February 13th 1885: Bess Truman born
this day in 1885, the future First Lady of the United States, Bess
Truman, was born in Independence, Missouri; her birth name was Elizabeth
Virginia Wallace. Wallace met future president Harry Truman at Sunday school in Independence, when they were young children. Harry was immediately taken by the “beautiful curly haired girl” he met there, and spent his young life trying to win her affections, despite his crippling shyness. They began seeing eachother in 1910, and while she rejected his first proposal, the couple became engaged in November 1913. However, they did not marry until 1919, as Harry wanted to save money and then left for France to fight in the First World War. They married upon Harry’s return from the front in June 1919, and went on to have one daughter - Margaret Truman.
Harry Truman entered politics in 1926, and was elected US Senator for Missouri in 1935. Truman was added to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ticket for the 1944 election, and duly became Vice President. However, Roosevelt died soon into his fourth term, and Truman ascended to the presidency in 1945, facing seemingly insurmountable challenges in navigating the end of the Second World War. Bess Truman reportedly disliked life in the White House and the incessant scutiny that came with being First Lady. Upon the end of his presidency, the couple returned to a quiet life in Independence. Harry Truman died
in 1972 aged 88, and Bess died in 1982 aged 97, making her the longest-lived First Lady in American history. The love story of Harry and Bess Truman, spanning eighty years, is one of the most memorable details of presidential private lives.
“You still are on the pedestal where I placed you that day in Sunday school 1890. What an old fool I am.”
- Harry in a letter to Bess on June 28th 1948, their 29th anniversary