Tags: Presidential History | warren harding | wife | florence harding | causes

Florence Kling Harding: The Causes That Defined President Warren Harding's First Lady

By    |   Thursday, 21 May 2015 03:40 PM

Florence Kling Harding was a trailblazing first lady, being one of the first presidents’ wives to speak openly to the press. While Kling Harding was actively involved in much of her husband’s work, she championed two main causes: women’s rights and wounded soldiers.

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Women’s Rights

Florence Kling Harding, the first lady from 1921-1923, found herself at the right political time for advocating for women’s rights. With the passage of the 19th Amendment very recent, the long-standing women’s movement had finally hit national ground. She often led by example, such as insisting on including her maiden name in her name.

According to the University of Virginia's Miller Center, Kling Harding often encouraged her husband to appoint women to different positions in government and host female visitors to encourage women's knowledge of government. She also advocated heavily for exercise, throwing several events, such as the first all-women’s tennis tournament, at the White House.

From her work in women’s rights, Kling Harding created the first federal prison for women after witnessing the harsh treatment of imprisoned women suffragists.

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Aiding Wounded Veterans

Kling Harding functioned as the unofficial director of the Veterans Bureau, as well as a host for numerous White House events honoring soldiers. She would often visit soldier hospitals and work with government agencies to ensure good care, according to the National First Ladies’ Library. She also headed the effort to create a World War I monument on the National Mall.

Hostessing and Other Passions

Kling Harding often invited guests to the White House often. She is credited for creating the White House photo op for journalists and re-opening the White House to tourists. She also revived the Easter Egg Roll tradition, according to the Miller Center.

While the first lady was popular and outspoken during Warren Harding’s presidency, administration scandals and confusion and secrecy surrounding the president’s death left a tainted public image at the end of her term.

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Florence Kling Harding was a trailblazing first lady, being one of the first presidents’ wives to speak openly to the press. While Kling Harding was actively involved in much of her husband’s work, she championed two main causes: women’s rights and wounded soldiers.
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Thursday, 21 May 2015 03:40 PM
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