Monday, February 21, 2011

A Presidential Story

She was a rich man's daughter in a small Ohio town. When she was 19, Florence ran away with a boy her father didn't approve of. She came back home a little later, with a baby. She said the boy had married her, but small towns being what they are, not everyone believed her. Her father wouldn't take her back, so Florence supported the two of them by giving piano lessons. Then her father changed his mind -- only she'd have to give up the baby to be raised by them. She agreed. A few years later there was a new face in town, a newspaper owner named Harding. Now restored to her proper social position, Florence married him.

Harding liked everybody and everybody liked him. He also liked women. Of course, it was a shame for Florence, but men are men, and what are you going to do? You couldn't dislike old Harding, no one did. He was so popular it was thought by others he would make a good politician. He ran for Governor, but lost. He tried for Senate, and won. A story was invented about early widowhood, to explain Florence's past. Her son, well on his way to an early death from tb and alcoholism, was kept out of sight. And in a year when the American public would have elected anyone who wasn't associated with Woodrow Wilson, Harding became President of the United States.

Now Harding had lots of friends, and he gave jobs to most of them, and looked the other way when they took taxpayer money for their own profit. He had lots of women -- actresses in New York, his wife's best friend. Florence was always bossing him anyway and the newspaper reporters called her "the Duchess." She befriend socialite Evalyn McLean, heiress to a newspaper fortune, owner of the Hope Diamond, drug addict, and they consulted astrologers together. One of them predicted Florence's death, then said she would recover, but her husband was in danger. Plans were made for a Presidential trip across the United States, and even up to Alaska. In San Francisco, Harding, who'd shown signs of heart disease, died suddenly. His doctors, believing they'd be blamed, told the public it was a stroke. Rumor said that Florence had poisoned him. Scandal -- of all the corruption, thievery and adultery -- broke, and ruined Harding's hail-fellow-well-met good name.

Florence went home to Ohio, ill, and died a little over a year later.

Incidentally, Florence Harding was the first First Lady to fly in an airplane. Somewhere in there there must have been some good days.

No comments: