his pocket for 40 years. it is a key to his newspaper building. while he was the official owner of the marion star, you cannot speak about it without bringing florence into the picture. she managed the books and headed circulation department for 20 years. it was very much a joint enterprise and sense of pride. it was their baby. i would like take you into the press house to show you more things connected to the marion star.
mrs. harding cap the books. -- kept the books. this is her handwriting. she is keeping track of money going in and out. the and harding worked other sides. she is assembling newsboys. she starts delivering the newspaper for the first time. you do not have to come to the newspaper office to buy your newspaper. you can have it tossed on your front porch. .e have the timecard stamp we have a stamp from the marion star. a picture of the building at that time, it doesn't stand anymore. florence harding had a businesslike mind. step withittle out of other women in her time because
of that. her father was an excellent businessman and told her about keeping books, keeping mortgages . things that most women will not have an interest in norwood want to take the time to teach them. this sets her up nicely to help at the marion star. he needs help keeping the place afloat. .e finds it difficult she doesn't. she doesn't shy away from that at all. that really frees him up to do what he does best, the editorial product. it is a win-win situation for the newspaper, and works well for the two of them. >> want to take a call from david. we will talk more about the
experience at the marion star. >> this is a great program. i just finished the book, a couple of months ago, called the "teapot dome" scandal. he begins with an individual from oklahoma, who i think donated a tremendous amount of money harding's campaign initially, saw him being the man for the election. profligatedual was a . he married a woman who became his mistress, and bandied around the country with her. when it became evident that -- he wanted to be the secretary of
the interior. they were sent to do that, to make him secretary of the interior, until the duchess put her foot down. apparently this individuals wife florence, and of she made no uncertain terms to president harding, a firm statement that if he were to come to washington, this woman would not accompany him. apparently one night, he had individual in question. news to his the bad him and, and she shot they tried to cover it up. -- they pretended that
happened along the way with the administration, and the lusting quest for oil. >> thank you. >> i have seen a couple of versions of that story. a man who gave the money, and that it was haman's wife who gave the money. to get him back to washington without the mistress. wheels within wheels. is veryot dome scandal interesting. , alberthave is a fellow hall, and there was no great reason to be particularly suspicious of all -- of hall in the interior. there were no issues raised. he needed the money. it made the money through his wife.
he cuts these deals with harry , huge amounts of money. the neighbors become concerned about -- the first case goes nowhere. it unravels. he is convicted and becomes the first cabinet member to go to jail. that is in 1931. this case is a slowly unraveling case. sometimes that direct -- the drip can hurt the reputation more than if it is just over and done with. these things drip with harding after his death.
>> it isn't clear that harding knew. >> no. you not think he did it all. thehe caller suggests harding's were aware of it. i do not think there is evidence. >> i would say absolutely not. to make a larger point, i do not think there is any credible evidence that harding is involved in any of these scandals. -- he ones her preparation years. i want ask about how important it was, she seemed to favor women reporters. she hired the first woman reporter at the newspaper. how important were the skills she and more and harding brought to the press in their success to the campaign? >> very important. they were people used to working
in the newspaper business. florence wasn't involved in the writing. she was involved in the business. that skill was very useful. >> she liked reporters. >> she did. she was loved by them as well. when she was in the white house, especially the women reporters. she would have been in see what she was doing. this was very popular. the reporters gravitated to her. ,t is another point connected they were very popular in the white house because they could deal so well with the press. during the campaign, the press was used extensively. they were media savvy. some of our viewers may know that they were close to mr. lasker, the pork and beans person. he sold pork and beans for that
company. they were able to use that approach to sell their campaign. pictures, recordings. all that played well with the press. >> before we leave, how we brought -- how they brought hollywood into the campaign. dw griffith, the gish sisters. it is interesting today to think about it republican candidate with all the support from hollywood. this is not will we would have suspected at the time. they love the movies. they showed movies in the white house. extensively. this was something they would gravitate to. the celebrity culture. florence grooved on that. i'm struck about
the comments about women and men in the era. how big is the women's movement at the time? what issues were there beyond the vote for women? >> in the election? it is always the economy. the economy is bad in 1920. there is tremendous unemployment. there is inflation. ravaging theikes country. the country is a mess economically. there is all this dislocation of veterans coming back causing problems. the league of nations is the big issue. >> for women? >> for everyone. you do not want another war, for america to be dragged into things. s whoerson of the harding was against the league of nations, it was a florence. she is the hard-liner there. who else is a good hardliner at
this time against the league of , alice, but her friend roosevelt. they are very hard line against the league. harding's signed into law the shepherd counteract, which brought health clinics throughout the clinic. that was a short-lived initiative that was ended by the end of the 1920's. it would be carried on during the new deal. >> and probation, brought into the constitution because of the woman's temperance movement. was the feeling about prohibition? >> it had just passed. it was going into effect. he had voted for it without any enthusiasm. he would take a drink or so.
