tv First Lady Florence Harding CSPAN August 22, 2017 9:07pm-10:18pm EDT
advertising to change parties. >> followed by 8:30 p.m. with a conversation with jeff moss. >> only people who were doing security were maybe people in military or maybe banks. so this was really a hobby. so as the internet grew and there were jobbed and people were putting things online and there was money at risk, all of a sudden hackers started getting jobs as security. now a conversation on first lady florence harding and the influence she had advocating for causes such as veterans assistance and animal rights. we'll hear from historian catherine sibly. her book is "first lady florence harding, behind the tragedy and
controversy." >> allow me to introduce our guest tonight, dr. catherine sibly. dr. sibly is a professor. she teaches women's history, american diplomatic history, world history. she shaz published six books. her monographs include red spies in america, stolen secrets in the dawn of the cold war, loans and legitimacy, and a book on the subject of tonight's presentation, which is for sale right outside. first lady florence harding behind the tragedy and controversy. she serves on the historical
committee on the united states department of state. she received her phd for from the university of -- in 2011 she got to appear as florence harding in a play which she wrote at the ohio state marion campus. we are so intluzed by dr. sibly and her work we are gladly welcoming her back for next march as the primary organizer for a full day conference we'll be having on southern first ladies. but that's for next year. for tonight let's learn together about a northern first lady. please join me in welcoming dr. sibly. [ applause ]
>> thank you so much dr. franklin. it's a pleasure to be here. thank you again. wow, good evening. and i am really thrilled to see so many of you here to learn about florence harding. and you're probably wondering why is she up there. i know you think eleanor roosevelt broke the mold. because we all know she broke the mold. let me give you another example just to confirm. there she is. but who made the cracks in that mold? well, the subject of our talk tonight, florence harding. so florence harding i will suggest was with a very influential first lady because she created a model for other first ladies to follow, a way that they could carve out their own influence in american culture, american politics and with their own husbands in a way
that eleanor and others were really probably more active and others probably wouldn't go quite in that direction. florence's model was path breaking and something others would follow. and i would suggest tonight she helped pave the way for the activism we have seen growing for the last century. so she was well-recognized at the time for her boldness in affairs. she was of course the first lady to vote for her husband. oh, i don't have to do that. i forgot. i have a picture for voting -- actually, i don't. i have a picture of what people thought of her voting. she came into office at a time when first ladies had never voted for hir husbands before. some people were still concerned about that. now, in many areas as we will see tonight, she stepped outside the traditional box for women at
her time. and i do see a number of people wearing red tonight. congratulations. it is international woman's day. she was a single mother, an independent income earner. she worked full time at her husband's newspaper. she was out spoken as first lady on behalf of veterans, african-americans and women prisoners especially. she was concerned about animals and their treatment. and she was also someone very interested in women's political activism. and she took advantage of the celebrity culture of her time, the movies, the films, the new interest in that to bring herself to prominence. she's kind of remembered as a tragic, well if not tragic a laughable figure. i hope you'll find this intriguing. and i also think she's significant because she shows
the changes in the first lady since the early 20th century, the ways she took over that office and was a transitional first lady for her successors i think is quite striking. now, we can compare her with some of her immediate predecessors. she would not shake hands with people. she would instead hold little bunches of flowers so she wchbt actually have to be expleased. i don't know if she was worried about germs, but she did want like shaking hands. so she was the opposite of florence in that regard. she was someone who made the office more professional because she realized the letters were coming in and someone needed to help with that. and she also remodeled the white house, and she was the first to really use that term. this is one of the rooms she
remodeled. she did a lot of interesting additions to the white house and renovations. and this was something she did here. now, she's followed by a first lady who's a little bit more like florence, an activist, nelly taft. you may not know she was an activist in the white house because she got very sick after she came into the white house. she was someone very concern said about the flight of a number of people. back in the philippines, she was someone who really worked with a lot of attitudes of the time for the children of the philippines. in addition to that she was concerned about working women in the united states and protested on their behalf. and she was the first first lady to arrive with her husband at the inauguration. she was a really striking
departure as well. now, up fortunately she basically had a stroke on the mayflower. this is the prejudice yacht shortly after coming into the white house. and after that she was pretty much silenced for the next couple of years. her daughter had to cover things. she wasn't heard from, which was very sad. she say an activist. she did recover. everyone knows she helped to plant the cherry trees, which i understand are coming out very early this year. three weeks early they say. anyway, she left that lovely legacy for us. but she also left some other legacies. one was, of course her husband he needed a bath now and again and there wasn't a big enough tub. and i think if you'll see this picture, that tub was big enough. this is probably in the philippines on on animal there. one of it things she did do along with the flowers she
