Hungarian Americans Celebrate!

All over Ohio, we have Hungarian churches that once flourished and now are seeing a decline in membership – often closing doors (i.e., Cleveland several of them). However, the festivals, all over the state, still seem to see a rise in numbers coming out to share in their cultural identity. Here in Columbus we not only have Hungarian festivals in the summer but Italian, Irish, Greek, among the remaining European ethnicity. These festivals are put together by dedicated European/American women and men who tirelessly put in volunteer hours to share their passion with the public. This past weekend, braving 100 + degree temperatures, people flocked to St. Ladislaus Catholic Church where, once again, the Hungarian Cultural Association (HCA) put on their (50th? approximately) annual fete. It is important to keep the old ways alive through: stories, dances, folk songs, recipes, family so that the next generation won’t forget their history. Here are some photos taken by myself and Olga Kovacs both members of the HCA.


Days Gone By


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Mabel Snyder Vail

I have not written anything significant since returning to Ohio. Am I really a writer or was I just walking down memory lane in California and trying to keep everything I remembered about Ohio from slipping away. From dying forever. Returning to Ohio, it is all dead and gone and buried and will never return again. The fact of this is too difficult to bear. I must bear it because I don’t have a choice in this matter. Yet, I yearn for better times, more decent times. I yearn for people to remind younger ones of these things and for them to listen. But they don’t because their parents don’t teach them to have respect for their elders.

There is so much to learn from your elders. So many stories, history, life in simpler times, ways in which people behaved, values, and there is strength in learning these things and a sense of pride that you begin to embody when you know this. When I look at our life today, it is as if everyone has given up and retreated into social media caves that they daren’t go out and behave like civilized people in society. And yet, they will attend an event, if it means a social media “moment.” Everything must be a social media moment in today’s culture because we can’t just enjoy that time with our friends or even complete strangers as we grow and learn as people. Everything must be shared. Perhaps they want to make sure, like I do, that history isn’t forgotten this time. And yet, history, what we do know and what was documented is precious simply because it is rare – the documentation – and only certain things were preserved. Certain things lasted because it was stored properly or because the universe deemed we would have this memory and somehow, miraculously, that one thing survived.

Lazarus women at work, Columbus, OH

I want to remember the smell of the grass out in the country, which seemed to smell differently when there were no chemicals in the ground (from Monsanto type companies) and it was just pure and native and normal. When cornstalks were not tightly grown together and you could actually walk through the fields of corn and play hide and seek or have a romantic lover’s tryst. I want to go to bed listening to the crickets in the field and let this be my lullaby rather than my Ipad playing synthesized music on the meditation app. I want to see young girls dressed in little dresses with black patent leather shoes, hats and tiny purses just to go to the movies or shopping with grandma. Not girls who wear generic clothes that look like they are from the thrift shop so that no one can guess what their sex is or because mom doesn’t care because no one cares. I want to go out in clothing that says “Me” and makes women envious and men turn their heads. And yet, I want to compete with other women as we admire each other’s choice of style and fashionable creation. Instead, everyone dresses like slobs in jeans and t-shirts and men look like a plumber or a farmer or a factory worker. Though in my day, no factory would hire them dressed like people are today. You wouldn’t even be hired as a farmer or an electrician because a guy dressed like he is today would be seen as irresponsible and lazy and weak and they would be right.

I’d like to go to a fair where it is just simple and people are laughing and older women have their summer best dresses on with hats and simple shoes and are walking and talking together about their times long ago. Young people are with their parents (2) learning the rules of what will happen that day and how many tickets they can [afford to buy] for rides. The families walk together, children respecting their parents and waiting to see what decisions their parents will make. Eager with anticipation of what is allowed or not.

I’d like to walk around to a store that I can get to from my house. A store that I walk to, simply to get out of the house and take a walk. Maybe I look around, maybe I buy something, mainly I talk to the shopkeeper about the town and what has been happening that week. I might stop at the grocer’s and pick up something I need. Instead, I drive to the gym and workout and take my shower. I drive to the grocer’s, too far because it is the better neighborhood for shopping and I trust the produce there. I will be with decent people here and not the one’s closer to my home. My home is in a nice neighborhood but on the outskirts of our little village it is not. It is dangerous and not a fun place to walk and go shopping. The stores in walking distance probably sell drugs on the side, or their customers do and I don’t want to be near this or associated with this. I wasn’t raised this way and I’d rather read about it in the police news as to what action they accomplished for the week. Reading this news helps me to feel safer in my little nook of the world. From the time I was able to ride my two wheel bike (without emergency wheels), I was running errands for my mom in town, where we lived. I felt so free and independent doing this shopping and being held responsible. I would see other children doing errands for their parents and we waved and acknowledged with a look that we were aware of our important deeds for the day.

