Bess Truman


Elizabeth Virginia Wallace Truman


(1885 - 1982)

First Lady from April 12, 1945 to January 20, 1953



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 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.


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.

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 expected.

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 Eagleton (D-Missouri).

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.



Chart Comparing Presidential Powers 
of  America's Four United Republics - Click Here

United Colonies and States First Ladies
1774-1788


United Colonies Continental Congress
President
18th Century Term
Age
09/05/74 – 10/22/74
29
Mary Williams Middleton (1741- 1761) Deceased
Henry Middleton
10/22–26/74
n/a
05/20/ 75 - 05/24/75
30
05/25/75 – 07/01/76
28
United States Continental Congress
President
Term
Age
07/02/76 – 10/29/77
29
Eleanor Ball Laurens (1731- 1770) Deceased
Henry Laurens
11/01/77 – 12/09/78
n/a
Sarah Livingston Jay (1756-1802)
12/ 10/78 – 09/28/78
21
Martha Huntington (1738/39–1794)
09/29/79 – 02/28/81
41
United States in Congress Assembled
President
Term
Age
Martha Huntington (1738/39–1794)
03/01/81 – 07/06/81
42
07/10/81 – 11/04/81
25
Jane Contee Hanson (1726-1812)
11/05/81 - 11/03/82
55
11/03/82 - 11/02/83
46
Sarah Morris Mifflin (1747-1790)
11/03/83 - 11/02/84
36
11/20/84 - 11/19/85
46
11/23/85 – 06/06/86
38
Rebecca Call Gorham (1744-1812)
06/06/86 - 02/01/87
42
02/02/87 - 01/21/88
43
01/22/88 - 01/29/89
36

Constitution of 1787
First Ladies
President
Term
Age
April 30, 1789 – March 4, 1797
57
March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801
52
Martha Wayles Jefferson Deceased
September 6, 1782  (Aged 33)
n/a
March 4, 1809 – March 4, 1817
40
March 4, 1817 – March 4, 1825
48
March 4, 1825 – March 4, 1829
50
December 22, 1828 (aged 61)
n/a
February 5, 1819 (aged 35)
n/a
March 4, 1841 – April 4, 1841
65
April 4, 1841 – September 10, 1842
50
June 26, 1844 – March 4, 1845
23
March 4, 1845 – March 4, 1849
41
March 4, 1849 – July 9, 1850
60
July 9, 1850 – March 4, 1853
52
March 4, 1853 – March 4, 1857
46
n/a
n/a
March 4, 1861 – April 15, 1865
42
February 22, 1862 – May 10, 1865
April 15, 1865 – March 4, 1869
54
March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1877
43
March 4, 1877 – March 4, 1881
45
March 4, 1881 – September 19, 1881
48
January 12, 1880 (Aged 43)
n/a
June 2, 1886 – March 4, 1889
21
March 4, 1889 – October 25, 1892
56
June 2, 1886 – March 4, 1889
28
March 4, 1897 – September 14, 1901
49
September 14, 1901 – March 4, 1909
40
March 4, 1909 – March 4, 1913
47
March 4, 1913 – August 6, 1914
52
December 18, 1915 – March 4, 1921
43
March 4, 1921 – August 2, 1923
60
August 2, 1923 – March 4, 1929
44
March 4, 1929 – March 4, 1933
54
March 4, 1933 – April 12, 1945
48
April 12, 1945 – January 20, 1953
60
January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961
56
January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963
31
November 22, 1963 – January 20, 1969
50
January 20, 1969 – August 9, 1974
56
August 9, 1974 – January 20, 1977
56
January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981
49
January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989
59
January 20, 1989 – January 20, 1993
63
January 20, 1993 – January 20, 2001
45
January 20, 2001 – January 20, 2009
54
January 20, 2009 to date
45



By: Stanley Yavneh Klos

  • First United American Republic: United Colonies of North America: 13 British Colonies United in Congress was founded by 12 colonies on September 5th, 1774 (Georgia joined in 1775)  and governed through a British Colonial Continental Congress.  Peyton Randolph and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief;
  • Second United American Republic: The United States of America: 13 Independent States United in Congress was founded by 12 states on July 2nd, 1776 (New York abstained until July 8th), and governed through the United States Continental CongressJohn Hancock and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief; 
  • Third United American Republic: The United States of America: A Perpetual Union was founded by 13 States on March 1st, 1781, with the enactment of the first U.S. Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, and governed through the United States in Congress Assembled.  Samuel Huntington and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief; 
  • Fourth United American Republic: The United States of America: We the People  was formed by 11 states on March 4th, 1789 (North Carolina and Rhode Island joined in November 1789 and May 1790, respectively), with the enactment of the U.S. Constitution of 1787. The fourth and current United States Republic governs through  the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in Congress Assembled, the U.S. President and Commander-in-Chief, and the U.S. Supreme Court.  George Washington served as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief.




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