helped to plant, she was very concerned -- and it's interesting. she doesn't get credit for this most times. actually it was nelly taft concerned with the working conditions of women in washington. she was concerned about working women, i mentioned it before. but by the time she was in washington she had a closer view of the plight of these office workers. dark conditions, very few restrooms. she went out of her way to help them. now, you know there was a contested election in 1912, so that was the end of taft's career. he was quite relieved. he did want want to be president in the first place. she'd sort of egged him on. now, when we think of her successor, i bet you probably even forgot about allen wilson and wept right toedeth in your
minds. because she was the one we remember. she was the unprecedented usurper. i want to tell you about ellen who came before wilson, she was someone who earned her own money as painter. she was actually someone who really could have been a professional. of course in those days as a woman participator, even today women participators are often given less attention than men. she was not really able to do that full time. but one of the things she did was raise money, sold these participatings and gave money to charity. but she was someone who made her own income. now, she also was an activist. so these women are very much like florence in their activism. one of the things she was
concerned about -- i don't know if you can tell -- but this was an alley in washington. very underprivileged. this was where african-americans lived in slums. and she was concerned. she wanted to change this, wanted to help them. and it was called the alley bill. and the government tried to put this together ask change things. but unfortunately ely died about a year and a half of the presidency of wilson. so it wasn't fully funded. but i think it's very interesting to think when we think of the wilsons, we tend to think of these very southern racists, but ellen was not. she wanted to help these african-americans, but unfortunately she didn't have the time to do that. and her husband did marry quite soon after. he married edeth.
instead she really was not an activist. she was not someone that cared that much about women's causes or other causes. mostly she cared about her husband and wanted to help him, and that wasn't so bad. but one of the thing sheez did do as a war measure, she planted things for sheep on the white house lawn as a measure. she mowed the lawn and also produced wool. but this was not very friendly for the people in washington. at that time people were used to going on the white house grounds, and they couldn't go if there were sheep there. but this was important as world war i develops. ironically, this was at a time where women were being arrested in the streets of washington for people like margaret sanger for
providing birth information -- one of the things she was not support was women suffererage. she did not, not until really the end of the administration when it seemed like it was really going to happen. she thought they were demoralizing to the war cause, and did not welcome it at all. her crowning glory, edeth was going to france sqand being par of this wonderful effort. but you know things did want go quite as people desired. when they got home, he wept around the country trying to sell the message and epiended up having a stroke with all of his speeches. and he'd had medical illnesses before, strokes before, but this
one was very debilitating. and i think you probably know the story. he wept home and she told the doctor and the rest of the country, he was fine and they had to work through her. she set a pres dependent for first ladies, which has never been duplicated, she prevented from getting to her husband. she stopped everyone from running things and stopped him from getting access to people in the senate who wanted his advice who would have put some kind of meshw measures with the league of nations. perhaps if he had heard some voices closer to him, maybe kind of visit and talk, he would have moderated. but she kept people away who would upset him. and she didn't want to tell him how sick he was because she was concerned this might maybe lead
him to give up and die. she did not really set a precedent for first ladies. on the other hand, florence, and now we're finally reaching her, did. so here's florence harding and how the white house looked after she came onboard. plenty of time for everybody to come and have eating egg rolls and all that. she was someone who had a very serious ailment, nephritis, a kidney ailment. she had a transcend this ailment. let's depot back and look at her history in her time. so she was a young woman, very successful pianist, wanted to go
off to conservatory in miami. she ended out of spite marrying the boy next door who was a drunk. he left her, and she divorced him. it's not clear that florence and they were ever married in the first place. it's not really clear -- there's no evidence they were ever married. there was a baby, but he was not much of a father. so she divorced him. and as i said, she was an independent woman. she taught piano. she may have met him at a roller skating rink. people say she robbed the cradle because he was five years younger. but really she didn't rob the cradle. he had a newspaper. his newspaper was called the
pebble, but he quickly changed the name to a marion star. and florence became very involved in the paper, mostly probably not in journalism, but she was more of the circulation manager because the paper wasn't collecting any money at the time. she had these newsboys. in fact, one of them with was norman thomas. he later ran for prez dance on the socialist ticket. she complained. maybe because she didn't have marshal to beat -- where was her son. but they met and fell in love. it was a lovely story up until she got sick in 1905, and then it wasn't so lovely because he had an affair with -- without
her, i don't think he would not have stayed with marion as a newspaper editor. i don't want to say she made him. that's too strong. she did have the nickname the dutchess, and people take that to mean she was bossy. he ran and was elected as senator. and he probably would have been perfectly happy as senator, but then there were other opportunities. let me depot back for a second. now we're moving into the presidential campaign. florence and warren are living in washington, and warren wanted to continue being a senator. but there was some intrigue back in ohio and it looked like maybe he was going to lose his position. if you're not going to get re-elected senator, run again, run for president. and he did. well, here he was -- well, nancy, why is she up there?