I would love to go in a business and see professional people working there.  People who take their jobs seriously because they are glad to have a job. Environments where the customer is taken seriously and looked up to because they are the key to the business becoming bigger and stronger. The customer is key to the employee proving how good they are at what they do. Instead, I see people dressed like slobs who could care less whether you are there or not. They make their obligatory “welcomes” which you feel are inauthentic just by the way they pronounce the words “Can I help you with something?” They could really care less about helping you, they are just counting the minutes to break or lunch or closing time so they can get home and follow their media. Of course sometimes, you can see people in businesses looking at their media when they are supposed to be working. They don’t even wait to go home because media is more important than their job. When you went into a business, in the past, you felt you were wealthy and important. The butcher, the baker, the retailer, the TV salesman, they were all greeting you in a spontaneous and unique and authentic way that was meant for you. If they knew you well, they were greeting a friend and you would have a chat without even mentioning what you were there for, for quite some time. Your friendship was equally important to your sale. If you bought something, you might get a discount or a little extra.

I would love to see children playing outside, like the ones across my street. Mom sits out on her lounge chair, with her bathing suit and portable stereo next to her. The kids drench each other with the hose and laugh and scream when the cold water hits them. They run around and play tag or they skip rope or play hopscotch or ride bikes in circles in front of their house – all within the view of mom. When we got older we went out on our own in sets, pairs or groups and we talked about people that we saw around us. We might also sit in our backyards and pretend to get a tan, even though the sun would burn us and give our friend a nice olive complexion. We’d gossip about boys and talk about other girls and what they did and didn’t do. We’d share activities we had gotten up to with our families. Sometimes we might scold each other for a way in which we had behaved and teach each other what would have been more proper. We’d envy each other’s clothes or shoes or the way the other did their nails or their hair. We’d talk about our futures. This was what friendship was for. It was real and in person and honest and silly but sacred. No one knew about what happened except the person or persons who were right there in that moment. It didn’t matter.

I loved going to restaurants where the level of cleanliness was taken for granted, not something you had to be careful of. The food was homemade by some immigrant from a European background. You dressed for the style of the restaurant and the waiters and waitresses were in uniforms – no matter where you went. Your order was important to them and they took care to get it right. Their boss would always be observing and noting and remarking to them later what they needed to do differently.  It was a place you went to on a special occasion, not because you were too lazy to cook. You treated this outing special and you knew to behave special. Everyone had their place and their role.

Marzetti’s restaurant Columbus, Ohio

In fact, no matter where you went, people wore uniforms and knew their place and their role. Whether it was carpenters or garbage men or postal men or waitresses or secretaries or receptionists, you wore a professional uniform or style that was indicative of the business you served. These employees had respect for themselves and showed this in their manner of dress. By dressing in a decent way, even if you were the trash man, you appreciated your job and took pride in what you did for a living. Even the gas station attendant wore a uniform and smiled authentically as you pulled your car up. They were happy to look under the hood. Often these were young people doing the services of the day. Their first jobs and they knew it was not forever or even if it was, they had dreams of what they would accomplish one day. They might take over the gas station once the old man retired. They might go on to study some trade at school or college; once they earned enough to help their parents pay tuition. They might just be thinking about buying their first car or taking that special someone on a date. The job was a place of building and creating yourself. Your boss was someone who showed you the way and one day you would go back and thank him or her for that first start out in life.

Even though I don’t go to church anymore, because I am not of that faith, I admired the way we all diligently walked in the door and sat in our “assigned” seats. Everyone seemed to have a certain time in which they arrived and a seat that they liked the best. I always enjoyed passing other churches on the way to ours and observing the styles women chose for that day. I secretly envied the shoes and made notes in my head as to what the style was should I ever be able to afford them. In church, there were unwritten rules. You didn’t turn around to see who had just come in (but kids did). Some older folks still followed rules of women on one side and men on the other. Some did not. Some were widows or widowers and they were fond of little children. After the service we went downstairs and socialized and drank coffee (the adults did and from a tall percolator). They discussed their lives or the sermon or matters of the church. The kids ran around. Sometimes we might be allowed to walk down the street to the bakery and get a donut. One, mind you, per person. Church was a sacred place that people respected and they respected themselves and the manner in which they arrived and dressed. Now it is a jeans and flip flop place with guitar players instead of organists and it is about fitting in with society rather than having values that had been passed down from one generation to the next. It gives people a sense of belonging but has fallen apart. Churches are shutting down all over the country and are in such disrepair. No matter how desperately they try to fit in, ultimately, there is no need for them when it is easier to stay home and sleep in. To not have a belief but to self-soothe with too many cookies or candy or soda or chips and have the waistline get larger and larger. Single parent families are more and more of what is normal because there were no values taught to them in the first place. Marriage is about sex and having fun rather than waiting and building a foundation.

