From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
April 12, 1945 – January 20, 1953
January 20, 1945 – April 12, 1945
||February 13, 1885
Independence, Missouri, USA
||October 18, 1982 (aged 97)
Independence, Missouri, USA
Harry S. Truman
First Lady of the United States
Elizabeth Virginia Wallace Truman (February
13, 1885 – October 18, 1982), widely known as Bess
Truman, was the wife of Harry
S. Truman and First
Lady of the United States from
1945 to 1953.
Elizabeth Virginia Wallace was born to David Willock Wallace (1860-1903) and
his wife the former Margaret Elizabeth Gates (1862-1952) inIndependence,
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
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
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.
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, born February 17, 1924.
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. UponF.D.R.'s
death on April 12, 1945 Harry Truman took the presidential oath of office.
Bess Truman kept her composure and became the new First Lady.
Lady of the United States
Truman 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."
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
The contrast with Truman's predecessor Eleanor
Roosevelt was marked. Unlike
her, Truman 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.
Truman'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.
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 Truman
thought she was going to die (her husband was quoted as saying the tumor was
the size of a basketball,
but it was benign).
Her husband died in 1972 and Truman continued to live quietly, enjoying visits
from Margaret and her husband Clifton Daniel along with their four sons. At
the time of her husband's death at age 88, she was 87 making them the oldest
couple having occupied the White House at that time. Truman agreed to be the
honorary chairman for the reelection campaign of Sen. Thomas
She died on October 18, 1982 from congestive
heart failure; 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. The only close relative of a US president to live longer than
Bess Truman was John
F. Kennedy's mother Rose
Fitzgerald Kennedy, who died aged 104 in 1995.