Martha Ellen Young Truman

Martha Ellen Young Truman

Martha Ellen Young Truman
Born Martha Ellen Young
(1852-11-25)November 25, 1852
Jackson County, Missouri, United States
Died July 26, 1947(1947-07-26) (aged 94)
Nationality American
Known for Mother of U.S. president Harry Truman
Spouse(s) John Anderson Truman (1881-1914, his death)
Children Harry S. Truman (1884 - 1972)
John Vivian Truman (1886-1965)
Mary Jane Truman (1889-1978)
Parents Solomon Young (father)
Harriet Louisa Gregg (mother)
Relatives Margaret Truman (granddaughter)

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

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. 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 dispossessed by General Order 11 and forced 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, and she was well-known for her Confederate sympathies (so much so that it was reported that when she first visited the White House in 1945, she refused to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom, although this story was later denied by her family).[1][2]

Martha attended the Baptist College for Women in Lexington. She married John Anderson Truman on December 28, 1881[2] in Grandview, Missouri. After the loss of their first child, a son who died a few days after birth, another son, future President of the United States Harry S. Truman, was born to them 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' to honor both grandfathers. Two more children followed: John Vivian Truman on April 25, 1886 (who was 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.

When her husband John Truman died in 1914, Martha took over the farm and ran it with the help of her children and various hired helpers until her age and increasing frailty made it impossible in the 1930s. Her son Harry, who had entered politics after failing in business as the co-owner of a Kansas City haberdashery, rose from Jackson County Judge (county commissioner) to U. S. Senator and became the vice presidential running mate of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944. 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 Harry 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] and her response to the crowd of press that appeared to cover the visit ("Oh fiddlesticks! If I'd known that, I wouldn't have come"[5][6]) was widely reported and was 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]


  1. ^ Meyer Berger, "Mother Truman-Portrait of a Rebel; She is closer to her son than most mothers. And at 93 she remains an outspoken--and unreconstructed--Southern Democrat.", The New York Times, June 23, 1946 (pay site).
  2. ^ a b c "Mrs. Truman at 9 Saw Strife of 1861", The New York Times, July 27, 1947 (pay site).
  3. ^ "They Shoved Harry Into It, Says Sen. Truman's Mother", Associated Press in St. Petersburg Times, July 22, 1944.
  4. ^ "Truman's Mother Flies to Capital at Age of 92", Associated Press in Prescott Evening Courier, May 11, 1945.
  5. ^ "Truman's Mother Flies to Capital", The New York Times, May 12, 1945.
  6. ^ "President Greets Mother Arriving at Capital Airport", Associated Press in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 12, 1945.
  7. ^ "Martha Truman Buried on Knoll in Kansas City", Associated Press in Ellensburg Daily Record, July 28, 1947.

Further reading

  • 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