Martha Ellen Young Truman

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Martha Ellen Young Truman
Martha E. Truman.jpg
Martha Ellen Young

(1852-11-25)November 25, 1852
DiedJuly 26, 1947(1947-07-26) (aged 94)
Known forMother of U.S. president Harry Truman
John Anderson Truman
(m. 1881; his death 1914)
  • Harry S. Truman (1884–1972)
  • John Vivian Truman (1886–1965)
  • Mary Jane Truman (1889–1978)
  • Solomon Young (father)
  • Harriet Louisa Gregg (mother)
RelativesMargaret Truman (granddaughter)

Martha Ellen Young Truman (November 25, 1852 – July 26, 1947) was the mother of U.S. president Harry Truman.


Sen. Harry S. Truman visits his mother in Grandview, Missouri, after being nominated the Democratic candidate for vice president (July 1944)

Martha Ellen Young was born in Jackson County, Missouri, on November 25, 1852, to Solomon Young, a successful farmer who also had a business running Conestoga wagon trains along the Overland Trail, and his wife Harriet Louisa Gregg. Members of the family were southern sympathizers in the U. S. Civil War and several relatives served in the Confederate Army. In later life, Martha told of how a band of Union-supporting Jayhawkers destroyed her family's farm one day in 1861, then came again in 1863 when the family was forced to evacuate by General Order 11 and required to move to Platte County, Missouri until after the war. This harsh treatment left Martha with a lifelong resentment for the winning Union side in the war. She was well-known for her Confederate sympathies (a story made the rounds that when she first visited the White House in 1945, she refused to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom, but her family denied this account.) [1][2]

Martha attended the Baptist College for Women in Lexington. She married John Anderson Truman on December 28, 1881[2] in Grandview, Missouri. Their first son died just a few days after birth. Their second child, another son, was Harry S. Truman, born on May 8, 1884. The child's middle name was the subject of some disagreement between the parents. John Truman wanted it to be Shipp, after his father Anderson Shipp Truman, while Martha wanted it to be Solomon, after her father. In the end, they decided to use only the middle initial 'S' and honor both grandfathers. Two more children followed: John Vivian Truman on April 25, 1886 (who became a district director of the Federal Housing Administration in western Missouri), and Mary Jane Truman on August 12, 1889 (who was a pianist and schoolteacher). All three children worked on the family farm in Grandview. After her husband John Truman died in 1914, Martha took over the farm and ran it with the labor of her children and various hired helpers until the 1930s, when her age and increasing frailty made it impossible. Harry had entered politics after failing in business as the co-owner of a Kansas City haberdashery, rising from Jackson County Judge (county commissioner) to being elected as U. S. Senator. In 1944, he became the vice presidential running mate of Franklin D. Roosevelt. At the time of his selection, Martha Truman told the press that Truman had not wanted the position and that she would have rather seen him stay in the Senate.[3]

On April 12, 1945, President Roosevelt died and Harry Truman was sworn in as president. Martha Truman was often quoted, sometimes colorfully, in the press. She made her first trip to Washington soon after Harry became president.[4] Seeing the crowd of press that arrived to cover her visit, she said, "Oh fiddlesticks! If I'd known that, I wouldn't have come."[5][6] Her comments were widely reported and were said to have "captured the nation's fancy".[7]

She lived to see two years of her son's presidency before her death on July 26, 1947, aged 94.[2]


Further reading[edit]

  • Bonnie Angelo, "Be a Good Boy, Harry", in First Mothers: The Women Who Shaped the Presidents (HarperCollins, 2001), ISBN 978-0-06-093711-9, pp. 40–73. Excerpts available at Google Books.

External links[edit]