well, that's because florence was given a terrible prediction from madam marsha, who was her psychic. and this said that warren was going to die in the white house. and guess what? he did. so madam marsha was right. so you would think that didn't that discourage florence? we looked at her diary, and she was very much a believer in astraa astrology. i don't know if you recognize this young woman, she was much younger than florence at the time. the hope diamond heiress was only 29. they became very close and vacationed a lot together. but what you probably remember
about the campaign if you remember anything, was the porch. they campaigned from their porch. they didn't have to go anywhere. they did do a bit of campaigning away from the porch. but there they were. all kinds of people came. all kinds of groups. women, men, african-americans, and even some movie people came. and i want to play just a little bit of a clip of harding, and maybe you can hear from this how he was so appealing at the time. of course he was appealing, but gosh, you can't quite tell here but he was a handsome guy. and he was also running at the time where people were upset at the democrats. the league of nations had failed. people didn't want anymore internationalism. they were turning away from the foreign problems. and he offered this kind of brand of western openness and really sort of once again
america first if you like. so let me just play a bit of this. so have to go to the next slide, and i will be able to do it. so it's actually warren speaking. i'm just going to play a two minute clip. >> my countrymen, there isn't anything wrong about the league of nations except the world is doing it -- fever has landed men -- men have wandered far from faith, but the human conviction still rises in the right direction. here in the united states we feel the effects.
we need to hold firm to all that is ours -- not agitation but adjustment. >> well, you heard that word normalcy in there. that's his word. i think he created it, and it's sort of a trademark of the harding era. let me go to the next one. there we are. okay, i think -- okay, that's it. well, of course you knew the sheep were coming back.
you can't escape. but don't worry. this is the end of the sheep. because when -- they're done. they are done because it's back to normalcy now. we don't need sheep on the white house land. basically the idea was to welcome people back. that's what florence wanted to do, really her calling here. she herself had slipped once in the mud going by the white house and had been shoed away by the policemen there. what she would do day after day, hour after hour be outside the white house and shake hands with people. can you imagine that today? i don't really know what the point of it was. maybe the point was connect, so she was someone who wanted to
reach out to people. one of the things i wanted to emphasize about her is she turned the white house and the position of first laudy as kind of a vehicle to promote causes. this is always a dance with the first ladies. as kind of queen, the subjects coming to her, being loyal. but to go back just a second, you see she was the ninety-first lady to fly an airplane. she had some spirit. being an independent woman and being in the business with her husband and later second husband, after a while she wanted to get active as well. she wanted to take her position further. and one one of her causes was what you saw in that little montaj of pictures from world
war i, the veterans. the veterans coming back, the suffering veterans. and you could imagine why she might be able to feel and emphasize with them so strongly. part of it was her own illness. she'd been in the hospital and had her kidneys operated on. she'd been through dire straights. out of this cause came the veterans bureau. but very sadly there was a scandal almost immediately around this. it had to do with a man called forbs who was a close friend of the hardings. his name was charles forbs. you can see him there on the left, kind of the center there sitting down. and one of the things that happened is he was in charmg of these hospital. and in this hospital in particular there were a number of buildings where there was stored things like soap,
cleaning fluid, nightgowns, things for the veterans for the ill in the hospital recovering from the war. and what did he do it? you may know this story. he basically sold it to friends. it was absolutely a scandal. he made a huge amount of money. eventually he was caught and served time. but it was a huge scandal. and florence and warren, the reason they had brought him in -- it was sort of bit of problematic -- he'd been friends of theirs. they all had fond feelings. to florence's credit, she saw this right away, and she pushed and eventually harding, too. and this is i think an important thing to mention. because we often think of the harding administration riddled with scandals. having to do with the oil concessions in wyoming and the people around him, hescandalous.
