Presidential Mothers: Harding’s an integral part of his life; Coolidge’s dies young

Published 8:49 am Sunday, April 2, 2023

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By  Betty Etchison West

For the Enterprise

Phoebe Elizabeth Dickerson, who married Dr. George Tryon Harding, was the daughter of Isaac H. Dickerson and Charity Malvina VanDirk Dickerson.

She was born in Blooming Grove, Ohio, on Dec. 21, 1843. Phoebe Harding and George Harding were the parents of eight children, the eldest being Warren G. Harding.

Phoebe Elizabeth Harding was a licensed midwife, who helped many pregnant women because there were not many medical doctors available. Mrs. Harding became interested in learning more about medicine. She studied medicine by working in her husband, Dr. George Harding, who was medical doctor. Phoebe then went for more formal medical training. She thus became a medical doctor with all the rights and privileges that were associated with being a M.D.

Dr. Harding must have been a tough lady.

Between 1865 and 1879, she had eight children, while serving as a midwife or a doctor. The Hardings must have emphasized education because their son, Warren, entered Ohio Central College when he was 14 and graduated when he was 17. His parents must have made sure that he had a good educational background.

Dr. Phoebe Elizbeth Dickerson Harding died on May 20, 1910, in Marion, Ohio, when she was 66. She was buried in the Marion Cemetery as was her husband, who died on Nov. 19, 1928, having outlived his wife by 18 years.

Dr. George T. Harding attended the inauguration of his son when he became the 29th President of the United States in 1921.  Warren Harding’s mother had died about 11 years before her son became president, which is sad because she seemed to be devoted to her oldest son.

The Harding Memorial where President Harding is interred is just south of the cemetery where his parents are buried. The Harding Memorial is the last of the elaborate presidential tombs.

The story of Victoria Josephine Moor Coolidge is sad.  Josephine was born in Plymouth Notch, Vt. on March 14, 1846.  She attended Black River Academy. When Victoria, who was described as being a beautiful young lady, married neighbor, John Coolidge, she was 22. The newlyweds set up housekeeping the back of the store in Plymouth Notch which Mr. Coolidge operated. The quarters were a bit cramped, but Victoria did not seem to complain. She and her husband had a son, Calvin, who was born on July 4, 1872, and a daughter, Abigail, who was born in 1875.

Soon after her marriage, Victoria, became consumptive. Consumption is defined as a wasting disease, especially pulmonary tuberculosis. Mrs. Coolidge, even though she was in poor health, lived until her son was 12. Victoria Coolidge died on her birthday, March 4 in 1885. She was 39.

In his autobiography, Calvin Coolidge wrote: “When she knew the end was near, she called us children to her bedside where we knelt to receive her final blessing. In an hour, she was dead.”

The death of his mother was a tragedy for Calvin, who also said that they buried his mother in the blustering Vermont snow.  It is said that Calvin carried a picture of his mother for the rest of his life.

When Victoria Josephine Coolidge died, the thought of her son becoming President of the United States had probably never entered her mind. She just wanted him to grow up to be a good citizen.

That son did become president one dark New England night when Calvin and his wife, Grace, were visiting his father at his home in Plymouth Notch.  A messenger delivered a message to the home of Mr. John Coolidge which said, “The President is dead!”  Mr. Coolidge rushed upstairs, awakened his son, and delivered the message.  Calvin and his wife got up, dressed, knelt, prayed, and went downstairs. Calvin Coolidge’s father, who was a notary republic, swore his son in as the 30th President of the United States.

When Calvin Coolidge died, his body was returned to Plymouth Notch.The former President was buried in the Coolidge Family Plot in the Plymouth Notch Cemetery near his mother, who he loved so dearly.  Calvin Coolidge’s wife, Grace, and his son, who was a teenager when he died while his father was serving as President, are also buried there.

For those interested in visiting sites connected to the Presidents of the United States, Plymouth Notch, is one of the most interesting because of all the sites connected to Mr. Coolidge.  The Coolidge house, which was built with all the dependencies attached, is open as are other buildings. Some of those dependencies connected to the Coolidge house in true New England style are: the wood shed, the milk house, the wash house, the outhouse, and the barn. They are attached to the house so the family could care for the animals and for themselves when the snow was so deep that they could not go outside.  The Coolidge historic sites are probably closed during the winter because of the snow.