86 Facts About Bess Truman


Elizabeth Virginia Truman was the wife of President Harry S Truman and the first lady of the United States from 1945 to 1953.


Bess Truman served as the second lady of the United States from January to April 1945.


Bess Truman was born in Independence, Missouri, where she kept a home her entire life.


Bess Truman had known Harry since they were children, though she did not return his affections until adulthood.


Bess Truman was strongly affected by the suicide of her father when she was 18 years old, 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.


Bess Truman was apprehensive about Harry becoming vice president in 1944, and she was deeply upset when he ascended to the presidency the following year.


Bess Truman 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.


Bess Truman was prominent in his reelection campaign, making regular appearances for crowds as he toured the United States.


Bess Truman was greatly relieved when Harry chose not to run for another term in 1952.


Bess Truman was generally popular among her contemporaries, but her lifelong devotion to privacy has allowed for limited historical analysis.


Bess Truman 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.


Bess Truman was born as Elizabeth Virginia Wallace on February 13,1885, in Independence, Missouri, to Margaret Elizabeth Gates and David Willock Wallace.


Bess Truman practiced dance and etiquette, and she attended town balls and hayrides of the town's aristocracy.


In 1903, when Bess Truman was 18, her father committed suicide.


Bess Truman spent the following hours pacing silently in her backyard, first alone and then joined by her closest friend Mary Paxton.


Bess Truman later attempted to keep this part of her life a secret.


Bess Truman's mother became a lifelong recluse, and the ordeal imprinted upon Bess Truman the belief that a husband and wife should be close partners in everything they do.


Bess Truman refused to speak about her father for the rest of her life.


Bess Truman played on the women's basketball team, and she studied literature and French.


Bess Truman had many suitors in the years after high school, but none won her love.


Harry was insecure about his lack of money, and he attempted to impress Bess Truman by purchasing tickets to shows and building her a tennis court.


Harry proposed in 1911 in a long letter, which he later admitted was clumsily written, but Bess Truman turned him down.


Bess Truman later said that he intended to propose again when he would be earning more money than a farmer.


Bess Truman wished to marry before Harry departed to fight in World War I in 1917, but he refused to risk making her a young widow.


Bess Truman worked to support the war effort while he was gone by selling war bonds, and she served on a committee for entertaining soldiers.


Bess Truman became the primary authority figure in Margaret's life, while Harry would spoil her.


Bess Truman was accounts manager at Truman-Jacobsen Haberdashery from 1919 to 1922, when the business went bankrupt.


When Harry was elected as a senator from Missouri in 1934, Bess Truman stayed in Missouri with her mother for the first year.


Bess Truman joined her husband's staff as a clerk, answering personal mail and editing committee reports when he became chairman of the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program.


Bess Truman developed relationships with the wives of senators and cabinet members, though she did not attend meetings of senators' wives, as she found them boring.


Bess Truman had not sought the position, and it was a surprise to the Trumans when it was offered.


When Harry accepted the role of vice president to President Franklin D Roosevelt, Bess was not entirely pleased.


Bess Truman wanted to return to their life in Missouri, and she feared that Roosevelt would die, which would make her husband the president.


Bess Truman found herself saddled with the associated social responsibilities, attending many events as a representative of the Roosevelts, often multiple times in one day.


Bess Truman served as second lady for 82 days before President Roosevelt died and her husband ascended to the presidency.


Bess Truman had only limited social responsibilities during her first months as first lady, as the nation was in the midst of World War II and in mourning of President Roosevelt.


Bess Truman stayed in the White House until the end of the month before making her first return trip to Independence.


Bess Truman was inspired by the history of the White House and that of the Monroe administration in particular.


Bess Truman chose to host a more limited social season in response to postwar food shortages, replacing large dinners with informal luncheons.


Bess Truman emphasized courteousness and respect for all of her guests, including political opponents and others that she disliked.


Bess Truman received about one hundred letters each day, and she spent much time replying to each one.


Bess Truman maintained some social obligations in Washington society, including regular attendance of luncheons in her honor.


Bess Truman felt great anxiety at public events and wished to avoid being the center of attention.


Bess Truman underwent a humiliating experience a few weeks into her tenure as first lady when she was asked to christen airplanes by striking champagne bottles against them.


Bess Truman resisted any changes to her lifestyle, often handling bookkeeping, dusting, and other chores on her own, though she did enjoy having domestic servants.