Women’s Guild, Hungarian church, Columbus, OH

I miss going to grandma’s house and seeing the aunts and uncles sitting around her, waiting their turn to speak. Her home was where you knew to behave differently than your own home. You behaved like you were in a castle and the queen had walked in the room. She dressed nicely, you had the best manners, you ate what you were served, you played quietly, you spoke when you were addressed. It was formal but taught us to respect ourselves. When I look back on these times now, I see that the discipline was very important in making me the person that I am today. While it may have been a little too strict at times, I still value the meaning of the lesson. I know it can be taught in a nicer way now and even a strict way without the use of belts and paddles. Yet, people don’t do this. They entitle their children because it is easier to pacify them rather than stand firm and set limits and teach boundaries and begin to watch them grow into responsible people. It takes too much work to build a fine young man or lady. You can’t let the child get away with anything. When you do, it is too late and they will continue to take advantage. Teaching children how to behave gives them a sense of respect for themselves, for you, for society and helps them to know their place in the world. They grow up to behave properly around others and have respect for their environments and dress professionally and decently while in public. Grandma was our matriarch and we all talk about her now as if she were a saint. We laugh at those moments where she had let her guard down, just a little. I remember the fan in the room. It sat there blowing that much needed air to keep us all cool on hot summer days. I remember my uncles taking turns standing in front of it. The noise it made as background music while the adults were discussing the challenges of the day.

I miss grandma because she was that person you admired from afar as she was not the type to coddle you. You knew that she had the wisdom and whatever she said was the right answer. It was right because all the adults told you it was right and explained that you had to revere her. If she said you could dress a certain way, your parents acquiesced. If she said a movie was acceptable to watch, you went. She managed the family and made sure they were all good parents who raised their children the way she had raised them. We listened.

Hocking Hills Craft Mall – Ohio Women’s History Shirts There!


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Do you like going to great little craft centers on the weekend? Want to get away to Hocking Hills and hit up Old Man’s Cave? Well, while you are there, stop in at

Hocking Hills Craft Mall
12801 OH-664, Logan, OH 43138
(740) 385-9039

Where you will see my booth with a display of the Ohio Women’s History T-shirts!!! My daughter-in-law Sara also has some other unique craft items for sale there as well. These are short sleeves and come in  S, M, and Large. On the wall, above the shirts, is a list of all the women’s names on the shirts and what they are known for. Under this is a note to whomever is looking at the shirts that tells them about this website. 

Ohio Writer Margaret Peterson Haddix


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This time I am not giving you an account of an Ohio Woman in History but a female writer from Ohio who writes children’s books. I chose her book, “Uprising” which is about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire which occurred on March 25, 1911. This tragedy occurred in New York and claimed the lives of 146 people (123 women and 23 men). The majority of the victims were between the ages of 14-23 years old. Ms. Haddix chose to do a historical fiction to discuss this terrible incident by focusing her story around three women who might have been involved. She carefully researched her book in great detail (which she tells you in an author’s note at the end).

This included a strike that occurred between the months of 1909-1910. This strike demanded many things, hoping to make working conditions fairer and safer. The union caved too quickly and did not even secure a “closed” shop which would have meant that Triangle could not hire non-union workers. Shortly after sending the strikers back to work, the “promises” quickly faded. It is odd that the union wasn’t called to the mat in court, as well as the owners of Triangle Shirtwaist Company, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris. Had the union succeeded in securing rights for the worker’s this horrible event would not have happened.

The story which unfolds is beautifully told. Ms. Haddix breaks the story up by the three girl’s names, so that we hear each of their voices. One is a Russian Jew, Yetta; then there is Bella an Italian that had recently arrived and finally there is Jane, a wealthy young American woman ripe on the heels of the suffragist’s movement. At first none of them even know each other but through various events are brought together. At the end, only one of them will survive and this is not a secret as you are told this at the beginning of the book. And, like with “The Nightingale,” by Kristen Hannah (another historical novel but about German occupied France) the ending is a surprise.

The story has romance, it is of course ripe with suspense and the characters all have self-reflection. In the end, the writer tells us how she knows what happened to the other two characters. This is Ms. Haddix’s way of answering all of the reader’s questions. The most significant is “How could she possibly know.”

Naturally, I knew about this piece of history and as it happened, it came up at least twice, prior to reading this, while I was judging National History Day. Since I had purchased the book a year prior, at Ohioana, I knew I needed to sit down and pour over the pages which were now begging to be read. While reading this book, another issue kept gnawing at me that always has since our factories were signed over to China under the Clinton regime. What a waste! For years since the trade agreement was signed and our small towns (quite a few in Ohio, including Middletown which you read about in “Hillbilly Elegy” by another Ohioan, J.D. Vance) have been turned into meth labs and are screaming for answers to bring back a dwindling economy stolen from them 20+ years ago. All the work that these men and women went through, several decades ago, to create: fair wage laws, equal employment, age limits and humane working conditions; completely lost by the stroke of a President’s hand. Now, American factories are in communist countries, third world environments that have none of these rights at hand.

