Bess Truman

Bess Truman
First Lady of the United States
In office
April 12, 1945 – January 20, 1953
Preceded by Eleanor Roosevelt
Succeeded by Mamie Eisenhower
Second Lady of the United States
In office
January 20, 1945 – April 12, 1945
Preceded by Ilo Wallace
Succeeded by Jane Barkley
Personal details
Born February 13, 1885(1885-02-13)
Independence, Missouri, USA
Died October 18, 1982(1982-10-18) (aged 97)
Independence, Missouri, USA
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Harry S. Truman
Children Margaret (1924-2008)
Occupation First Lady of the United States

Bess Truman (née Elizabeth Virginia Wallace) (February 13, 1885 – October 18, 1982), was the wife of Harry S. Truman and First Lady of the United States from 1945 to 1953.


Early life

Elizabeth Virginia Wallace was born to David Willock Wallace (1860-1903) and his wife, the former Margaret Elizabeth Gates (1862-1952), in Independence, Missouri, and was known as Bessie during her childhood. She was the eldest of four; three brothers: Frank Gates Wallace, (4 March 1887 - 12 August 1960), George Porterfield Wallace, (1 May 1892 - 24 May 1963), David Frederick Wallace, (7 January 1900 - 30 September 1957).

Harry Truman, whose family moved to town in 1890, always kept his first impression of when he saw her at Sunday school: "Golden curls" and "the most beautiful blue eyes." A relative said, "there never was but one girl in the world" for him. They attended the same schools from fifth grade through high school.

After graduating from William Chrisman High School (then known as Independence High School) she studied at Miss Barstow's Finishing School for Girls in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1903 her father committed suicide and she returned to Independence to be with her mother.

Marriage and family

Bess and Harry's wedding day.

The First World War altered the Trumans' steady courtship. Lieutenant Truman proposed and they were engaged before he left for France in 1918. They were married on June 28, 1919 and lived in her mother's home. They had one daughter, Margaret Truman (February 17, 1924 — January 29, 2008) at a relatively late age (the Trumans were 39 and 40 when she was born)

As Harry Truman became active in politics Bess Truman traveled with him, sharing his platform appearances as the public had come to expect of a candidate's wife. His election to the Senate in 1934 took the family to Washington, D.C. He was elected Vice President in 1944. Upon F.D.R.'s death on April 12, 1945, Harry Truman took the presidential oath of office and Bess Truman became the new First Lady.

First Lady of the United States

Bess found the White House's lack of privacy distasteful. As her husband put it later, she was "not especially interested" in the "formalities and pomp or the artificiality which, as we had learned..., inevitably surround the family of the President Harry Truman." Though she steadfastly fulfilled the social obligations of her position, she did only what she thought was necessary. When the White House was rebuilt during Truman's second term, the family lived in Blair House and kept their social life to a minimum. In most years of her husband's presidency Mrs. Truman did not live in Washington other than during the social season when her presence was expected.

The contrast with Bess's politically and socially outspoken predecessor Eleanor Roosevelt was marked. Unlike her, Bess held only one press conference after many requests from the mostly female press corps assigned to her. The press conference consisted of written questions in advance and the written replies were mostly monosyllabic along with many no comments. Bess's response to whether she wanted her daughter Margaret to become President was "most definitely not." Her reply to what she wanted to do after her husband left office was "return to Independence" although she had briefly entertained the thought of living in Washington after 1953.

Death and Longevity

In 1953 the Trumans went back to Independence and the family home at 219 North Delaware Street, where the former president worked on building his library and writing his memoirs. Following a 1959 mastectomy Bess thought she was going to die (her husband was quoted as saying the tumor was the size of a basketball, but it was benign).

When President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law in 1965, the Trumans were the first to be given its benefits.

At the time of her husband's death in 1972 at age 88, she was 87 making them the oldest couple having occupied the White House at that time. Bess agreed to be the honorary chairman for the reelection campaign of Sen. Thomas Eagleton (D-Missouri).

Bess continued to live quietly in Independence for the last decade of her life, being visited by her daughter and grandchildren. She died October 18, 1982, from congestive heart failure at the age of 97; a private funeral service was held October 21, afterwards she was buried beside her husband in the courtyard of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Aged 97 years at her death she remains the longest lived First Lady in United States history. There were only two close relatives of a US president to live longer than Bess Truman. They were James Madison's mother, Nelly Conway Madison, who died in 1829 at the age of 98, and John F. Kennedy's mother, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, who died aged 104 in 1995.


External links

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Ilo Wallace
Second Lady of the United States
Succeeded by
Jane Barkley
Preceded by
Eleanor Roosevelt
First Lady of the United States
Succeeded by
Mamie Eisenhower

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Bess Truman — (* 13. Februar 1885 in Independence, Missouri; † 18. Oktober 1982 ebenda; eigentlich Elizabeth Virginia Wallace Truman) war die Ehefrau des US Präsidenten Harry S. Truman und die First Lady der USA von …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Bess Truman — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Truman …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Bess — may refer to:People *Elizabeth I (1533 1603), also known as Good Queen Bess *Elizabeth Bess Truman (1885 1920), First Lady of the United States and wife of Harry S. Truman *Elizabeth Raleigh (1565 1647), aka Bess or Elizabeth Throgmorton, wife of …   Wikipedia

  • Truman (surname) — Truman is a surname, and may refer to* Bess Truman, wife of the US president * Sir Benjamin Truman, English entrepreneur and brewer * Benjamin C. Truman, American journalist and author * Christine Truman, British tennis player * David Truman,… …   Wikipedia

  • Truman — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Bess Truman (1885–1982), US amerikanische First Lady Christine Truman (* 1941), britische Tennisspielerin Harry R. Truman (1896–1980), US amerikanischer Gastwirt, der beim Ausbruch des Mount St. Helens… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Truman, Bess — ▪ American first lady née  Elizabeth Virginia Wallace  born February 13, 1885, Independence, Missouri, U.S. died October 18, 1982, Independence, Missouri  American first lady (1945–53), the wife of Harry S. Truman (Truman, Harry S.), 33rd… …   Universalium

  • Truman, Harry S. — born May 8, 1884, Lamar, Mo., U.S. died Dec. 26, 1972, Kansas City, Mo. 33rd president of the U.S. (1945–53). He worked at various jobs before serving with distinction in World War I. He became a partner in a Kansas City haberdashery; when the… …   Universalium

  • Truman, Harry S. — (1884 1972)    34th vice president and 30th president of the United States. Harry S. Truman was born in Lamar, Missouri. The “S” was added to his name to appease both paternal and maternal grandfathers, Anderson Shippe Truman and Solomon Young.… …   Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era

  • Truman, Margaret — ▪ 2009 Mary Margaret Truman Daniel        American writer born Feb. 17, 1924, Independence, Mo. died Jan. 29, 2008, Chicago, Ill. was the illustrious only daughter of U.S. Pres. Harry S. Truman and first lady Bess Truman and carved a literary… …   Universalium

  • Truman — People with the surname Truman= The surname Truman is usually English in origin. The name can be traced back to the Devon region of England. In some cases it might refer to the German form Trumann.:See Truman (surname), Harry Truman… …   Wikipedia

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