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Florence Kling De Wolfe Harding

Florence Mabel Kling was born in Marion, Ohio on August 15, 1860.
Her father, Amos King was a banker and was the richest man in Marion at that time.

Her father, Amos Kling, wanted a son. He was a man who got his way so he treated her like his son. He took her to his hardware store as soon as she could walk. She learned about the world of business. As she got older she disliked her father because he dominated her so much.

Florence studied music at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

After graduating she returned home. It was not pleasant. Her father was critical of her and her friends. If she wasn't in by curfew he would lock her out to the house. She would climb through her bedroom window until her day nailed the windows shut.

At 19 she eloped, but never married, with Henry De Wolfe. Henry later deserted her and their baby. At one time she was broke and had no coal for the furnance and a young baby. She begged a conductor for a ticket and took the train to her home town and stayed in an empty house owned by a friend. She later moved in with a friend. Her father refused to help her.

In 1890, she met Warren Harding who owned the newspaper in Marion. Florence help him run the newspaper. They were married on July 8, 1891. She met Warren when she was giving piano lessons to his sister.

Her father did not approve of Harding and did not attend the wedding. Her mother Louisa secretly slipped in a back door just befor the wedding.

Florence Harding
Library of Congress

Florence Harding worked on the newspaper with Warren. She was orderly, organized and demanding. Warren was easy going and was willing to compromise.

Florence called Warren Sonny and he called her "the Boss" or "the Duchess."

In 1904, Florence's kidneys stopped functioning. he had a "floating" kidney. Do to her heart problems the doctor didn't want to remove the kidney. He instead wired it in place. It took her over five months to recover from the procedure.

In 1914, Harding was elected to the US Senate and the Hardings move to Washington.

In May of 1920, Harding was thinking about dropping out of the race for president. His wife told him "Warren Harding, what do you think you are doing, Give up? Not 'til the convention is over."

That same month, Florence visited with Madame Marcia, a clairvoyant, who told her that her husband would be nominated and with the race for president. The bad news from her was that he would die in office.

Harding won the election for President in 1920 by a large margin.

She was the first First Lady to be able to vote for her husband.

She was called "the Duchess.

She was strong willed and sometimes overbearing.

During her time as First Lady she suffered from a kidney ailment in 1922. He had a fever of 105 degrees and was near death.

The Harding Administration was popular but suffered from corruption.

On a trip to the west coast of Alaska, Harding suffered a heart attack and died on August 2, 1923.

Florence said she had burned all of President Hardings papers. She didn't know that Harding had saved papers from his years as president and as a Senator in his house. (There were 100 cubic feet of papers stored there. That would be a stack of papers 10 feet high, by ten feet wide, by 1 foot deep.)

Congress passed a bill giving Mrs. Harding a $5,000 pension and franking privileges. (Franking meant she had free postage for her mail.)

Florence moved back to Marion and died of kidney disease on November 21, 1924. She is buried next to President Harding in Marion, Ohio.




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Sources of Information:

Barden, Cindy,Meet the First Ladies, Lorenz Corp.
Gormley, Beatrice,First Ladies: Women Who Called The White House Home (First Ladies) , Scholastic Paperbacks, 1997
Smith, Carter, Editor,Smithsonian Presidents and First Ladies DK Publishing, New York, 2002

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Updated: March 25, 2013