shot of ales,one and that will be it for the night. he was on a heavy drinker, despite reports. i do not think those are true. it is the women, the temperance movement of the women, which largely puts prohibition in more than the men. the seamen getting paychecks on a friday night, blowing it in saloons, going to women of the night, bringing things home. it was not good. the saloon was established as an evil place. now, we see that this gender gap exists even at the end of prohibition. numbers forn the franklin roosevelt started to down, his numbers from the
private democratic pollsters go down. it is the women who favor prohibition. there'll be one of the big issues for them. >> what is your question? >> thank you for taking my phone call, i read what her favorite causes was taking care of veterans after world war i. hers wondering about experience with veterans, and if there is an enduring legacy from her efforts? >> that is a great question. we're going to talk about the other causes. that was very much a passion for her. before the war she had been involved with various things to help soldiers. she had interested in that. her kidney ailment, this major sensitive to the suffering of veterans after the war. there were many people going around in wheelchairs, limbs missing. she would invite him to the white house.
along saw veteran walking the street, she would stop her car and make sure they had arrived. she is passionate about veterans. she would go to hospitals. later we might see a clip of a special item who came from a veteran. this was close to her heart. she was particularly disheartened when it was discovered there was a scandal in the veterans bureau. bureau,ed a veterans and the many shows was an old friend from the senate, who turned out to be a crook. he still any of the goods that were supposed to go to the veteran supply. he made money from kickbacks. appointeewas a wilson running pearl harbor in hawaii. he flattered her shamelessly. she in fact was the person who said you should've pointed this
forbes fellow. her of the great -- or other great friend took a great dislike to him. it was sawyer the brought rumors of the thefts, which are completely egregious. you talk about your teapot dome. think the great shame of the administration is what they did to veterans. even in terms of money. >> she absolutely was even more forceful than harding. hard oneluctant to turn his old friends. he did have to accept the resignation of forbes. >> while you were talking but the veterans, we saw some clips of veterans in wheelchairs. creating photo
ops. what she responsible for them? >> she was the first first lady to use photography at these opportunities. many of your viewers may know there was a picture with her with filipino women looking for independence for their country. she liked to do this. she had this photogenic dog. he was featured. it ties into our discussion of hollywood and celebrity culture that was part of her. she wore a net clasp. it became popular. many people wanted to copy it. there was a harding blue collar she wore. it was a color that she wore and people called it harding blue.
i think the photo op was her thing. like snow would think with presidents and first ladies with dogs. the last several presidents have done videos. it was the hardings that made a celebrity out of him. >> they had quite the zoo. laddie boy was particularly popular. even before that, she is the first first lady to go to a convention and campaign for her husband, and to be accessible to the press. she is not just their as an ornament. she is very effective. she is doing all the things a man would do. we really talk -- i do not think we talk about how her father had
wanted a boy. we skipped over that. boy,id all just razor as a do all the business things men do. she learned how to run the hardware store. make loans at the bank. do everything a mail business person -- male business person could do. they gave her the strength to run the marion star. how small was the marion star when they got a hold of it? it was called the marion pebble. she doesn't have to learn how to do it. she already knows. he can hit the ground running when worn harding -- when warren harding checks into the sanitarium. they both have physical problems. they should never go to the white house.
