13 Trailblazing Facts About Kamala Harris

Senator Kamala Harris speaking at Howard University in January 2019 after announcing her candidacy for president
Senator Kamala Harris speaking at Howard University in January 2019 after announcing her candidacy for president
Al Drago/Getty Images

Kamala Harris, who announced her entry into the 2020 presidential race on January 21, 2019, is known as a trailblazer. When she was first sworn in as a Democratic senator from California in 2017, she became only the second African-American woman to serve in the Senate, as well as the first-ever person of South Asian descent to serve. But being a pioneer isn’t new for her. The child of immigrants from Jamaica and India, Harris was also the first woman elected as District Attorney of San Francisco and the first woman, the first African-American, and the first person of South Asian descent to become Attorney General of California. Those are just a few of her inspiring firsts—read on for more facts about Harris.

1. Her name is just divine.

Her full name is Kamala (pronounced “comma-la”) Devi Harris. Her mother, Shyamala, a Hindu, gave her daughters names taken from Hindu mythology in part to connect her children to their heritage. “A culture that worships goddesses produces strong women,” Shyamala told the Los Angeles Times in 2004.

Kamalā is one of many Sanskrit words meaning lotus, as well as a name for Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and good fortune. Harris’s middle name, Devi, is a Sanskrit word used within Hinduism as the general term for a goddess. (Shyamala named her second daughter Maya Lakshmi, continuing the goddess trend.)

2. She comes from an impressive and international family.

Kamala Harris in 2010 after winning the nomination for Attorney General
Kamala Harris in 2010 after winning the nomination for Attorney General
Steve Rhodes, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Kamala Harris was born in Oakland, California to two ambitious graduate students—both immigrants. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was raised in southern India and completed her undergraduate education at the University of Delhi at just 19, at which point she came to the U.S. to pursue a doctorate in endocrinology at the University of California, Berkeley. Shyamala was supposed to complete her studies and then return to India for an arranged marriage, but instead, she became active in the American civil rights movement. There she met Donald Harris, a Jamaican native who also came to the United States as a young adult to pursue doctoral work at Berkeley in economics. Shyamala ended up marrying Donald, and stayed in the U.S. By marrying for love outside her Brahmin caste—and outside her culture entirely—Shyamala made a bold choice.

But Shyamala had been raised to act on her conscience. Her father, P.V. Gopalan, was active in the Indian independence movement and then became a high-ranking civil servant who fought corruption and acted as an adviser to newly independent nations, including Zambia. Her mother, Rajam Gopalan, had been betrothed at 12 and married at 16, but grew into a self-assured woman who used her position as an upper-caste wife to advocate for less advantaged women. During the 1940s, Rajam would drive around in her Volkswagen bug with a bullhorn, telling poor women how to access birth control. “My grandfather would joke that her community activism would be the end of his career,” Harris wrote in her book, Smart on Crime. “That never stopped her.”

3. She grew up in the civil rights movement.

Harris likes to say she grew up with “a stroller-eye view of the civil rights movement.” Her parents would bring her to rallies and demonstrations around the Bay Area, and she has written that her “earliest memories are of a sea of legs marching around the streets and the sounds of shouting.”

Harris’s parents divorced when she was seven, after which she and her sister spent most of their time with their mother in an apartment in the flatlands area of Berkeley, a working-class neighborhood that was primarily African-American. Even as a small child, Harris picked up the language of the movement. Shyamala liked to recount the time her eldest daughter, then a toddler, was fussing and, when asked what she wanted, cried out, “Fweedom!”

4. She had a multicultural childhood.

Harris also grew up steeped in multiple rich cultures. “I grew up with a strong Indian culture, and I was raised in a black community,” Harris told AsianWeek in 2003. “All my friends were black and we got together and cooked Indian food and painted henna on our hands, and I never felt uncomfortable with my cultural background.” The two Harris girls, Kamala and Maya, sang in the choir at a black Baptist church and attended a Hindu temple with their mother.

They also had the chance to travel extensively. The sisters traveled to Jamaica with their father to visit his family and, every two years, went to India with Shyamala.“When Kamala was in first grade,” Shyamala toldSan Francisco Magazine, “one of her teachers said to me, ‘You know, your child has a great imagination. Every time we talk about someplace in the world she says, “Oh, I’ve been there.’ So I told her, ‘Well, she has been there!’ India, England, the Caribbean, Africa—she had been there.”

