Bess Truman

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Bess Truman
Bess in 1946
First Lady of the United States
In role
April 12, 1945 – January 20, 1953
PresidentHarry S. Truman
Preceded byEleanor Roosevelt
Succeeded byMamie Eisenhower
Second Lady of the United States
In role
January 20, 1945 – April 12, 1945
Preceded byIlo Wallace
Succeeded byJane Hadley Barkley (1949)
Personal details
Elizabeth Virginia Wallace

(1885-02-13)February 13, 1885
Independence, Missouri, U.S.
DiedOctober 18, 1982(1982-10-18) (aged 97)
Independence, Missouri, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Harry S. Truman (1919—1972, his death)
ChildrenMargaret (1924-2008)
OccupationFirst Lady of the United States

Elizabeth Virginia Truman (née Wallace; February 13, 1885—October 18, 1982) was the First Lady of the United States from April 12, 1945 to January 20, 1953 as the wife of the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman. She had also served as Second Lady of the United States from January 1945 to April 1945 when her husband was 35th Vice President of the United States under Franklin Roosevelt.

Early life[change | change source]

Official image of Bess Truman

Her birthplace was Independence, Missouri, and her birth name was Elizabeth Virginia. Her parents were Margaret ("Madge") Gates and David Wallace. Her nickname was "Bessie." Harry Truman’s family came to live in Independence, Missouri in 1890. Elizabeth Virginia and Harry Truman attended the same school from fifth grade through high school. Once Truman remembered her childhood days, and described her as a girl with “golden curls” and “the most beautiful blue eyes.”

After completing her schooling, she studied in Miss Barstow's Finishing School for Girls in Kansas City, Missouri. Her father died in 1903. She returned to Independence, Missouri to live with her mother.

Marriage and family[change | change source]

By the outbreak of the First World War, Harry S Truman had become a Lieutenant. He proposed to her and she accepted. After their engagement, Lieutenant Truman left for the battlefields of France in 1918. After the War ended, they married on June 28, 1919. In 1924, their only daughter, Margaret Truman, was born. Before that, she had many miscarriages.

By this time, Harry Truman had become active in politics. Mrs. Truman always traveled with her and shared the public platform with her husband. Harry Truman became a member of the United States Senate in 1934. The Truman couple came to live in Washington, DC. In 1944, Harry Truman became the Vice President of the United States of America. When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, Harry Truman became the president of the United States. Elizabeth Virginia Wallace Truman became the First Lady.

First Lady of the United States[change | change source]

When Harry Truman became the President of the United States, Truman took the role of the First Lady. But, she felt the absence of privacy in the White House. She continued to attend to social functions, but to a minimum level.

Sometimes, people compare her with Eleanor Roosevelt, who was the First Lady before her. Mrs. Roosevelt was very active in the press. But, Mrs. Truman did give only one press conference. She got the questions in advance. Her replies were written replies. When one reporter asked her whether she wanted her daughter, Margaret, to become president. Her reply was: "most definitely not". To a question, she replied that after her husband’s retirement as president, she wanted to "return to Independence". However, once she had thought of living in Washington after 1953.

Later life[change | change source]

After the President retired, the Truman couple returned to Independence, Missouri, in 1953. Truman spent his time building his library. In 1959, Mrs. Truman underwent an operation. In 1972, her husband died. She continued to live a quiet and private life. Her daughter and son-in-law, Clifton Daniel, and their four sons, often visited her.

Bess Truman as first lady

She died in 1982. She lies buried beside her husband in the courtyard of Harry S Truman Library. She lived up to the age of 97 years, and at the time of her death, she was the longest-lived First Lady of the United States, setting a record, which still stands today.