nephritis. she is laid up dying. it is horrible. the pain she is in. in one of these things, it is so intense she is digging her hands in and making a fist, and then nails cause her to believe. the intensity of the pain. so -- this is interesting. she was a believer in this french psychologist. mind over matter. she read his book. she was determined to get better. i don't know that was being raised as a quad sign man-- quasi man. because of her enough writers, she was not able to ride beautiful horses. >> they both love animals. they hate any cruelty to them.
about thened president's great illness, and the closing down of the white house during the last year. the wilsons put sheep on the white house lawn as a way to suggest austerity during the war. it cap able off of the lawn -- it kept people off of the lawn. the government of the sheep. knew this wasy going to happen. they had heard about this during the campaign. people were excited. .peed the day this is going to open things up. even the new york times talked about it. this opening of the white house was a refreshing moment. people could come onto the lawn. there are out there shaking
hands. >> there is a story about the sheep. she is walking by the white house when he is a senator, and the sheep are there, and she sees the sheep grazing. the police are guarding the sheep. shooing people away from the white house. she gets nervous and trips, and falls into the mud. she is tremendously embarrassed for variety of reasons. she says if i ever run this place, the police will have better things then guarding sheep on the lawn. >> thousands of people came to the white house to take part in the easter egg roll, which has become an annual tradition. >> one of the biggest things, we had the shriners visit. all kinds of people came.
this was just before the trip to alaska. 7000 people were in the white house. this is how open, how accessible. we mentioned earlier their illnesses. this was probably not that healthy for them. not just the germs, but the exhaustion of greeting people. they had concerts on the lawn, they had visitors coming constantly. felt, he was a- kindly and dear man, as we mentioned, felt there was no reason why he should not be accessible to people. >> the film we saw earlier, the overhead shot, that sort of disturbs me. it is what the politicians have to go through at that level, this maelstrom. it is quite a sacrifice they make. >> it probably killed him in the end. viewe president on their
of florence harding's strengths nd contributions -- that is a great quote. here is florence harding on her usband -- later she wrote, i know what is best for the president. i put him in the white house. you do not believe she said that. >> may be at any given moment she did, but the nickname she had before she was the duchess was the boss. sort of tonedren that down for public consumption, but i think half the time he felt she was the boss. in many ways he valued her opinion. i think there was a real partnership. >> roger is watching us in baltimore. >> thank you. i have a few questions for ms.
sibley. since listening to you, i think i would like to read your biography of florence. i have already read one biography that was very detailed, and i am wondering if you have an opinion on that one. do you think mr. carl anthony's biography of florence harding is accurate and well researched? i am hoping you can answer the other question with ace temple -- a simple yes or no, but it might be difficult. you have done a mountain of research on florence harding, i am sure. now that all is said and done, do you have a gut feeling, yes or no, simply from your heart, britain'snk that nan child belongs to warren harding?
why have the grandchildren refused dna tests? >> that is a very good question. i will answer your second question first, because it sounds a that is a yes or no. i will say, absolutely i do not believe harding is the father of nan britain's child. there is really no credible evidence. piece -- we have very good evidence that one affair happened for much of those years. ton, ae case of nan brit young woman, she had a crush on they certainly connected that there was nothing of the sort we heard about on "boardwalk empire" another popular culture and books you were alluding to. to me, there is no credible evidence. the dna business sort of confirms it.
