Carrie Fulton Phillips
February 20, 2012 by staff
Carrie Fulton Phillips, Carrie Phillips (b. Caroline Fulton on September 22, 1873, near Bucyrus, Ohio – d. February 3, 1960, Marion, Ohio) was the mistress of Warren G. Harding, 29th President of the United States. Young Carrie Fulton matured into a great beauty, one that epitomized the Gibson Girl beauty so popular at the time. Her relationship with then Senator Warren G. Harding was kept secret from the public during its time and for decades after. The affair ended when Phillips blackmailed Harding at the time he became President.
Carrie Fulton Phillips holds the infamous distinction of being the only woman in United States history known to have successfully blackmailed a major political party, by virtue of her long-term relationship with Senator (later President) Warren G. Harding.
She married James Phillips, and the couple moved to Marion where Phillips was co-proprietor of the Uhler-Phillips Company, one of Marion’s leading dry goods establishments. The couple quickly rose through the ranks of local society, in large part due to Carrie’s charm and great beauty. Among Mrs. Phillips’s friends and confidants was Florence Harding, wife of the owner and publisher of the city’s leading newspaper, The Marion Star.
James and Carrie had two children: a daughter Isabel, and son James, Jr. James Phillips, Jr. died while still a toddler, and it was at this time of grief that Mrs. Phillips and Mr. Harding grew close, despite their respective marriages and friendships. The Phillipses and the Hardings undertook tours of Europe together. All the while Carrie Phillips and Harding carried on their intimate relationship.
Once the affair came to light, Florence Harding was furious and felt betrayed. This was not the first time that her husband had entered into an affair with a woman who she considered a friend. Phillips, too, was displeased with his wife’s conduct. To separate the two and to allow time for the marriages to be reconciled, Phillips took his family and returned to Europe, leaving the Hardings to tough it out in Marion. While in Germany, Carrie Phillips became immersed in German culture, and refused to return to the United States at the tour’s end, insisting she and their daughter stay behind. James Phillips returned to the United States alone.
While Carrie Phillips was still in Europe, Harding ran for the United States Senate. As Europe moved closer to the brink of war, Carrie Phillips begrudgingly returned to the States. Her passion for Germany was very well known. At every opportunity, she pled Germany’s case. Once she returned to Marion, her affair with Harding reignited. Phillips threatened to expose the affair should Harding vote in favor of war with Germany, but did not follow through on this threat.
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