Bess Truman

First Lady of the United States from 1945 to 1953 / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Elizabeth Virginia Truman (née Wallace; February 13, 1885  October 18, 1982) was the wife of President Harry S. Truman and the First Lady of the United States from 1945 to 1953. She also served as the second lady of the United States from January to April 1945. At 97 years, 247 days, she remains the longest-lived first and second lady.

Quick facts: Bess Truman, First Lady of the United States,...
Bess Truman
Portrait, c.1940s
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
Vice PresidentHarry S. Truman
Preceded byIlo Wallace
Succeeded byJane Hadley Barkley
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.
Resting placeHarry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum
Political partyDemocratic
Harry S. Truman
(m. 1919; died 1972)

She was born in Independence, Missouri, where she kept a home her entire life. She had known Harry since they were children, though she did not return his affections until adulthood. She was strongly affected by the suicide of her father when she was 18, which shaped her opinions about privacy from the public eye and the responsibilities of a spouse. Bess and Harry married in 1919, and Bess would spend the following years managing the Truman household and working in her husband's offices as his political career advanced. She was apprehensive about Harry running for vice president in 1944, and she was deeply upset when he ascended to the presidency the following year.

As first lady, Bess avoided social obligations and media attention whenever possible, and she made regular excursions to her home in Independence. She chose not to continue in the regular press conferences carried out by her predecessor Eleanor Roosevelt, believing that her responsibility as a wife was to keep her opinions private. Her influence on her husband's presidency came about in their private conversations, as he would consult her about most major decisions during his presidency. She was also prominent in his reelection campaign, making regular appearances for crowds as he toured the United States. She was greatly relieved when Harry chose not to run for another term in 1952. After her tenure as first lady, Bess lived in retirement at her home in Independence until her death in 1982.

Truman was generally popular among her contemporaries, but her lifelong devotion to privacy has allowed for limited historical analysis. She refused to provide information about herself or her beliefs to journalists during her lifetime, and she destroyed many of her letters after leaving the White House. There is no consensus among historians on her performance as first lady or to what extent she influenced her husband's presidency.

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