and it happened with others. but to his credit, when he caught this, he stopped it and forbs was made to resign. so one of the other things i had mentioned about florence along with her activism and her interest in all these causes was that she was really a master of the photo-op. and this is actually a group of women from the philippines who came here to america with their husbands. their husbands wanted something else, i think, perhaps independence. but what they wanted was suffrage. because even though there was suffrage for women in this country at the time, women in the philippines who lived as conalized people, did not have a suffererage. and i want to give a shout out here to a group who helped give
me these pictures. i thank them for these lovely pictures they gave me. but what i want you to notice here is just how she -- of course it's not a great picture of florence, sorry. but these women actually became interesting leaders in their country later on. so if you're interested in filipino history, you might want to learn about. what i'd like to draw your attention to is how she used this moment in kind of being a figure in the movies. and movies were made about this. movies, pictures. it was a photo-op. and she was really the first lady to take advantage of it. sometimes her husband, too dash i don't mean selling in a bad way. when he was running for president. they distributed buttons and it was the growth of the
advertising and the profile growing of hollywood and films. and she took advantage of that. and she loved having people come do the white house who were in their own way celebrities, culture leaders. don't need to kpruts the man in the middle. and then another celebrity, less recognizable, that's madam curie who also came to the white house. and i mention these people because i think we often think of the kennedy administration. that's a wonderful museum here you have in the city on the sixth floor. but the hardings, too, liked to have culture, music, people visiting. this was actually florence's favorite singer/songwriter of
her day. i don't have it with me. but when it comes to the end of a perfect day, this was carrion, and she was she was with a musician. there was a some glamour in the white house those days that was kind of interesting. one of her other i think significant causes i want to mention was what is today camp cupcake some people call it. this is where martha stewart ended up when she did some bad things with socks. when she was first lady she realized there was a real problem. women prisoners did not have a place to go where they could be with other women and safe. so she lobbied for this. now, it did not happen during her time. if you look up kemp alderson,
you will find eleanor roosevelt associated. it was actually constructed during the time of the coolidge administration in 1927. but the ideas for it came from fl florence and people around her. she was also as i mentioned very interesting in animal rights. and she had laddie bithere who kept her company as well. but i want to go on and talk a little bit about the some of the difficulties that florence had to face. and i have mentioned about her illness, but i don't know if you know this woman, who i don't know if she's treating those animals well, but i hope she is. this is carry philips. she and her husband jim were very close to the hardings. they would vacation together even after the affair started. between carrie and warren, jim
was also sickly, the husband of carrie. so what do you think happened? oh, yes, so carrie and warren became very attached. and this is a really interesting story because the full revelations of their letters did not appear until 2014. i mean this is repeat, right? why was this? because when they were sort of discovered in the 1960s, the harding memorial administration, which at one point was some very old men in ohio, they said this could not be real for 50 years. so francis russell writing a hisry about harding -- not a very good one -- he had to put in ellipsys, which means he had to leave out the gushy parts about thighs and the spicy part.
florence did know about it. and apparently she offered shoo leave -- i should say threaten today leave. but warren knew he couldn't really survive without her. here she was, someone who had helped him in his rise to political activism. in the pd probably the last gasp we heard from carrie was on the eve of the election in 1920 she was blackmailing the dapdicate, and apparently the republican party paid her money to go away. and she did. she and jim went away. by then the hardings hadn't too much longer to live themselves unfortunately. then there was a rumor about another women. i don't happy to agree with those allegations. in fact, i didn't even agree
about this one. but then something came out only a year or so ago. did you hear about this, the dna tests? so the book out the lobby it's going to be revised. i was wrong. or i should say the dna tests suggest i was wrong. this has been a controversy. this was was nan britain, she was 23 at least years younger than harding. she sort of had a crush on him. from what i understood he helped her find a job and that was about it. the nieces and nephews and others decided to see if there was anything to the story this girl was actually hardings daughter. you probably heard about this. nan britain wrote a book called the president's daughter and she tried to blackmail the family in the '20s about it.
and of course that looked bad. there must be pea something going on or else they wouldn't have tried to hush her up. but nobody could prove anything unlike with carrie where there were certainly letters. so i didn't think it was credible, and i sort of down-played it in my book because who expose. it turns out just last year in 2015, this man is actually hardings grandson apparently. he has the dna. now, my husband is a scientist and he was like unless you see the actual results, how can you be 100% sure. bullet there it is. harding apparently had a affair with a much younger woman. the suffering poor florence had to go through, it's just really appalling. i hope she didn't know about it, but i have no evidence one way or the other. so speaking of suffering, here is florence recovering now from this illness.
so i had mentioned to you she had this kidney ailment, which was that initial start of the affair with carrie philips. but when she was in the white house, it hit her in a big way. in the white house she was really at deaths door. and i don't know if you can tell here, but look how gaunt she looks. ironically just like with nelly taft, it happened to her on the mayflower on september, 1922. they were offered a lovely strip. they were trying to take a break during the summer, and she got very sick. but she wasn't. what's interesting she did know allow it to be covered up. no one knew nelly taft was as sick as she was. although we hear rumors about how her husband would throw a
handker shf over her head. but florence was very open about it. she had this illness. the country prayed for her. and we often think she was unpawler, but in fact she was very popular. people were worried about her. this thing around her neck, she worried about it. this man helped her. he actually came to the white house. this was was a french hypnotist, and it was this idea of kind of mind over matter. so florence was convinced she would get better, and you know what, she did. she got better. so they were able to go on this amazing trip, the voyage of
alaska. perhaps because of exertions like this, speeches and bails of hay in kansas, he did everything. it was a blazing hot summer in 1923. so nobody thought he was going to die on this trip. they actually thought she was going to die. she was the one who had the fragile health. they actually packed a coffin for her. i don't think she knew. could you imagine? there was a coffin waiting for her. she survived. he did not. so he died in san francisco on the way back. palace hotel, nice play if you're going to go. and they thought he was getting better. i know you've heard these rumors, she did it. no, she did not do it. please, why am i doing this? i'm going to address it right now. she loved him.
