Our new president: President Warren G Harding

The very first president elected partly by women – what a strange and exciting thought.

Now that we gals have voted in our first presidential election, I wonder just how long it will be before we have a president of the fairer sex?

Probably not for twenty or thirty years, I should imagine – the march of progress forever runs slow.

Though I voted for the Democratic candidate (coming from a Democratic family), I have to confess I wasn’t as excited by the ticket as I might have been – given President Wilson’s failing health, we seem to be running a loss of inspirational Democrats. The vice presidential candidate, a young man named Franklin D Roosevelt  (a fifth cousin or so of the great president, I believe) made some interesting speeches during the campaign – but he’s just a boy, not nearly qualified to run this great country.

My father is convinced there is something untrustworthy about Mr Harding, I confess that I am more than a little excited by this landslide victory.

I rather like how he truly seemed to be the “also-ran” in the Republican primary, then all of a sudden he was the candidate and steaming ahead towards the presidency. And most importantly, I hope most fervently that he delivers his promised “return to normalcy.” The world is ready to throw off the shackles of the Great War and march forward fully into this new decade.

It has been more than two years since Armistice was signed in that train carriage in France, and the country – perhaps the world – still carries a shadow of chaos in its heart.

I can’t claim any direct experience of that terrible War, life carried on for us more or less as normal in our little corner of Minnesota, but it was always There. Do you know the feeling when your stomach clenches or your heart begins to thud and it takes you a few moments to identify why? That’s what it was like for me. I would be at my desk or walking with a friend and suddenly a chill would wash over me and I would remember that we are at War.

We only lost one boy from my down. Sven Andersson.

He was already a senior when I entered high school, and he wasn’t any great town hero. He was no baseball star or great mind who would distinguish us forevermore with a great invention like Mr Edison or Mr. Carnagie. He was quiet, and studious. By the time he was called up to fight he had already followed his father into the family accounting firm. He had married his high school sweetheart and was a father of three: fully living a thoroughly pleasant, unremarkable existence.

He smiled at me, one day, during my first or second week of high school.

I’d gotten my schedule all mixed up and consequently had thought I should be in one class when I was due in another. I was all flustered and breathless, racing across the quad, when of course I tripped and sent all my schoolbooks and notebooks flying every which way. I was so rattled, in a fact, that Sven Andersson had picked up most of my books before I even noticed he was there, but suddenly I looked up, and he smiled at me and my silly little 14 year old heart fluttered every which way.

I had finished school and taken up a position typing at the local newspaper by the time the boys of our town were called up. I knew most of them of course, but for some strange reason it was always Sven Andersson I thought of when I saw those terrible newsreels of trenches and explosions. He had such a sweet air about him that somehow I felt sure he was terrified by all the mud and gore and noise.

Well, I’ll never know.

He was shot by a German sniper in a small French village in the countryside someplace. They found all the letters from his wife bundled carefully in his rations tin and returned them to her, for they were unable to retrieve his body.

Sometimes, often late at night when I can’t sleep, I wonder. Did some kind French person give Sven Andersson a burial? Was his body tossed on a pile someplace, just another anonymous person who didn’t really matter in the end? Or was the village abandoned and he was left to rot where he lay, for his bones to be found a hundred years later?

I don’t know why such gloomy thoughts are occupying my mind today. For some reason or another, I just can’t find any pep today.

Our new First Lady Florence Harding, who is five years her husband’s senior (and was a divorcée when they met) looked terribly distinguished sitting next to Mrs Wilson in the motor car.

I don’t care much for her personal style – the velvet neckbands she favors look rather like something Queen Victoria of England would have worn, but I suppose there is no call for frippery in the White House. It is said that she exerts a great deal of influence over her husband, and some newspapers have even joked that she will be the true president.

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