Harris also spent time living in Canada. When she was in her early teens, her mother, by then a scientist studying breast cancer, took a position doing research at Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, Quebec, and teaching at McGill University. Harris completed high school in Montreal and returned to the U.S. for college, attending Howard University in Washington, D.C. Her father had become an economics professor at Stanford, and Harris followed in his footsteps by majoring in economics, adding a double major in political science.

5. She first got a taste of politics during college.

Harris’s first-ever campaign was for freshman class representative of the liberal arts student council at Howard University. Harris also sharpened her public speaking skills on Howard’s debate team and joined the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, all while organizing mentor programs for minority youths and demonstrating against apartheid. “The thing that Howard taught me is that you can do any collection of things, and not one thing to the exclusion of the other,” Harris said in 2016. “You could be homecoming queen and valedictorian. There are no false choices at Howard.”

With Howard located in the nation’s capital, Harris explored a number of potential paths for public service while in college, working as a tour guide at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, serving as a press aide at the Federal Trade Commission, and interning for Senator Alan Cranston of her home state of California.

6. She’s wanted to be a lawyer since she was a child.

Senator Kamala Harris during Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings in 2018
Senator Kamala Harris during Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings in 2018
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Growing up, Harris always wanted to be a lawyer. “They were the heroes growing up,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009. “They were the architects of the civil rights movement. I thought that that was the way you do good things and serve and achieve justice. It was pretty simple.” In particular, she cites Constance Baker Motley, Charles Hamilton Houston, and Thurgood Marshall as her role models.

After completing her undergraduate education at Howard, Harris returned to California for law school, attending the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. But rather than take up civil rights litigation or criminal defense work, Harris decided to become a prosecutor—a choice she’s said “surprised” her family members. But growing up in the Bay Area, she had seen the impact of law enforcement on disadvantaged populations and wanted to use the law to protect the vulnerable and correct imbalances of power. Being a prosecutor gave Harris more power to change the criminal justice system from within—choosing who to prosecute, what crimes to focus on, and which people to present with options for rehabilitation rather than prison.

As a prosecutor, Harris felt that she could counter racially based narratives about crime among other prosecutors. Talking to The New York Times, she recalled hearing colleagues discuss whether to charge certain defendants as members of a gang, which would have made their punishment more severe. “They were talking about how these young people were dressed, what corner they were hanging out on and the music they were listening to,” Harris said. “I remember saying: ‘Hey, guys, you know what? Members of my family dress that way. I grew up with people who live on that corner. […] I still have a tape of that kind of music in my car.’”

Harris was also motivated by a desire to advocate for victims of abuse. While attending high school in Montreal, she realized that a friend was being sexually abused by her father; Harris invited the girl to live with their family, with Shyamala’s blessing. Seeing that friend’s experience was one reason Harris became a prosecutor. “Some of the most voiceless in the community, the most vulnerable, the most powerless, are victims of crime,” she told the Chronicle, “and I wanted to be a voice for them.”

7. As a prosecutor, she stood up for women and children.

After graduating with her law degree in 1989, Harris soon passed the bar (though she failed the first time). In 1990, she took a job as a prosecutor with Alameda County in northern California. She specialized in child sex abuse trials and domestic violence cases, using her power as a prosecutor against those who hurt the vulnerable. She told The New York Times in 2016, “When I was prosecuting child molestation cases, I will tell you, I was as close to a vigilante as you can get.”

In 1998, Harris moved to the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, where she headed the career criminals unit, then transferred to the City Attorney’s office, where she led the Family and Children Services division. In 2003, she ran for the office of San Francisco’s District Attorney, winning the election to become the first-ever female DA in San Francisco and the first-ever African-American DA in the state. As district attorney, she continued to go after abusers in court.

But Harris didn’t just show up for women and children in the courtroom. She helped develop a program with the San Francisco Department of Public Health to help emergency rooms spot evidence of child sexual abuse, and she co-founded the Coalition to End the Exploitation of Kids. She pushed for legislation to strengthen laws on the sexual exploitation of minors, and she worked to get San Francisco its first safe house for children escaping from sex work. Harris used her influence in creative ways to support those facing abuse—and punish those perpetrating it.