even with all his flaws, she loved him. she did not want him to die. she trusted his doctors. they were her doctors as well. dr. sawer, who she had for dreerz, no one seemed to know what it was. most scholars now understand he died of a heart attack. so there it was. and i think this should underline for you how loved he was. of course i was at the kennedy museum today as many of you have been, and the crowds after that shocking death. actually in chicago, the train traveled all the way back from san francisco to washington. it took three days, 96 hours. long time. ask she slowed down in front of town so people could look at the casket in the train. it was very moving. people were there night and day they were there at 2:00 in the morning. they were very moved by this.
there was obviously viewing at the rotunda, many people. in the end she and he were buried in this ridiculously giant mauslum. however, thelyingacy of the hardings is not such a great one as you know. we have skacandals. although never found guilty of wrong practices there. prohibition obviously was begging for some kind of correction. there were suicides and things that happened around him.
so there were issues with harry. but i want you to see that florence was very, very popular. popular first lady. people loved her. she would reach out to journalists and let them see how things were laid out. she was a friend to the media and a friend to people. people loved her in a lot of ways. i will say in her personal life with her son she had, i did not find her to be as kind as i would have liked to have seen. she would send clothes and things to them, but it always seemed a little bit surprising she would send them calico and things like that. not the fancy gowns she wore. i don't know quite why she
wasn't more embracing. she sent them money, but she could have done a lot more. she was a wealthy woman as it turned out. one thing she did do, though, is be open about her illness. i want to mention this is not the typical practice, as we know. we really didn't hear much about kennedy's illness. so the other way she was unusual and set a standard after was campaigning for her husband. and here is laura bush with her husband later. so these are things florence did. so here she is. and what i want to just mention then is what she did was she kind of had to walk that fine line. so first ladies like hillary clinton who spoke out in front of congress were seen as too out going, taking too much of a role. remember how she had to defend herself about having teas and this kind of thing.
others likizen hower kind of fit another caricature of a very passive first lady who does very little. florence was trying to bridge those gaps and do more successo visible partly because her husband didn't allow her to bob her hair or drive a car. he was a rather controlling character. and hoover who came next was like florence interested in activism, but of course was limited by the time that she lived in and the great difficulties that she and her husband faced in the depression. to do to leave much of an impact. of course el get to. florence has made the cracks and now we have the woman who broke the mold. i do want to spends time on el nor. to show you how she was a successor to florence in a lot of ways. most people would laugh to think of them in the same sentence.
i hope you will see there were important connections between them. once of the things florence was concerned about was making sure women and women's opportunities and you probably know she made sure women had access to her as a journalist. so she only would talk to women journalists to make sure they had opportunities. and the other thing that she also like florence was very interested in veterans. and you nay know that it's an amazing story during world war ii she traveled thousands of miles and met hundreds of thousands. i don't know if she touched hundreds of thousands. she met in large groups of soldiers. she went to aus tratralia. she broke parts of her ears in the traveling in planes. someone like florence going much further because it was world war ii of course and she had an opportunity. was very actist in reaching out to those who were suffering in the war. now of course like florence too
she had to deal with yes problems like this. this is missi who was very close to franklin. and however, she had her own friends. so she didn't let any grass grow urnds her feet. now, onto the next couple of quick examples of successors of florence and who were more traditional first ladies. like true man who believed the best thing for a woman to do is make sure she sits up straight and strays quiet and her hat is on straight. not florence. again i mentioned -- we may think characterture. let's not say that. she was lest an interesting legacy, she also was concerned by the way about heart disease chlts her husband had it. one of the things that is striking. does anyone have a pink bathroom? thank her for that. she had an impact in style in
the 1950s. speaking of style. okay, so jacky and now after i speak about jacky i'll speak about a few first ladies that followed in the mold of florence. a very glamorous time. there is robert frost, there's pearl burke, they came to the white house. it was camelot. there this is eager and his wife. so just like florence, maybe not maybe maybe beyond florence. they had cultural icons to the white house. there were models early on. and of course jacky was very interested in the history of the white house. this is very striking. she helped to remodel it in the way that many first ladies have done before and since and she went even beyond that. she was very concerned about the historical integrity. now i'll conclude my remarks and look forward to hearing yours. with just about maybe five or so first ladies many of them interestingly southern.
and as doctor frankly mentioned before we're talkings southern first lady ins a year. i hope you can come back for that. this is lady bird johnson. and a few others who i think made an impact in a way similar to florence. kind of show the trajectory of her influs over the 20th century. you often think of lady bird we use the term highway beautification. she hated that term. she preferred to be called a conservationist. she really was a environmental movement in so many ways. but even more striking perhaps on the political front, she was the first first lady to go on a solo campaign tour. she went into the deep south on behalf of her husband right after the civil rights bills had been passed. this was something that was very unpopular. she probably helped him in much of the south in a way na would have been impossible without this effort. now i want to mention another activist first lady betty ford.
one who set a similar legacy. she spoke about her illnesses. breast cancer and later of course she had drug addiction. she was very open about them and helped others. very interesting firstly day. not in for very long. but very path breaking. and of course carter also great activist on behalf of health issues. her concern was mental health in part because there were family i guess stories and other kinds of things. she was someone who actually saw a bill threw unlike we heard about earlier with taft and wilson. there was a mental health bill and it passed in 1980. the next administration undid it. that was kind of unfortunate for her legacy there. she was a very well traveled first lady. she was really a diplomat. you'll hear about that next year. but now also she was a great consultant to her husband during tough times of his administration. as you recall. the next activist first lady
hillary clinton. who i count as a southerner. she did live here for a while. who knows. she was an activist and on many causes probably went further. she spoke in front of the congress on behalf of healthcare. and a number of other causes. she was involved in issues addressing adoption and other aspects. of course she later had to deal with her own kinds of struggles like florence did. except much more publicly. people give her credit for helps him avoid if not impeachment at least being removed from office. because of the way she spoke about it. bush. very different first lady. a first lady that people think of rather quiet and traditional. she was not. she was the first since pat nixon, she was the first to go behind a battle line in afgh afghanistan. she embraced traditional first lady causes. such as libraries and literacy efforts that she had long been
concerned about. she went beyond that. she spoke on behalf of republican candidates, and she also was interviewed many times. those are things florence did not do. what i suggest is what we consider a traditional first lady today is doing what activist first ladies wouldn't have considered doing. we see a trajectory in the first lady and the role they have had in their influence on their husbands and the way they expand what their husbands can do. i think one of the and again the idea of campaigning together being very visible with each other. now of course using the social media and the other kinds of popular culture today, go very naturally with being a first lady. michelle obama was in many magazines you probably know. vogue etc. also campaigning and taking on that role of just like florence, bringing people into the white house on the white house lawn, working on causes, helping young
people be healthier. these kinds of thing she was concerned about. as well as like florence, concern about the military families was something she and jill biden and bush all took on together. they worked jointly on this. interestingly enough. and of course she took herself abroad in a way that florence harding probably didn't get the chance to do. now what about about the kurpt first lady. we don't know what she will did. whether she'll be an activist or not it remains to be seen. maybe spendsing many r time with her family or businesses. we'll see what happens. to be determined. i think to conclude florence harding has left a legacy for first ladies and everyone if the current first lady may not necessarily be following that mode of activism and out spokenness. we'll see a return to that in whatever comes next. that pattern has really been set up and it is something that we now kind of expect and it's really a great augmentation. whether it's a wife or husband in the role.
we'll see what happens in the future. thank you so much for your attention. >> thank you so much. we have would love to open it up. i'll let doctor sibley run her own question and answer her. there will be two microphones being passed around. wait for the microphone so we can all see you. and c-span can hear you as well. so i'll let dr. sibley call on you. and we'll bring you a microphone. >> okay, this gentleman here, yes. i'll get to you all. >> you start things early here in texas. so we have lots of time. it's good. >> do we have her voice on tape? >> you know, that's a good question. i almost played, it didn't quite
work. i had a recording ol her mufing around. there was no recording of her voice. i think there must be. it's a really good question. it would be wonderful to hear. i don't know. i never encountered that when efs doing my research. thank you for asking. great. i think there was, yes? hand that down to her. >> of the first ladies you rergeed, who's surprised you the most? who's who did you admire the most. >> of course -- most surprised by florence. because i thought she was kind of a joke. when i first found out when i first saw a sort of display of books on first ladies before i had written the book. i notice that was the university of president of the kansas. i said you don't have one-over florence. later they asked me to write it. i said what can i say. i discovered so many interesting things to say.
she did surprise me. i had bought the idea she was really kind of a joke. the dutch esz this. i didn't even get a chance. i didn't want to read notes too much. i did had antidote of what people said about her. slewish. brittle like an autumn leaf. sexless. people said horrible things. it was really interesting to see. that was francis russell who wrote the book i eluded to earlier in 1968 called the shadow of blooming fwroef. very racist title. he is eluding to the allegations that warren was black. which was interesting because warren said maybe i am. who knows. but i think the dna of this grandson the demonstrate that know he probably wasn't. but yes she was my surprise. now the next was who delighted me the most. i think it was grace cool ij. i just feel so kind of bad for her.