When I read this book and I hope many of you will as well, I think particularly of 146 workers who died in vain. What would Yetta think if she saw that what the striker’s worked for only became a temporary fix? What has happened to unions that were there to protect the worker’s jobs? I keep wondering if the unions had caved just like they did at the end of the shirtwaist worker’s strike. Max and Isaac, the owners of Triangle Shirtwaist Company are just two CEO’s not unlike those of our big corporations today. These multimillion dollar companies, today, are no more interested in their employees or even their customers. Perhaps we have better laws now to protect employees from a fire breaking out in a building but there are just different issues at hand in this generation. As I am a therapist in my day job, I often hear employees talking about how 1. They can’t talk to Human Resources anymore because they are in another country or state (different time zones). 2. They are expected to work off the clock (or on salary) and take text messages and phone calls 24/7 in some cases. That is to say, whenever the boss has a question. Meanwhile, as a customer, when was the last time you called a corporation and actually spoke to a receptionist? Likewise, how often did you get the right person on the phone or had to call back several times. How long was it between the time you first called the company, till the time you got your answer?

Serious questions that politicians always fight about to get votes but never really solve.

Right History


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People that love history and are involved in it on some level, are factual people. Whether it is the Renaissance Festival, where they are dressing up in authentic costumes or movie directors/costume designers/set artists, that are paying attention to detail or writers who write either historical non-fiction or fiction. The most important part is to get it right.

The first thing a person who loves history will do, is look for the mistakes. Not intentionally but unintentionally. When I watch a movie, if I see something that is glaring – such as a minority who is a foreigner to that country and would not have been there in that time period – it throws me off. I can’t watch it anymore because if this is wrong, so is everything else. It would be like putting a dinosaur on Downton Abbey. Why would you? It would look ridiculous.

The most important thing about historical writing, movies, etc… is to allow the viewer to feel as if they are in another time period. Escapism, naturally, because the viewer is so passionate about this time period, they want to feel they are there. You can’t do that with a dinosaur on Downton Abbey. Not unless you are selling your craft as a fantasy/sci-fi period piece. Then of course you have a whole different genre of people watching it and it, most likely, won’t be history lovers.

The same thing goes for people who are writing about someone’s life and then project their politically correct opinions into the story line. Taking us out of the story for a moment so the author can bash the person for wearing fur, for example. Recently, when I read a book on Florence Harding, the author had to point out the fact that Florence was really big on animal right philanthropy and yet she wore fur stoles and coats. In my opinion, the book should have something on the cover that states “this is a politically driven book by the author.” I wouldn’t have cared to purchase it if I had known this because she took me out of the story for a moment to hear her opinion. Animal rights in Florence’s time period meant domestic animals. She was concerned about the rights of pets because she had a love for these furry creatures. In that time period, it was very normal for middle to upper class women to wear fur. This showed other people that you had achieved a certain financial status. We have been concerned about fashion and the way we look since time began. It wasn’t until PETA formed in 1980 that people began to turn their noses up at fur. Anything prior to 1980, should not be discussing politically correct opinions because it is not a fact during that time period, it is just an opinion. No one cares about peoples modern opinions about a time period, they only care about the time period.

This sounds terribly mean but if you want to talk or write or show history, than do that. If you want to do politically correct than write a book that bashes women in history or their fashions. Two different audience mindsets and genres. You could also write a thesis or dissertation for a class – or blog it.

There is nothing to be ashamed of when you are portraying history or researching it. It has happened, you can’t go back. You can learn from it though and gain knowledge, this is why history lovers enjoy this. It is also because there are certain aspects of history that we adore and wish were still present now.

When you hear someone say “I miss the old days” many people will say “Oh yeah, when it was racist, they smoke cigarettes and drank, etc…” It really has nothing to do with that. We miss the old days because at that time people had more respect for the way they dressed. They had work ethics and overall, were decent people. You knew where you stood in life. We didn’t have the word “terrorist” in our repertoire or “arsenal of weapons.” We sat on our porches and drank lemonade. We didn’t worry about going to a spiritual building or a shopping mall or a restaurant or a tall building. Missing the old days doesn’t mean we are gullible and we are unaware of the context of that time period. We are amateur historians, after all, and this is the most important thing to us is understanding the whole picture. Sometimes people are just into the fashion, or the cars, or the homes or the mannerisms. No one who loves a time period is saying “I loved the 40’s because it would have been fun to be in a German occupied village.”

History is rich and so exciting to be a viewer of when it is done accurately and with characters who look like the originals. Unfortunately, this accuracy is falling by the wayside with plays like “Hamilton” and books that insert their 21st Century mindset. It is depressing because children are being misinformed and given an image of a time period that never existed. It also means that I have to review information I am hoping to look at by watching trailers or checking the authors background to make sure they are focused on authenticity rather than comedy or political beliefs. It is faux history, I think, not the right history.

