Florence and Warren Harding

The presidential election of 1920 was the first time women got to vote, and Harding was elected by the largest landslide ever. Historians are always very clear about drawing the obvious conclusion that women found him a perfect fatherly figure.

His wife Florence, pictured above, had the opportunity to cast her first vote for him and watch him win on Nov. 2 ... his 55th birthday.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally published by the Ohio History Connection on Feb. 1, 2022. Richland Source is part of a collaborative agreement with the Ohio History Connection to share history content at our respective sites.

This President's Day, programs at the Ohio History Center include a live presentation and several documentaries about the Ohioans who have led our country. To complement our screenings of The Story of Warren G. Harding, we asked Sherry Hall, manager of the Harding Presidential Sites, to share her thoughts on Harding’s personality and political contributions.

Harding press release

This press release shares the story of Elmer Stevens and Joe Julin, two veterans from Wyandot County. Both men had been blinded in battle during World War I. They met Warren G. Harding during his front porch campaign in Marion. 

Harding with a World War I vet

During his presidency Harding visited Walter Reed Hospital, where wounded veterans asked him to support legislation granting them soldiers’ bonuses. In the end, Harding believed the measure would prove too costly for the country, and with Congress making no provision for funding the proposed bonuses, he vetoed the bill in 1922. 

It’s not just about George Washington anymore. Presidents Day is about all of the men (sorry, no women yet) who have accepted the biggest job in the nation.

We are rich in presidential history in Ohio. William Henry Harrison, who lived just a month into his first term, ran for the presidency from Ohio but was born in Virginia. The seven Ohio-born presidents – James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, Rutherford B. Hayes, William McKinley, Ulysses S. Grant, William Taft and Warren Harding -- did their best to make the nation better.

Each of our Ohio presidents injected his personality into the presidency, as has each of our leaders. As our only journalist president, Harding naturally examined all angles of a problem before making a decision.

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He was interested in the human stories behind the statistics. He got his energy from listening to farmers talk about their financial struggles, to women who had lost babies due to poor infant health, to war-weary veterans who wanted to assimilate into society despite an amputated leg or damaged eyesight.

Harding’s ability to listen with his heart, as well as his head, resulted in his support for other measures, including agricultural legislation to ensure farmers wouldn’t lose their farms during a deep recession, a plan to bolster health care for women and infants, and the establishment of the Veterans Bureau.

Harding spoke from the heart when he passionately told a segregated crowd in Birmingham that everyone in the nation, regardless of the color of his or her skin, had the same rights to economic, political and educational opportunities.

He also pushed for an anti-lynching bill, even though it was bottled up in Congress.

Make a vow on this Presidents Day to spend some time this year with our Ohio presidents. Each has a strong story to tell and a wonderful site to visit.

Listen to the experts at the sites. Get a sense of these men and their families. Let them tell you what their heads – and hearts -- heard from the people.

Western Union Telegram

This telegram from Florence Peshine Eagleton, president of the Newark League of Women Voters, expresses the organization’s firm support of the Sheppard-Towner Maternity and Infancy Act, a measure that President Harding also endorsed. The bill passed in the Senate in July of 1921, and after revisions, it was approved by the House of Representatives that November. 

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