she was a lovely person, so sweet. she was an asset to her husband. yet she was treated badly by him. he was not a nice man. he was just, people joke. he was a controlling man. and she would have been i think a even more i think unflun shl first lady if she was unleashed a bit. who do i admire the most. of course roosevelt. she's amazing. she really had her heart in the right place. on so many causes. she was so ahead of her time. i wish i had more time to talk about her. she spoke out about racial discrimination. she spoke out on so many causes and she was tireless. that was one of the reasons her husband tried to finds a break with others. she never stopped. her act vim. and it was just a little much maybe to deal with that. yes i think someone to really rad mire. there was a question over here. >> tieing up on your point of view that he was kind of liked and you showed the picture of
crowds and train. there were not that much to do. people went out because that was the only thing exciting. so, how can you judge how much he was loved in any situation plus the just onlookers of the historical point? >> that's a very good question. because we think about it, there were a number of these kinds of sort of memorial trains. there was robert kennedy 1968, really really very sad. and of course john f. kennedy. so i tend to think though, that they mean something. because when i read about, i really got kind of interested in that whole death story. because it was amazing, people were out there any time of day. some 2:00 a.m. there was also singing. almost like the country was taken over by the very almost
sentimental -- almost romantic and very sweet and bittersweet kind of sadness. right about his passing. so i this think he really was lovered. when you read about him, he was a very endearing man. at the time florence was ill there was a doctor who came to the white house and came to stay for a long period to help her through the illness. and warren just was so kind to this man. and when i read the notes about it some of the diaries. this is someone you would just want to hug if you met him. he's a swooet man. and probably should have been more judge ji about his friends. it might have been good for him and the country. i think he was actually very popular. and maybe you might say was there a lot of substance. but there was. one of the things he did was pardon debs. who had been put in prison by wilson as a war protestor against world war i. he had the sense this is ridiculous. let's let this man out. you're right crowds don't
necessarily predict anything for sure. they are suggestive in this case for something. thank you, good question. yes, please? >> it appears that florence was treated back in physicians. i have read president harding was treated by a home owe pathic physician and may have contributed to a misdiagnosis. can you comment on that? >> his physician and yes i think there was some of that. i mean there was some things that were done that probably were we might not consider to be the most effective. but i really trace it to the fact that i don't know if anyone read the wonderful book about inflew enz sa. it was only when all the people were dying in 1918. and medicine really was the withered arm of science. this isn't much after that. so i think that those people who were treating him i think they
like sawer, book i think was professional. he seemed to pick things up. he was younger and more recently educated. for instance there was a moment when harding was doing pretty badly and boon really diagnosed it better than sawer. so that was probably part of it. but i don't think anyone meant anything harm. or do anything quackish. partly there was a limited knowledge at time. and really when you think about what happened, for instance this is earlier in 1881. how garfield was treated after he was assassinated. he shouldn't have died. and they poisoned him the way they tried to pull the bullet out. that was what was going on. others may disagree. these are the stories that continue to be debated. yes? >> first of all thank you very much. this has been an interesting. i'm looking forward to next year. >> good good. >> i had a question about your
source material. were the letters that were written by president harding to phillips. >> they're steamy i warn you. very steamy. >> did you read those, did you incorporate information from those letters in your book? >> my book came out in 2009. the letters were on file. he wasn't able to quote from them. it was right after they were discovered. he sent them off to a nice facility. in actually it's called the american heritage center out in wyoming. and i was able to use them. they were there. i was able to get them to use. i did put some in. i really this was a documented love affair. i really wanted to include it. one of the people who read my book the manuscript says you shouldn't include it. how could you not, it's important. that i competely agreed with. that clearly happened. there were letters. i have to admit the other one i should have been more open to.
there's just been so much scandal that i was knee jerk about it's another scandal. with this dna test it raised interesting issuing about warren harding and his life. and the legacy for poor florence. dealing with it. but yeah the letters are interesting to read. they are funny. he really was actually quite -- it's quite purple proif you can imagine. it's over the top. he was smitten. she was submiten with germany. there was a time when her sympathies were expressed in her letters and there was concern that this could lead somewhere and get him in trouble. he had to tell her to tone it down a bit. they did continue this relationship all throughout, even though it was spa rattic. it's an interesting romance. you can read about it more if
you'd like to. the book is very good on that. someone in the back. >> you said the grandson was it was proven that he had a son. by dna. what did u they compare it too? >> he had a daughter. i'm sorry. her name was elizabeth ann. that young man was her son. his name is blessing. very interesting. maybe it's blasing. but yes, what happened is the i think it was the great nephew of harding contacted this family the blessings and said do a test to see if we're related. they waited all this long. maybe the technology hasn't been around that long. and confirmed within a 99% at
least what was said by ancestry.com. this was a 99% likelihood they were second cousins. this nephew and this man. mr. blessing. make of that what you will. it's striking isn't it. and i the reason i didn't believe it was not only because of the all the scandal and i felt like the piling on. tfts also because florence could have a child. she did. she had a son, marshall. the one who was the son of the pete dewolf. they never had children together. i just assume that probably there was something with him. you can't just assume, can you? maybe it was her. maybe she didn't want anyone children because of her kidney ailment. it's interesting. it's been a learning curve for me to kind of address all these history that could happen. and you have to be open to them. yeah. question over -- over there.