Victoria Woodhull Documentary


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Eden Valley Enterprises is seeking donations for their documentary on Victoria Woodhull. As you can see by this trailer, it is going to be a great success! They have already created a wonderful documentary on Emma “Grandma” Gatewood, which I got a chance to see at a screening at the Ohio History Connection. The film entitled “Trail Magic: The Grandma Gatewood Story,” was nominated for an Emmy! So you know your donations are in good hands. Both Grandma Gatewood and Victoria Woodhull’s stories are available in a storytelling program for presentations.

Senate Bill 30 – Suffrage Centennial Commission


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When I went to Ohio’s Statehood Day in February, I learned that they were putting together a bill for an Ohio Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission. The good news is that it was passed on April 11th and is now awaiting Governor DeWine’s signature. This bill was sponsored by both a Republican (Stephanie Kunze – Hilliard) and a Democrat (Sandra Williams – Cleveland), which is a good thing in and of itself. I say this because it is nice to bring back some balance in politics which is how the journey for women’s suffrage began. Women from all different backgrounds came together in support of this cause. Unfortunately, there was a lot of drama between these women which caused the groups to split up into different factions as well. This would result in our suffrage taking much longer (approximately 70 years) before being ratified in 1920. Now, we have had 100 years of being able to vote in the elections and create an impact on who will serve in office.

The established date is 1848, at Seneca Falls, New York, for when women’s suffrage “began.” However, in order for them to get to New York and have this convention, there were many more years of going door to door and speaking to women locally. Women met in their homes or other local establishments that might allow them to hold a public meeting. Women’s suffrage meetings were going on all over the United States and the United Kingdom prior to Seneca Falls.

The main suffrage group established, in the United States, was (NAWSA) National American Women’s Suffrage Association. NAWSA became the League of Women Voter’s after women gained the right to vote in 1920. Alice Paul had created the National Women’s Party. Victoria Woodhull had formed the Equal Rights Party, as her short lived party when she ran for president in 1872.She also spoke to the House Judiciary Committee, a year prior to argue that women already had the right to vote (the Constitution did not say women could not). This was trumped by a lot of drama within the women’s suffrage factions that did not want Ms. Woodhull to go down in history for bringing us the right to vote. She had a lot of controversy surrounding her. One of the issues of concern was outing an affair, in her newspaper, of a highly revered minister; who was the brother of one of the top women in NAWSA.

President Woodrow Wilson is the leader who finally gave in, under duress from his wife and signed this bill once it was approved in the House and Senate. He was no more in favor of suffrage than President Lincoln originally was of ending slavery. In the end, they were swayed by a majority of their constituents and realizing it was the popular thing to do.

Thusly, a century later, our state is forming a commission to hold events and raise awareness about the importance and historical significance of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Stay tuned to learn more!

Statehood Day 2019 – What I learned


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Happy 216th Birthday Ohio! We celebrated today at the Capital Building in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Part of the building was built in 1861 and then an addition was added in the early 1900’s. I took a tour of some of the building and later went back to get a look at the museum after the Statehood Day events were over with. There is a “Ladies Gallery” room on the first floor that is not part of the museum. There isn’t much in there for the moment but a lot to learn in a short amount of time. It is mainly focused on the first six women elected to the Ohio Senate and State Representatives in 1920 when Women’s Suffrage was ratified. These women were: State Representatives -Nettie Mackenzie Clapp, Lulu Thomas Gleason, Adelaide  Sterling Ott, Mary Martin Van Wye and then State Senate – Maude Comstock Waitt and Nettie Bromley Loughead.

Adelaide Sterling Ott

Lulu Thomas Gleeson

Mary Martin Van Wye

Nettie MacKenzie Clapp

Maude Comstock Waitt

Nettie Bromley Loughead

Sorry the photo spread looks horrible – this is WordPress for you. Here are some of the other interesting tidbits that I learned as well today:

Jo Ann Davidson, above, was the First Woman to be the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives from 1995-2000.

in 2020 six women will be featured at the Delaware Country Historical Society Museum. They featured six women a year ago and they are doing this every two years it sounds like.

Prior to the 19th Amendment being ratified, Ohio had 30 Suffrage Organizations. Tennessee was the late state to ratify this Amendment. They were worried about black women having the right to vote.

Ohio has more sites on the National Historic Register than any other state (with the exception of two other states).

National History Day began in Ohio in 1974.

Kirby’s Mill in Richfield, Ohio is a popular Girl Scout retreat, as well as being used for other things.

Indian Burial grounds are ripe for poachers in Ohio and for some reason, even though the Ohio History Connection is loaded with artifacts from the native people’s who once lived here, there has never been a law passed in respect to this. There is now a request to support legislation sponsored by Gary Scherer (R-Circleville) to protect unmarked burial places and abandoned cemeteries.

Overall, the day went very well. I thought I had brought my camera home and it turns out the box was empty, so now I have to figure out where it is at my office! My intention is to go back and get lots of photos, which I will have to put on Instagram since WordPress is just not set up to properly display photos (not unless you want to read a bunch of stuff online about it and are a software designer or graphics artist which I am not).