8. She sticks to her principles, even when she gets flack.

During her campaign for San Francisco District Attorney, Harris pledged not to seek the death penalty in her cases—a popular stance in liberal San Francisco. But just a few months after she took office, a young police officer named Isaac Espinoza was shot and killed while on duty. Days later, Harris announced that she would not be seeking the death penalty for the perpetrator but would instead pursue life in prison without the possibility of parole. The police union was outraged, as were Espinoza’s family members and a number of prominent California politicians. At Espinoza’s funeral, Senator Dianne Feinstein, who had formerly served as mayor of San Francisco, stood up and declared, “This is not only the definition of tragedy, it’s the special circumstance called for by the death penalty law”—the church full of mourners cheered.

Despite the blowback, Harris stood firm in her decision not to seek capital punishment, which she has argued is no deterrent to crime. In 2007, Espinoza’s killer was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life without parole; Harris spent much of her two terms as DA rebuilding her relationship with law enforcement.

9. She has innovative ways of dealing with crime.

In 2005, as district attorney, Harris launched Back on Track [PDF], a program designed to reduce recidivism by offering nonviolent, low-level drug-trafficking defendants job training, life skill-building, and the chance to avoid prison. Back on Track was highly successful: Two years after it launched, just 10% of graduates from the program had reoffended, versus the normal 53% for drug offenders in California. Plus, the program is cheaper than prison.

“I reject the false choice that you either are soft on crime or tough on crime,” she has said, insisting instead that we must be “smart on crime.” Her approach to criminal justice emphasizes preventing crime rather than reacting to it, and rehabilitating offenders rather than considering them lost.

In that spirit, she focused on truancy among elementary schoolers after discovering that 94% of murder victims under age 25 in San Francisco were high-school dropouts. Students who are chronically absent in elementary school are more likely to drop out of high school, and high-school dropouts are more likely to end up in jail or dead by age 35, so Harris began developing programs to help parents improve their children’s school attendance, with the threat of criminal prosecution for parents whose children were habitually absent and who did not respond to other methods of intervention.

10. She’s a pioneer.

In 2010, Harris ran for Attorney General of California, winning the election to become the state’s first woman, first African-American, and first person of South Asian descent to hold the office. During her time in office, she was a trailblazer in other ways as well, in particular with her attention to technology’s potential for victimization.

In 2012, she sent out notices to app makers reminding them of California privacy laws and warning them her office would pursue penalties should they fail to comply. Harris’s office also prosecuted a San Diego man, Kevin Bollaert, for operating a pair of websites: one inviting people to post “revenge porn” and another that charged those whose photos had been posted to have them removed. In 2015, Bollaert was found guilty on 21 counts of identity theft and six of extortion, and sentenced to 18 years in prison, marking the first time a “revenge porn” site operator had been convicted in California.

Harris made clear her office would take such cases seriously. She told Marie Claire, “This case removes any ambiguity about what's against the law. It also makes clear that a computer can be as lethal as a weapon. Anyone sitting at home with the anonymity of a laptop should be very clear that that will not immunize them from arrest, prosecution, and prison.” Harris’s office also set up a web platform about cyber exploitation, detailing the laws governing it and listing resources for victims.

11. She played hardball with the banks.

In her first year as California’s Attorney General, Harris played hardball during a multi-state suit against five major banks accused of improper foreclosure practices during the mortgage crisis. She pulled out of early negotiations, rejecting a multi-state deal that she felt brought too little money to California and protected the banks from prosecution for their actions, despite pressure from the Obama administration to accept those terms. “I took an oath to represent California, and that’s what I was doing,” Harris told The New York Times. “It was about making sure that Californians got what they needed.” Afraid she was jeopardizing the settlement, some pressured Harris to accept the initial terms. “The Los Angeles Times had an editorial saying I should take the deal,” she told San Francisco Magazine. “I got calls from elected leaders in California saying, ‘I hope you know what you’re doing.’”

Ultimately, she triumphed. Harris and her team secured $20 billion in mortgage relief for Californians, as well as the right to levy financial penalties if the banks failed to fulfill their promises in the deal.

12. She loves to cook and advocates self-care.

Harris has a stress-filled life that requires high levels of energy and commitment. How does she cope? “In order to find balance, I feel very strongly about two things in particular in terms of routine. Work out, and eat well,” she said in a 2016 interview.

She works out every morning, watching MTV and VH1 while she uses the treadmill, or going to SoulCycle. “I love SoulCycle,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s like going to the club.” She tells all the young women she mentors that “You’ve got to work out,” insisting, “It has nothing to do with your weight. It's about your mind.”