my sense is orangey harding probably had, other people suggested this as well, some kind of fertility problem. florence had no problem having children, yet they were married for 15 years and were only 30, 31 when they got married. harding loved children. there would have been really no reason for them to have additional children before she got ill. issues may have created a situation where she could not. to me, it seems not credible tton had an affair or that a child resulted. i do not really believe in either. perhaps you would like to weigh in. >> if you could quickly answer -- >> the book was a wonderful book, and i read it very closely when i was creating my own work on florence. my concern about his approach is much of it seems to be focused on the affairs. as you can tell from what i just said, i do not find them very credible except for terry
phillips. we would disagree on those particular issues, but he certainly unearths a lot of really interesting information about florence. i give him a lot of credit for trying to begin the wave of scholarship i like to think of myself as part of. reconsidering florence in a more positive way. toyou seen suggest -- suggest in your book you believe there were more affairs. >> i revisited the issue. i figured, i think they're going to mention it. so i started to look one way and another. with kerry phillips you know -- carrie phillips you know there is something. historians rarely have that level of proof. which gets to the question of netters, why doesn't nan
britton have those letters? did she destroy them? that leads to another question, not about her, but this occurred to me two days ago. if they pay off carrie phillips, where we know an affair happened, if they pay her doesn't she turned those letters back? this is a botched payoff attempt. if i am giving you $5,000 a year japan, i want to the letters. at one point she in -- offered to give them. nan britton,ack to we see that admin starling, who has no particular grudge against hardy, says he is the kindest man he ever met.
he was a secret service man and said harding is not a drinker. he says he was asked to carry letters to new york secretly from harding. some other agents did carry those letters and some other agent brought someone back from new york. we have that level of proof. we also have certain things which corroborated from the letters of phillips, to harding from mrs. phillips. i have heard one historians say somehow she got asked after the letters, that is too far of a stretch. the question he raises a question i have now had for 10 years as writing "1920." i would love to see those dna tests. if we can do it on jefferson, there are many collateral
descendents of war and harding. a really big family. they are all doctors now. there was nan britton, elizabeth and, and she had two sons. i believe dna testing is possible. i do not know if it is true they have refused this or anyone has asked them. i kind of doubt that. i will ask snipe -- tonight -- would you do it? >> we have only 20 minutes. we have been talking about the scandals. we alluded to the fact there have been a number of firsts in the florence harding first ladyship. i would like to list some of those so you can see why she is, if not a transformational, definitely a transitional first lady. the first to vote in a presidential election. the first divorced first lady.
the first two was public about her illness, in contrast with the administration before. the first first lady lady to get secret service protection. the first first lady to fly in .n airplane she created the photo op. the first to give impromptu public speeches. the very first to own a radio. quite a list of firsts. figurewas a transitional because the times were changing so rapidly then. part of it is a function of the times. she was also a forward-looking person. >> we are going to run out of time. this is back from the harding home in marion, indiana. items from the white house years. we are in the dining room at the harding home. in the sideboard here are pieces of a set of crystal that were used in the harding white house. didharding's -- hardings
not have white house china. that was a conscious decision on their part. they went into the white house following world war i and in a deep recession. theharding was stressing need for a economy and government. they decided that was one expenditure that did not need to be made. there is plenty -- they just used what was there. this collection has never been displayed in its entirety before. mrs. harding collected figurines of elephants. she thought they were good luck. especially if the trunks were going up. conveniently, they also are the symbol of the republican party, so it serves two purposes. made of all different kinds of materials. jade, ivory. in a were often displayed curio cabinet in the private quarters of the harding white house. we have a very unique piece here. a portable movie projector used
in the private quarters of the white house. the hardings were both movie fans. they like comedies. charlie chaplin, buster keaton. this was used in the upstairs hallway, the private quarters. they would turn that into an impromptu movie theater for their friends. on their dresser here, a couple very special things. a jewelry box that is french and dates from the 1700's. it was a 16th birthday gift to her from her father. she takes the jewelry box with her and is displayed in the private quarters of the white house. in here we are going to see some very unusual things, some things that are certainly -- they speak to florence harding. one of those things is a necklace. there is a faded four leaf clover in there. that four leaf clover was found on the lawn of the white house veta disabled that --
and was given to her. she is a kind of superstitious woman, so she immediately think this is a good omen. she has it put a necklace so she can wear it. there is a penny in here. a 1920 penny she carried during the campaign for good luck. and a mourning ring. she wore this after the president's death. she did not wear a wedding ring. to her, wedding rings were a sign of subservience. because wed of odd, know she is fiercely dedicated to her husband. yet she did not wear a wedding ring. ring.ould wear a mourning the harding white house, even though there was illness by the first lady, was a social white house. how did they use entertaining? >> many people came. there were dinners, all kinds of , veteransrl scouts
groups, women's groups. , lots of social activities going on. one of the people who was a very popular visitor was evelyn walsh mclean, who was a very wealthy heiress. had the hope diamond. one of the fascinating moments was that the white house was this social place. but she got very ill in september of 1922. from then until march the visits really stopped. it was tough. very few people coming, a silent place, a difficult place. one of the reasons she recovered was because they all were so social. the whole country prayed for her. it was interesting. a hundred people came and did a mass praying for her to get better. finally, at deaths door, dr.