This is my second time to attend Statehood Day and each time I find it very educational. I forgot to mention that there was a group of people in costume, who serenaded us at the beginning of the day with their rendition of Beautiful Ohio, which is a very lovely tune!




Florence K Harding – Marion, OH


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Her favorite painting of herself

Florence Mabel Kling – Harding (August 15, 1860 – November 21, 1924 Leo/Hera) was the 29th First Lady of the United States. When searching for a book to read about her, my first First Lady to do an article on, I chose the book by Katherine A.S. Sibley. The reason being that there was a lot of controversy associated with the Warren Harding presidency (posthumously) and this book came from a more positive angle. I wanted to find out more about Mrs. Harding as a woman. As I began to read her story, I realized I had so many things in common with her. I was able to identify with her life (pre-White House years) and could empathize with some of the ways in which she behaved as a mother and grandmother; in her time period.

Florence was not a stranger to controversy, it met her every step of the way from the moment she was a frisky young adult of 19 and married the wrong guy. She was meant to become a concert pianist and study at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Instead, she eloped (they could never find records of a marriage certificate) to Henry Atherton De Wolfe. He was a drunk and this lasted six years. In the meantime, however, she gave birth to her only child Marshall Eugene. Being a divorced woman in 1886 and a single mother at that, her father decided that it was in her best interests to let he and her mother raise the child. They took over and allowed her to spend time with her son but he made the decisions as to how the child would be raised. Florence lived alone and made a living off of giving piano lessons.

She met Warren G. Harding four years later and he was five years younger than she. He owned the “Marion Star,” when they met. They married a year later and Florence immediately went to task in becoming, not just his wife, but his business partner as well. This would continue throughout their marriage. Mr. Harding tried to take an interest in her son, who continued to be raised by her father and it made somewhat of an impression on Marshall.

Marshall would go on to Michigan State to study journalism and played football there as well. He made some attempts at going into business but eventually became like his own father instead. At 34 years old, he died of alcoholism an tuberculosis. His own father had died by this point as well. At his death he left a widow (Esther Naomi Neely) with a young boy, (George) and girl, (Eugenie) to raise. Mrs. Harding would keep in touch with this family (Esther eventually re-married) and she gave monthly checks to Esther for child support.

In this time period, people did not divorce and the gossip columns and social media outlets of today were, thankfully, unavailable at that time. When Warren G. Harding became the 29th president in 1921, Mrs. Harding circumvented any knowledge of her previous family from getting into the press. As she was a newspaper woman herself, she played to the journalists by becoming their friends and gave them information but refused to do interviews. In return, they respected her anonymity. Mrs. Hardings grandchildren were never at the White House. She did not visit them, during the time they were in office but she did maintain correspondence with their mother.

This is an interesting point about Mrs. Harding. A lot can be said about her pushiness toward her daughter-in-law; giving advice on how to raise the children. She was frugal with her child support (it was a lot in those days but she could have afforded more than she did). Florence would also send hand-me-down dresses (of her own) to be used as fabric to make Eugenie’s clothes. I am sure Esther did not appreciate all the meddling but we don’t really know because only Mrs. Harding’s letters were preserved. We do know though that Mrs. Harding began to regard Esther in more of a confidante type of way, telling her more intimate details about her life. I see this as a bit narcissistic though, and while I am empathic toward Mrs. Harding, I can still imagine this might be the case. She had no real relationship with Esther, other than her letters and money. They rarely saw each other from what I can detect in this book. So, for her to be so forward, appears a bit narcissistic or entitled to do so. In the end however, Mrs. Harding left a great fortune to her grandchildren and they were only in their mid-20’s at this time.

With regard to her marriage to Mr. Harding, Florence faced many struggles. He was a philanderer, like many presidents before and after him. Still, she remained strong and stalwart and it appears he did appreciate this. While he was not faithful, it does seem that he respected his wife very much and took her opinions. He nicknamed her “The Ducchess,” which she evidently enjoyed hearing. While Mrs. Harding is not given the credit that Eleanor Roosevelt would receive (she was only in office for two and a half years); she was just as involved in politics and in advising her husband. Meanwhile, Mr. Harding, had two major affairs – one to a woman who was married herself and best friends with the Hardings. The other woman was more clandestine and produced a child. However, the only child of Warren G. Harding, (Elizabeth Britton) was not proven with DNA results, and published in the New York Times, until 2015 (using So in the book I read, written by Ms. Sibley and published in 2009, she continues to state that it was highly unlikely (since the Hardings were married for 32 years and never had a child). This was an affirmed belief by all of the doctors involved with the Hardings at that time as well. Nonetheless it was true but the DNA was done posthumously as Ms. Britton did not wish to clear it up for herself. Ah, secrets and lies!!