Harris also advocates eating well, and enjoying your food. She loves cooking, and since she married attorney Doug Emhoff in 2014, she likes to cook with him. “[W]e have fun making meals,” she told Essence. “He's my sous chef and has these goggles that he puts on when chopping onions. It's hilarious.” When things get “really stressful” and she doesn’t have time to cook, she reads recipes to relax.

13. She may be the first, but she doesn’t want to be the last.

Kamala Harris speaking onstage in 2014
Kamala Harris speaking onstage in 2014
Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Variety

Despite her hectic schedule, Harris has made a point to mentor young women. One mentee, Iyahna Smith, now a senior at Howard University, met Harris when she was a high school student in San Francisco. Smith told Essence, “I was part of College Track, a program that provides students from disadvantaged backgrounds an opportunity to go to school. I gave a speech, and during it I mentioned my desire to go to Howard. Afterward, Ms. Harris came up to me, told me it was her alma mater and said she wanted to help.” Harris assisted Smith with her college essays, connected her with internships, and sends her cards with notes of encouragement. “It's just incredible that someone who is so busy and has so much responsibility has been so involved,” Smith said.

For Harris, her commitment to helping others achieve their potential is a value she learned from her mother, who was committed to mentoring her graduate students, simultaneously supporting them and demanding their very best. Harris’s sister Maya said of their mother, “Until her dying day she never lost sight of this notion that if you’ve been able to walk through doors, you don’t just leave the doors open. You bring others along.” Both sisters were inspired by Shyamala’s example. Harris has repeatedly said that her motto is “A saying my mother had, ‘You may be the first, but make sure you're not the last.’”

A version of this article first ran in 2017.

8 Facts About Niccolò Machiavelli

iStock/dcerbino
iStock/dcerbino

Niccolò Machiavelli is arguably the most influential political thinker from the Italian Renaissance. Following the publication of his political theory masterwork The Prince in 1532, his name became synonymous with ruthless political machinations. But was this Florentine philosopher really that bad?

1. Niccolò Machiavelli had a front-row seat to Renaissance power struggles.

Machiavelli was born in 1469 in the independent Republic of Florence. Long before he became known as the first modern political theorist (not to mention an inspiration for House of Cards), Machiavelli worked as a diplomat in the service of the Florentine government. In 1498, at only 29 years old, he was appointed as the head of the Second Chancery, which put him in control of the city's foreign relations. His number-one concern was the potential return of the Medici family—the most infamous power brokers in Renaissance Italy—who had been ousted from Florence in 1494. Machiavelli oversaw the recruitment and training of an official militia to keep them at bay, but his army was no match for the Medici, who were supported by Rome's papal militia. When the Medici retook Florence in 1512, their first order of business was to fire—and, just for the heck of it, torture—Machiavelli.

2. Niccolò Machiavelli wrote The Prince to regain his lost status.

As a diplomat and a scholar in an age of constant warfare, Machiavelli observed and absorbed the rules of the political game. After he lost his job as a diplomat (and even served a short time in jail), he turned to scholarship, poring over the Latin texts of ancient Roman political philosophers for inspiration. By the end of 1513, he had completed the first version of what would become his masterwork: The Prince, a handbook for the power-hungry. The book offered tips to rising politicians for seizing power, and advice to incumbent princes for keeping it.

Ironically, Machiavelli dedicated the book to the Medici, hoping it would bring him back into their good graces. It remains unclear whether it was ever read by its intended audience, and Machiavelli never got to see The Prince go viral. It was published in 1532, five years after its author's death.

3. Niccolò Machiavelli compared the need for love to the value of fear.

One of The Prince’s primary lessons was that leaders must always try to strike a balance between seeking the love of their subordinates and inspiring fear. If a leader is too soft or kind, the people may become unruly; too cruel, and they might rebel. Machiavelli had a clear preference. "Since love and fear can hardly exist together,” he wrote, “if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved."

4. The Prince’s ruthlessness made it notorious. 

Machiavelli’s political thesis became notorious because it focused almost entirely on helping rulers get what they want at whatever cost—in other words, the end always justified the means. Other political thinkers, while acknowledging Machiavelli’s brilliance, were appalled by his mercenary take on statesmanship. In the 18th century, French essayist Denis Diderot described Machiavelli's work as "abhorrent" and summed up The Prince as "the art of tyranny." Friedrich Schiller, a proponent of liberal democracy, referred to The Prince as an unwitting satire of the kind of monarchical rule it supposedly espouses (“a terrible satire against princes”). David Hume, the Scottish polymath and inveterate skeptic, called Machiavelli "a great genius" whose reasoning is "extremely defective.” Wrote Hume, "There scarcely is any maxim in his Prince which subsequent experience has not entirely refuted.”