mayo is going to come. the movie cameras are there to watch him come in. it seems to have really turned the corner. her dear friend, this much younger woman. she was 29 to florence's 55. --h of them did not have they had a real bond, a real- time. .- tie >> came from a mining camp at west. her father, very poor, literally strikes gold and becomes fabulously wealthy. then she marries into more , the son of the publisher of a cincinnati paper. they knew the hardings from ohio. was a morphine addict. that was because of an injury, an auto accident that killed her brother. she was a very heavy drinker, even before that. this hope diamond, she purchased
the hope diamond in paris, supposedly worn by marie antoinette. they warned her, do not do it. then people started to die around here. -- around her. i came in to washington decades ago and went in to see the smithsonian. there in front of me was the hope diamond. i thought, the night before there had been on abc television, the curse of the hope diamond. i said, the curse of the hope diamond? and i came out and my car was missing. [laughter] collects the harding presidency presidency, weng begin to hear about the scandals that were building, including the so-called teapot dome scandal. herty.torney general daug
the veterans bureau scandal, which was many hundreds of thousands of dollars. on the positive side, the first radio broadcast from that administration. he was also the president who appointed former president taft as chief justice of the united states. alternately,g, about mr. harding's reputation. one viewer on facebook asks whether or not he was the most corrupt president in history. suggest hethers who does not get his due for some of the things that happened during his administration. where would you put him? >> i do not think he is corrupt at all. a definite canard. that is just not true. there are the bad appointments you alluded to. trumanre scandals under with mink coats and deep freezes. there is sherman adams under dwight eisenhower. there are scandals under lyndon
johnson, scandals of a much more recent vintage. they are not necessarily connected to the man in charge. not prove their corruption and it is unfair to tar them like that in some cases. harding, i would criticize him for being maybe -- not being maybe as vigilant with forbes. he should not have allowed him. he goes to jail after harding is dead. >> why, in the summer of 1923, did the president and first lady plan a trip? >> there have been suggestions this was to escape -- >> they just wanted to see alaska. brand -- brand a
name, the voyage of understanding. they were going to go to alaska, and then come down through the panama canal. right after the election, a vacation visit. this trip was aimed to create a greater connection between the american people and alaska. unfortunately it was the trip that would be the end of harding's life. what happened on the trip, he gives many speeches, is welcomed around the country, but it turns , where theyrancisco plan to stay in a nice way and visit and talk and give more speeches, it turned out to be the place where he died at the palace hotel. very greats a success up until that point. they did connect with people in alaska and around the country. but because of the way the
harding administration was done, all the handshaking and speeches, it really wore him out. his health was already not so strong. what is really interesting is so dire.s health was on the trip there was a cop and packed secretly. packed secretly. the fear was she would not survive the trip. she did survive the trip. they and up at the hotel, which becomes a kind of hospital. harding becomes sick. he thought it was some crab he ate in alaska. everyone else ate it and recovered, and he did not. in fact, he gets stickers, recovers -- sicker, recovers only to get sicker again. some have called apoplexy, others alluded to poisoning. it seems he simply had a heart attack. a very sad moment for florence.