The Daily Star’s thoughts on the First Lady:

Mrs. Harding is far better looking than her pictures…her smile is the essence of sweetness and graciousness, while her photographs often give her the appearance of sternness

It appears that President Hardings time in office was somewhat similar to that of President Trump now. He brought a lot of friends with him to the White House who assumed a great many roles. Some of them did take advantage of their positions but it seems as if they kept the President in the clear. How this would be handled now, since President Harding was a Republican, I would assume he would get the same treatment as President Trump. President Harding differed though because he was well-liked by the public at that time and this was in great part to his wife’s role in orchestrating public events. Mrs. Harding, began inviting the public to the White House and in fact this became the precedent that has continued to this day. Of course at that time, the fear of terrorists was unheard of. The Hardings actually went out and met with the public – and shook all of their hands – when they were present for these occasions. The public were also offered food and drink. Large soiree’s occurred during the Hardings time in office as well. People who throw good parties, have great numbers of friends. Especially when you are making them feel welcome in the highest office of this country.

Florence took her role to heart and was not just involved in planning parties and decorating the house. Suffrage was ratified right before they went into office and so Mrs. Harding was the very first wife to vote for her own husband. She was very involved in helping Warren choose cabinet members (some of their friends) and writing the speeches he would present. She was involved with women’s concerns and took part in the conditions faced by female criminals and creating a Women’s Prison. She had gatherings with women journalists at the White House. She invited notable women to the White House such as Madam Curie. Not only was she involved with raising awareness toward women and their issues, she was also passionate about war veterans. She toured many hospitals and gave public functions for soldiers and their families. Florence and Warren Harding had a great love for animals. While their family did not include children of their own, they did have several dogs and a horse. As a result, philanthropy toward animal rights was another great cause they both shared. Ms. Sibley took offense to this though, in writing that Florence had no problems with wearing a fur coat. In that time period, it was normal to wear furs and being “Politically Correct” was unheard of. While people enjoyed pets and wanted to protect them, the issue of non-pet animals was really not a concept at that time. I don’t feel confused by this at all.

A journalist asked First Lady Mrs. Harding about women in politics and this is her short but typical response to the press:

What do you think of women in politics?” “I believe it is a good thing under certain circumstances

A separate item of interest I noted from reading this book, was the support and affiliation with the Native American tribes during their travels in office. I thought to myself, “When was the last time we heard of a President smoking a peace pipe?” For that matter, when was the last time we saw photo ops with the Native American people? Presidents don’t attend Pow Wow’s or even talk about these people, not unless there is a protest. I hadn’t thought of that until I saw a photo in this book and read about the time the Hardings spent with the Native Americans.

Émile Coué

Unfortunately, another struggle with the Hardings marriage was the health and wellness of both of them. Florence almost died in office and Warren did die. Mrs. Hardings health was an issue throughout their entire marriage but came to an almost fatal blow within the first year of the presidency. The top doctors were called in and lived there for many months. One of them was Dr. Boone (an ancestor of Daniel). She was a great fan of a French motivational health speaker at that time, Émile Coué and would use his mantra: Every day, in every way I am getting better and better. This worked and she would eventually heal, though the sickness would continue to come and go. By the time her husband died, she began to lose interest in remaining and she followed him a year and three months later.

Warren’s death would even become a controversy as well, much later. It was surmised that she orchestrated this by poisoning him. The theory is based on the fact that she did not want an autopsy. Many family members do not do this when they are assured by their doctors as to the cause.  I find this reasoning hard to believe as there were nurses in the room when he died and a doctor was by his side up until the last half hour. I also find this hard to believe when you look at the emotional toll it took on Florence and how quickly she would follow him. Doctor’s today, attribute his death to being a mistake of his doctor’s who assumed it was one thing and ignored other signs (but also as they were not as knowledgeable at that time). My feeling is that Florence died of a broken heart, loneliness, and giving up her will to live.

We often want to search for posthumous theories, to try and understand or to make history fit with our own concerns in modern day times. Sometimes this makes good sense but many more times, it is best to let a “cigar just be a cigar,” to rephrase a Freudian quote.

What I also enjoyed, in reading about Florence K. Harding, is that she was a follower of the occult and enjoyed talking to psychics and astrologers. She was very well aware that Warren would win the presidency but also that he would die in office. Yet, even though people do believe in metaphysics and the supernatural, it doesn’t take away the excitement when it is proven and he is announced as the next President. Nor, does it eliminate the pain when the person does die as predicted.

Women’s History Puzzles


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Original Photo for the Puzzle

I love putting together puzzles. This is a great form of meditation and a great way to really put some thought into the person that is being revealed as you put the pieces together. While working on this particular puzzle above, I couldn’t get the song “Sister Suffragette” out of my head from Mary Poppins. That is because this puzzle is from the UK and made by Gibson, so these images are British Suffragettes. I also began to think of the statements shown in this puzzle and the context in which they were made back in that time period. For example, “I rather be a rebel than a slave,” stated by Emmeline Pankhurst.  Some people take offense to this now because they aren’t capable of taking in the the deeper meaning and the context. Obviously, around the time of the Civil War, a woman would not want to be a slave. Even today, with all the Human Trafficking that exists world wide, I would expect a woman to continue to make this statement if they were in a country that can be considered vulnerable to exporting women for prostitution. It meant that these women were fighting back against their “oppressors” which in that time meant men: husbands and fathers; politicians, who wouldn’t allow them to speak out. These people who wouldn’t recognize the need for women to have rights. Women felt that they were slaves to these men. Anyone who is being oppressed feels like a slave to the oppressor. History is not something to be ashamed of but to learn from and respect the lessons. Likewise, to think about how it could be applied in today’s society.