great. >> could you tell us what happened to florence after he died? >> yes. i was going to tell you that. he -- it's really interesting story. she originally was going to stay in washington and write her memoir and had an apartment in the hotel. she was living on her own. she wasn't getting out much. get the machine the car out. get out. she was in the house. she had a close friend with her helping her and they were going to put together a history of the campaign. there are a number of people who wanted to write this actually. beyond her. but she kind of put them off and that was a mistake really because if i think people had written about it at the time they might have been able to turn the way history looked at the hardings. instead she was going to do it. and of course she didn't. because what happened is she got sick again. and probably should have stayed in washington and just kind of road it out. but charles sawer was back in and had a santarian and said you have to come back i'll take care of you. it seems when she got back there
she gave up her desire to really get better. she wasn't reading anymore. i guess and wasn't fighting like she fought when she was in the white house. it's really sad. she died within a year and a half. november of 1924. of her kidney ailment. so, she was 65. she had just ridden through that two years earlier. so it's surprising she couldn't again. and her friends kind of felt like that, that she had given up. it was too bad. i think she could have written an interesting book and could have continued to be an activist in some way. she wasn't really that out spoken while she was living there. so it's not clear how much she would have done. i think part of it was, there was a lot going on in washington at the time. there was were investigations into the tee pot dome. and continuing. and she was -- she burned some of the letters. not all of the letters. otherwise i couldn't have written a book. but she did burn a chunk of
them. some of them actually at e. and more burned in marion. i think she wasn't so out spoken at the time, she saddened and i have seen this in the letters. by the way her husband reputation was being heard. so i don't know how much more she would have done. but it's really too bad that she expired so quickly. thanks for asking about that. other questions? yes? >> hypothetical. if you could have interviewed her for your book, what would have been the burning question and then off the record just between you and her what question might you have asked? >> thank you that's a wonderful question. i would have asked about her relationship with her son. who boy the way died relatively young of alcoholism. kind of like his father. he had actually had tu.
also with him and her daughter-in-law. and why she wasn't closer to them. i think there was a sense at that time that this was she didn't want to really talk about that relationship. she didn't want to be public. with her first husband and it's really too bad. that was a sadness she was dealing with. i would have liked to asked her about that. and liked to ask about her relationship with evlyn. she road a rather scathing, nasty book. called daddy struck it rich. and spoke art florence and trips they took together in a really despicable way. about how her husband was having an affair urnds her nose. and was raging about it. and i think she was suffering from addiction to morphine.
that was another century. anyway i'm not sure i find her very credible. i would like to find out about that friends ship. and was there something that turned. they did not see much of each other after the trip. to alaska. of course after the trip to alaska florence stopped being first lady because her husband died. but i don't know what happened there. they seemed so close and it was an interesting relationship. it brought a lot of joy to florence for sometime. i want to know about the personal. i would be interested in. >> if you want to know more the book is for sale outside. i believe dr. sibley would be willing to sign and answer questioning after ward. let's thank you her again for being with us. >> wonderful audience. >> thank you all. hope to see you at events coming up in april. have a good night. >> we'll get an update on
government waste, fraud abuse and mismanagement. and laer about a recent government report listing potentially problematic federal agencies and programs chls live at 8:30 a.m. eastern. on c-span 2. the un has warned of a possible humanitarian crisis in the democratic republic of the congo. because of fighting between the government and rebel groups. which asked for elections by the end of the year. host a discussion on the political and human rights situation in the drc. live coverage begins at eleven a.m. eastern on c-span. you can follow both of events at c-span.org. or listen on the free radio app. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. brought to you today by your
cable or satellite provider. now a conversation on women's voting rights. following ratification of the 19th amendment. in 1920. the discussion includes some of the challenges african american and native american women face. smithsonian associates hosted this event, with university of maryland history professor robyn muncy. >> our speaker tonight is robyn lee muncy. the interim chair where she's a professor of history. i think several of you heard her speak about a year ago, about the suffer raj movement in the context of the dell mont paul national monument. and at the time she said that she was doing research on what happened after women got the vote. and i thought that sounds like an interesting program. and it's clear from your response that you do too. so give