a difficult history. >> the trip back is remarkable. he has to go all the way across the country and out again to marion, ohio. >> his body. >> his body. the scenes people write about of crowds gathering silently in the middle of the night, in remote areas. breaking into songs and hymns. god knows how many people saw him pass through. a remarkable thing. the feelings were quite genuine. >> that must be chicago, i am guessing. >> look at the crowds. >> it was about one million. >> there has been criticism of florence harding for being so uncaring publicly about this. your take on her response to her husband's death? >> it was connected with the character we talked about earlier, the mind over matter, the mastery of the motion. notkept saying, i will break down. she kept her emotions in check.
all around, people in tears and falling apart. part of this was she knew she had to organize first a little ceremony in san francisco, then this huge ceremony, including a visit to the rotunda. thousands of people seeing the body in washington, then another ceremony in ohio. a 96-our trip across the country. >> very delayed. >> exactly. they were down to 10 miles an hour. some people thought she had died on the way. her emotions were in check because she needed to have control. not because she did not miss him dearly. not because she encouraged his death in any way. she trusted these doctors. died, she when he yelled for the moon -- boone. he was finally getting a breath of fresh air downstairs. he had been there for days in the hotel.
she called for him, and it was too late. >> robert, in chicago. >> i have several questions. are there any descendents of the hardings today? number two, are there any pictures of marshall? i have been trying to look upon my internet. , what wasquestion mrs. harding's life after the president's death? >> thanks. were there any pictures of her son, marshall? >> there is one in my book. it came from the ohio -- the marion historical society. >> are there any descendents left? >> you could debate that. we have talked about her health and will go back to the harding house for our last video. this is about florence's recurring health problems. it answers the viewer's question about what happened to her after the white house.
with a room is filled lot of clothing, shoes, hats, all kinds of everyday things. the bed they got in 1910, birdseye maple. in the guest room they have the double bed they originally had in here. by 1910, florence is a semi- invalid with kidney disease. up, she is beds ridden three or four months at a time. hasng that time she excruciating abdominal pain, swelling in her feet, her hands, her ankles. this is a sick room for them. my unbelief is the twin beds work well because of her isuation -- my own belief the twin beds work well because of her situation. twin beds were popular around 1910. it was not unusual for married couples to do that just to get a good nights sleep. for them, i think it had a lot
to do with their illness. a very personal item of mrs. harding's. she used this a lot during the fall of 1922. they are in the white house. her kidney disease picked up in september. she is in bed until november. and nearly dies. the white house is putting out daily bulletins about her health. draping a purple shawl around her shoulders. she is -- her health is fragile. sometimes she cannot go on some trips or has to curtail her activities because of that. >> we have six minutes left. i want to take a call from ohio. >> my question is this. i want to know about the history toriographyu -- his of the hardings.
i am a staff member of the harding house, so i get a lot of questions about the poisoning, the papers. my question, why is there still the myth out there even though the evidence is right out there and there is not a movement to turn things around? >> let's say with the rumors are. the rumors started how soon after harding's death that she was responsible for poisoning him? >> there were a number of rumors. i date it to the 1930's. know if she raised the issue of the poisoning. >> a former secret service agent. an absolute crook and a fellow that was swindling evalyn walsh mclean out of money in relation to the lindbergh kidnapping. he is the guy who put the story out. not a credible guy. >> this goes on to this day.
i recently met some people who are hearing the stories still from tour guides in alaska. thankfully, the historians stopped the issue. i think it began to switch in the late 1960's. .ou had a very important book but also propagating a lot of stories we have been wrestling with the night. .> she did not allow an autopsy and had guards around the president's body. was she not somewhat the architect? >> the autopsy i understand. she left him so dearly. i cannot imagine she would want to see him carved up. visitors around the country wanted to see his body. they slowed down some people could see. rightu are absolutely that the history could not be
told because she would not allow people to write it. >> burning the papers, under the circumstances of his death, the scandals -- >> how many were burnt? >> there were a lot of questions about that. she burns a lot of stuff at the mclean mansion. it appears she basically burns copies of the book the chancellor had written. also an unopened chute case -- suitcase of harding's. 907 manuscript boxes at the library of congress of his papers. there is a lot. >> we were talking earlier about letters between the two of them. we do not see those letters because they wanted some privacy. t.r. 's widow burnt a lot of his papers. any conspiracy there, or the desire for privacy? >> where was harding buried? >> marion, ohio.
