First Ladies: Florence ‘The Duchess’ Harding

We’ve already heard from cross-eyed First Lady Julia Grant. Shall we meet The Duchess?

As it turns out, Mrs. Warren G. Harding was exactly the kind of no-nonsense wife who inspires her husband to call her Duchess. In addition to being the driving force behind Harding’s political career (one that was so checkered during his single term in office that he is routinely named the worst president the U.S. has ever had; remember the Teapot Dome scandal from high school history?), she also wandered the halls of the White House with a small red book, in which she listed the names of those people who displeased her. All in all, pretty terrifying, right? Then think about this statement: “I have only one real hobby—my husband.” Shivers!

Then, of course, there were the rumors that she murdered her husband during his “Voyage of Understanding” tour of the country.

Just because a lady may be reeling from possibly knowing about her husband’s affairs with her friends (whether Florence knew about the existence of an illegitimate child by Harding’s mistress turned memoirist Nan Britton is unclear) and then refuses to allow an autopsy to be performed when the president of the United States drops dead in San Francisco does not mean she murdered him, okay guys? It just means… I don’t actually know what it means, but in addition to discrediting stories of presidential orgies, scholars have also pretty much put the kibosh on theories that Florence offed her straying husband. She died a little over a year later anyway.

Random fun fact: In addition to a fascination with clairvoyance, Florence was besties with Evalyn Walsh McLean, whom you may remember from your childhood obsession with the unexplained and occult as the owner of the curséd Hope Diamond. (Just us?)

Sidenote. I love this sentence from Wikipedia: “The Harding Memorial in Marion, Ohio, is considered by many historians to be the most beautiful of Presidential Tombs in the United States.”

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