The other point of interest in this puzzle is the Derby Tragedy, which you can see in the middle of the poster. This actually shows the woman under the horse, rather you can see her hat that she was wearing and understand that this is what you are looking at. This is Emily Davison who martyred herself by running out in front of the King’s horse. To imagine that a woman felt so strongly about suffrage that she would give up her life for the cause. I doubt very many women would do such a thing today. I can’t imagine having this amount of passion myself even. You generally see people blaming rather than doing. Women weren’t blaming during suffrage. They were pointing out the importance of women having rights. They were educating other women and encouraging them to have a voice. This was a life changing moment in history. If they had merely went to lecture halls and focused on blaming their husbands and fathers, no one would have listened as this was too threatening to someone. It would be nice to see women taking this approach today, they might get more accomplished than they do.

Another puzzle I have finished in the past is one of my favorite artists from Mexico – Frida Kahlo. This puzzle was created by Tino Rodgriquez for Pomegranate puzzles. I have several books about Frida, including one that shows a collection of her paintings. She is someone I admire because of the amount of pain she lived with during her life and her persistence to accomplish her dreams. While she did not have success with everything she wanted (and who does), she kept trying. Her paintings to me show a woman journaling her life story. Most people today do this by writing in a book. She took it a step forward, when journaling was not a popular self-awareness exercise. She gave us her inner feelings, the pain she suffered, the trials she faced, her political beliefs, all through her art work. Now, she is honored in Mexico almost as if she were a Saint  (you will often see “Our Lady of Guadalupe” in the same places). When you go along streets in various villages it is hard to not find a shop or a restaurant that does not pay homage to this courageous woman. Even immigrants to America will do so in their restaurants and stores.

Original photo used for the puzzle.

This puzzle by Master Pieces is of Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122/24-1201). She was the Queen Consort to France and England and the Duchess of Aquitaine. Katherine Hepburn portrayed her in the movie “The Lion in the Winter.” I saw the movie which seemed to focus more on her sons then herself. I have not read her biography yet so I don’t really know a lot to say about her. It is on my list of women to learn about. The image itself, as you see here, was quite magnificent to behold as I was putting this puzzle together. She seemed more of a Goddess rather than an actual live human being. This photo is reminiscent of Artemis who was generally seen with hounds by her side as she was a Huntress. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo of the puzzle, when I finished it,  so I am showing the image used for the puzzle. The colors were equally rich but I seem to recall a lot of glitter used on this image which I don’t find very amusing.

Original photo used for the puzzle.

I think it would be wonderful if we could see more puzzles created that depict Women’s History. I find that I have to work hard to look for them online. There are a lot of Goddess type puzzles. I finished one puzzle that was from a Tennis Club in Rhode Island (circa 1920’s). I only picked it up prior to a winter storm. I was at Wal-mart to get an online purchase and thought I might as well see what they had in the toy department. Much to my surprise, there was actually one thing there dedicated to women. I actually thought it was a suffragette puzzle (due to one woman in the left corner having the red sash on, which caught my eye). Though it is interesting that she is featured there and dressed differently than the other ladies in the picture. Perhaps she was returning from a meeting and planned to change into her tennis clothes at the club. By the way she is dressed, that would mean that this puzzle is not exactly 1920 as this was when suffrage was ratified.

At this point, I haven’t found one single puzzle dedicated to Ohio Women’s History. Unfortunately, I am not a painter but I do have many ideas for puzzles that could be created in a way that would delight the avid puzzle collector. When I work on a puzzle, I like to see a variety of colors and images and yet not too busy that it is overdoing it. You don’t want one that is all sky or ground or too much of one thing (for example a photograph). It is more exciting to see characters in action, as they would have been, with much detail. While I am working I feel almost like an artist, creating the scene that was chopped up for me. Building homes, train stations, plants, buildings, figures, it is exciting to try and put together a mess of pieces.

If you have a daughter that enjoys puzzles, introduce her to a few of these ladies depicted here or that you are able to find online. It will help introduce her to someone new that she wasn’t aware of. There are too many modern women online who are not exactly great role models. Reaching back into our past, in a more elegant time with very intelligent and fashionable role models – there are stories begging to be heard.

P.S. I am going to add some other Women’s History puzzles here as I find them. MasterPieces has a puzzle out of Norman Rockwell’s version of Rosie the Riverter. Eurographics has a puzzle with the actual poster that more people are familiar with today, from the artist Howard Miller.