But 20th-century British philosopher Bertrand Russell disagreed, saying that Niccolò Machiavelli was merely being honest on a subject that most preferred with a good sugarcoating. “Much of the conventional obloquy that attaches itself to his name, is due to the indignation of hypocrites,” Russell wrote [PDF], “who hate the frank avowal of evil-doing.”

5. Shakespeare called villains Machiavels.

Machiavelli’s notoriety spread so quickly that by the 16th century his name had found its way into the English language as an epithet for crookedness. In Elizabethan theatre, it came to denote a dramatic type: An incorrigible schemer driven by greed and unbridled ambition. In the prologue for The Jew of Malta, playwright Christopher Marlowe introduces his villain as “a sound Machiavill.” Even William Shakespeare used the term as a derogatory shorthand. “Am I politic? Am I subtle? Am I a Machiavel?” one character in The Merry Wives of Windsor asks rhetorically, before adding an indignant, “No!”

6. The Prince was banned by the pope.

When Machiavelli was out of a job, he did what most Renaissance thinkers did: He found a patron. Pope Clement VII, a Medici who had been elected in 1523, was happy to support the scholar. The pope even commissioned one of Machiavelli’s longest works, the Florentine Histories, which Machiavelli presented in 1526. But after the posthumous publication of The Prince in 1532, the papacy’s attitude toward Machiavelli’s work chilled. When Pope Paul IV established Rome's first Index of Forbidden Books in 1557, he made sure to include The Prince for its promulgation of dishonesty and dirty politics. (Machiavelli’s passion for classical writers and their pagan culture didn’t appeal to Pope Paul, either [PDF].)

7. Niccolò Machiavelli collaborated with Leonardo da Vinci.

In 1503, when Machiavelli was struggling to fortify Florence against its enemies, he turned to the ultimate Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci.

According to a 1939 biography of Leonardo, the two "seem to have become intimate" when they met in Florence. Machiavelli used his power to procure commissions for Leonardo and even appointed him Florence's military engineer between 1502 and 1503. Machiavelli was hoping to harness Leonardo’s ingenuity to capture Pisa, a fledgling city-state which Florentine leaders had been eager to subdue for decades. As expected, Leonardo came up with a revolutionary plan. He contrived a system of dams that would block off one of Pisa’s main waterways, which could have brought Pisa to the brink of a drought and given Machiavelli all the leverage he could have asked for. But the plan failed. The dam system ended up interrupting Florence's own agriculture, and so the government terminated the project. Leonardo left his post after only eight months.

Some scholars believe that the encounter with Leonardo left a deep mark on Machiavelli’s political thinking. They point to Machiavelli’s repeated emphasis on the power of technological innovation to decide a war, a view which they believe Leonardo had inspired. Machiavelli’s writing is rife with idiosyncratic expressions that seem to have almost been lifted from Leonardo's notebooks.

8. Niccolò Machiavelli actually believed in a just government.

Scholar Erica Benner argues that, despite his reputation, Machiavelli wasn’t amoral. Although The Prince openly encouraged politicians to take and offer bribes, cheat, threaten, and even kill if necessary, Machiavelli knew that even rulers had to obey some sense of justice, Benner wrote in The Guardian. He recognized that the race for power comes with very few scruples, but he also recognized that without respect for justice, society falls into chaos.

This article was originally published in 2018.

8 Things You Might Not Know About Warren G. Harding

Twenty-ninth president Warren G. Harding (1865-1923) was two years into his first term when a (probable) heart attack put an abrupt end to both his life and his presidency. (Vice-president Calvin Coolidge stepped in and was then elected in 1924.) But just because his time as president was brief doesn't mean Harding isn’t deserving of closer examination. Take a look at some facts about his upbringing, his office controversies, and how a big family secret was revealed nearly a century after his death.