mrs. harding came back to washington, moved out of the white house? >> she lived in the weathered hotel, the same place the coolidges lived when they were in the vice presidential time. stayed ine -- if she washington she might have lived longer. had just come back and was beginning something of an active life. unfortunately, she got sick again and dr. sawyer encouraged her to come back to ohio. at that point, i am afraid she just sort of gave up. when you think about the strength she had in the white house -- warren was her light, and that was gone. her kidneys were gone, too. >> she died in marion, ohio at the age of 64. the only president and first lady to die before what would their firste end of
term. another sad first for the country. >here's a question from gary robinson, who wants to ask -- morence or warren as the interesting? >> they are both very interesting. this is like this ranking of presidents we get into, which i hate to make lists. i will pass on that one, but i talking what we were about earlier, about his legacy and his a congressman's, the --ation -- a compliments accomplishments. naval bureau, the bringing back of the economy. >> florence is even more interesting. she was badly treated by history, but there is more to her than we know. >> you referred to her as a neglected and derided first lady.
at the bottom of all these lists . where does she belong, do you think? >> i think she belongs in the top 10. she was a transitional first lady, she made the cracks in the mold that eleanor roosevelt broke. many causes people embrace. she attached -- created the culture of celebrity still attached to first ladies today. she really wanted to make the world better for the underprivileged. prisoners, women, minorities. we did not get to talk about all these issues. i hope you will look into her further. >> where would you put her? >> i think in terms of setting precedents, in terms of opening up the office, if it is an office, the first lady, the visibility, she would have to rank very high on that. not opening up the white house but reopening to the public, that is very significant.
we have seen it closed down since that. after coolidge it sort of close down. the depression and the war and such and all the concerns of modern life close it down. it used to be the people's house, and she really brought the people back. >> our partners for this series are the white house historical situate -- association. they have a compendium of the lives of first ladies that we are making available on our website for costs. can find it on our website as we continue to tell the stories of these women, how they shape the administrations and shaped history in our country as well. thank you to our guests to tell us about florence harding, a first lady not well-known but maybe you know more now. karen sidley and david pietrus za. you.s to both of
influence and image" continues monday night with a look at the life of grace coolidge. before becoming first lady, she taught at a school for the deaf and continued to raise awareness of the need to the disabled throughout the remainder of her life. as first lady, she directed a white house renovation that included the preservation of historic furniture and the expansion of white house gardens. her husbandsring administration after the death of her son. all while serving in the private eye. -- public eye. 9:00 p.m. on c- span and c-span 3. with our first lady series, we are offering a special edition of the book, presenting a biography and portrait of each first lady and comments from noted historians on the role of first ladies throughout history. for the discounted price of at c- plus shipping span.org/products. more about the first ladies,
including a special section, "welcome to the white house," produced by the white house historical association. it chronicles life in the executive mansion during the tenure of each of the first ladies. span.org/firstladies. >> coming up, some of what happened on capitol hill today regarding the government shutdown as it ended its fifth day. first, debate on two measures under consideration in the house. one allows military chaplains to continue performing religious services on military property. the other providing retroactive pay for federal employees. after that, reactions from house members, beginning with house republicans led by majority leader eric cantor, followed by minority leader nancy pelosi.
the house was in session at the federal government entered day five of the shutdown. lawmakers approved a bill unanimously to retroactively pay federal workers impacted by the shutdown. for that, they also approved a nonbinding resolution that would allow military chaplains to continue performing religious services on military property. debate on both those measures that preceded the final vote. about one hour and 15 minutes. >> i rise in strong support of the measure by doug collins. his resolution goes to the heart of the constitution's ability to worship without interference. i thank him for bringing it to the floor. the resolution expresses the sense of congress regarding the need for ton
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