Bess Truman dressed simply, preferring conservative gowns and suits rather than more elaborate dresses.


Unlike Roosevelt, Bess Truman held only one press conference after many requests from the media.


Bess Truman is quoted as saying that a woman's role in public is to "sit beside her husband, be silent, and make sure her hat is on straight".


Bess Truman maintained a limited association with women journalists on the advice of her husband's press secretary, but she did not provide them with information.


Bess Truman did allow reporters to have mimeographed copies of her schedule, becoming the first first lady to do so.


Many of Bess Truman' ideas became government initiatives, including the use of theatrical companies abroad to improve foreign relations and the involvement of the National Institutes of Health in an effort to combat disease.


Bess Truman was the one to suggest appointing Charlie Ross as the White House Press Secretary.


Bess Truman was involved with a controversy while she was first lady in attending a reception for the Daughters of the American Revolution.


The organization had refused to allow Hazel Scott, a black pianist, to perform at DAR Constitution Hall, and Bess Truman' attendance was seen as an endorsement of this stance.


Bess Truman caused a similar controversy when she attended a play at George Washington University despite an ongoing protest of the ban on black audience members.


Bess Truman felt that a first lady's actions should not address political issues, and she considered her personal time to be entirely separate from her political role.


Bess Truman was upset with being compared to segregationists, furthering her resolve to avoid the public for the rest of her husband's presidency.


Bess Truman was Honorary Chairman of the American Red Cross.


Bess Truman worked with various organizations, but she never adopted a group or cause to focus on, as many First Ladies do.


Bess Truman was active in her husband's reelection campaign in 1948, traveling the country with Harry in a whistle-stop train tour in which he introduced her to crowds as his "Boss".


Bess Truman sat in on and contributed to meetings among his advisors.


Four years later, when Harry was uncertain about another reelection campaign, Bess Truman' desire to return home was a major factor in his decision not to run.


When Harry announced that he would not run for reelection in 1952, one of Bess Truman' friends described her as trying not to show how gleeful she was.


Bess Truman allowed her daughter to fulfill the social responsibilities of the first lady during her absences.


Bess Truman continued to care for her mother until the latter's death in 1952.


When Bess Truman was in Washington, she held a weekly Spanish language class for her and her local friends.


Bess Truman hosted her bridge club from home in Independence, bringing them out to the White House and leading them on a tour of Washington.


Bess Truman made Harry aware of these feelings, but his schedule prevented them from spending as much time together as they were accustomed to.


Bess Truman fully recovered following a 1959 mastectomy in which doctors removed a large, but benign, tumor.


Bess Truman was dismayed in the 1972 presidential election, as she opposed the left-wing policies of 1972 presidential candidate George McGovern, and she felt that Thomas Eagleton had been unfairly treated when he was removed from the 1972 Democratic ticket.


Bess Truman agreed to be the honorary chairman of Eagleton's Senate reelection campaign in 1974, and she held a similar position for James W Symington in 1976.


Bess Truman supported Congressional candidate Ike Skelton due to the close relations of their families.


Bess Truman continued to live quietly in Independence for the last decade of her life, being visited by her daughter and grandchildren.


Bess Truman received many visitors in Independence, sometimes upwards of a hundred in one week, and she often demonstrated a keen memory for names and details about people she had met in the past.


Bess Truman would reread an old love letter from her husband every day.


Bess Truman died on October 18,1982, from congestive heart failure at the age of 97, and a private funeral service was held on October 21.


Bess Truman remains the longest-lived first lady in United States history at 97, followed by Rosalynn Carter at 95, Nancy Reagan and Lady Bird Johnson at 94, Betty Ford at 93, and Barbara Bush at 92.


Bess Truman is the longest lived second lady in United States history.


Bess Truman kept a low profile during her tenure as first lady, and commentators often emphasized how little was known about her.


Bess Truman destroyed many of her own letters after leaving the White House with the intention of making historical analysis of her life more difficult.


Bess Truman made only one television appearance, on the initiative of her daughter.


Much of the historic record about Bess Truman is derived from a biography written by her daughter and letters written to her by Harry.


Bess Truman was often contrasted with her predecessor, Eleanor Roosevelt.


Bess Truman would chide her husband when he lost his temper, to the point where her "you didn't have to say that" became an inside joke among the White House staff.


Bess Truman was popular among the staff, with whom she enjoyed friendly relations in contrast to her shy personality in public.