  1. Warren G. Harding was a newspaper reporter before he was a politician.

Warren G. Harding was born in a farming community near Blooming Grove, Ohio, on November 2, 1865. He was the oldest of eight children. Raised on physical labor, he displayed an interest and aptitude for writing and journalism while in college, later performing a variety of tasks for the Marion Mirror, a Democratic-leaning newspaper that was in contrast to the Harding family’s Republican politics. In 1884, a competing paper, the Marion Daily Star, was put up for sale; some friends of Harding’s financed its acquisition and soon, Harding was running it as he saw fit. The paper’s popularity made Harding a name in his community—one that would eventually graduate to local, then national, politics. Yet he remained involved in the Star, never ceding his financial interest in the paper until two months before his death in August 1923.

  1. Warren G. Harding could get feisty.

Harding’s temperament was even-keeled during his political career, but that doesn't mean he was a pushover. While editing the Star, Harding was the target of personal attacks by the editor of a competing newspaper, the Independent. Eventually, he had his fill of the vitriol, and Harding exploded, telling the man he would “mop up the street” with him if the alleged slander didn’t stop ("and then," Harding continued, "I’ll go over and mop up your office with what remains").

  1. Harding's presidential nomination was a compromise.

Harding was elected to the Ohio State Senate in 1899 before taking office as lieutenant governor from 1904 to 1906. From 1915 to 1921, he served in the U.S. Senate. While Harding was well-liked, his candidacy was the result of a deadlock: Republicans couldn’t decide on a candidate, so Harding was chosen as a compromise. Along with running mate Coolidge, he defeated Democratic candidate James Cox by winning 60 percent of the popular vote and 76 percent of the Electoral College. Harding’s 1920 victory remains the largest popular vote margin since the 1820s.

  1. Harding got a celebrity endorsement when he ran for president.

Decades before actors and public figures openly endorsed presidential candidates, Harding’s campaign was the beneficiary of support from Al Jolson, the performer who was among the most popular entertainers of the 1920s. Jolson, a devoted Republican, agreed to visit Harding’s home in Marion, Ohio—where the candidate was making speeches from his front porch—and led a parade down the block. Jolson then sang “Harding You’re the Man for Us,” a hastily-prepared melody that cemented his backing of the politician. Actors Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford also made the trek to rally behind Harding.

  1. Warren G. Harding's presidency was marked by scandal.

Though Harding himself was never implicated in any wrongdoing, his cabinet was embroiled in controversy. Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall was found to have leased public land to oil companies in exchange for gifts in the Teapot Dome Scandal. He spent a little under a year in prison. Attorney General Harry Daugherty was accused of selling liquor permits during Prohibition. Several other officials took bribes. “I have no trouble with my enemies,” Harding once said. “But my damn friends ... they’re the ones who keep me walking the floor nights.”

  1. Harding named his penis "Jerry."

Harding married his wife Florence in 1891, but he was far from faithful: He had two affairs that we know of. In 2014, letters between Harding and one of his mistresses that had been sealed for 50 years were finally released by the Library of Congress. In them, Harding expressed his affection for his mistress, Carrie Fulton Phillips. Written on official Senate stationary, the letters, dated between 1910 and 1920, offer a glimpse into his proclivities. He referred to his penis as “Jerry,” a code word in case a third party read the correspondence, and elaborated on his fantasies involving her “pillowing breasts.” An example:

"Jerry came and will not go, says he loves you, that you are the only, only love worthwhile in all this world, and I must tell you so and a score or more of other fond things he suggests, but I spare you. You must not be annoyed. He is so utterly devoted that he only exists to give you all."

When he won the Republication nomination in 1920, the party allegedly paid Phillips as much as $25,000 (or $297,000 today) to remain quiet about the affair.

  1. His Prohibition stance didn't keep him from drinking.

As a senator, Harding supported the 18th Amendment prohibiting the sale and transportation of alcohol, an era that lasted from 1920 to 1933. He agreed to back the Anti-Saloon League, which rallied against imbibing, in exchange for support during his elections. But according to long-time White House employee Elizabeth Jaffray, with his friends Harding had no problem downing scotch and soda in the White House.

  1. The Harding DNA unlocked a family secret.

Nearly a century following Harding’s sudden death due to a heart attack in August 1923, a DNA test added another bit of salacious detail to the president’s sex life. In 1927, one of his mistresses, Nan Britton, claimed Harding fathered her child a year before his Presidential campaign. Harding’s political allies chastised her and cast doubts over her credibility, but in 2015, DNA sampled from relatives of Harding and Britton’s grandson confirmed she was telling the truth. Their daughter, Elizabeth Ann Blaesing, died in 2005. She was Harding’s only child.

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