Enjoy reading about 3 of the Great Historical Romances.
He first saw her in Sunday school when he was six years old and she was just five. “She had golden curls and beautiful blue eyes,” he recalled. They graduated from high school together in 1901, but went their separate ways — he moved to Kansas City and she to Colorado for a year — until becoming reacquainted nine years later. It was then that Harry Truman, who once wrote of Bess, “I thought she was the most beautiful and the sweetest person on earth,” began his first and longest campaign — to win the heart of Bess Wallace.
Bess lived in her family home in Independence, Missouri. Harry was a hard-working farmer from Grandview, twenty miles away. So he courted her, in part, by mail. Their correspondence would continue for nearly fifty years — an exciting ride through nine years of courtship, fifty-three years of marriage, family, career changes, and political fortunes that thrust them to the very center of the world stage. More than 1,300 letters from Harry to Bess Truman survive in the Truman Library collections.
Sadly, most of her letters to him have been lost to history. After showering Bess with attention and letters for more than a year, Harry proposed to her in 1911, but she turned him down. He persisted, and eventually she fell in love with him.
When the Unite States entered Word War I in April 1917, Harry Truman joined a Missouri National Guard field artillery regiment. Arriving in France in April 1918, he took command of Battery D, a unit known for rowdiness and intransigence. Throughout his military service, Truman carried Bess Wallace’s picture in his breast pocket. Writing to her frequently, his spirits were buoyed by her promise to marry him upon his safe return.
Harry Truman returned from World War I determined to make changes in his life.
- 1919 He and Bess Wallace married and moved into the Wallace family home.
- 1922 Truman entered politics with his election as a Jackson County judge, serving two years until 1934.
- 1924 The birth of their daughter Mary Margaret brought joy and fulfillment to the Trumans
- 1944 Truman became Franklin Roosevelts vice presidential running mate
- 1934 Elected as U.S senate, he served for what he called “the happiest ten years of my life.”
- 1945, April 12th, with the death of FDR, Truman was thrust unexpectedly into the presidency serving 8 years
Typical of their relationship, they wrote to each other whenever circumstances kept them apart on June 28th, the anniversary of their marriage. Often they even wrote these anniversary notes when they were together, hand-delivering the letters to each other. These anniversary letters changed little over time, showing the same devotion after decades of marriage that they had shown from the beginning of their union.
On January 10, 1845, Robert Browning wrote to Elizabeth Barrett for the first time, after reading her Poems. He was a little-known thirty-two-year-old poet and playwright, she was an internationally renowned poet, an invalid, and a thirty-nine-year-old spinster. “I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett — I do, as I say, love these verses with all my heart,” the letter said. Over the course of the next twenty months, they would write each other close to six hundred letters — one of the greatest literary correspondences of all time.
The pair’s last letter was exchanged on September 18, 1846, the night before the two left for a trip to Italy, and two weeks after their secret marriage.
From the time she was a teenager, Elizabeth suffered from a mysterious illness that caused her uncontrollable spasms of pain, breathing difficulties, and a general malaise that made her unable to leave her house. She rarely left her room, and believed that she was destined to forever remain a sickly shut-in and spinster. When Robert Browning first began to court Barrett — through their correspondence — she seemed to enjoy the relationship, but dismissed any romantic aspect of his attention, unwilling to believe that he could really be interested in her. Elizabeth refused to see him until the spring — months after their first contact — as the cold weather of the winter made her health poor. The couple’s first meeting occurred in May 1845, after five months of regular correspondence. It is believed that Browning wrote to Barrett immediately afterward to declare his affection, but this letter has not survived. Elizabeth, sickly and so long in isolation, found it difficult to trust his intentions and was already skeptical of the institution of marriage and its treatment of women.
In the summer of 1845, Barrett’s physician recommended that she travel to Italy, for the winter because he felt sure she would not survive another harsh season in London. Her father, for seemingly unknown reasons, refused to allow the trip. After writing to Browning about her predicament, he wrote back, saying, “I would marry you now.” Instead of dismissing him as she had done before, she embraced his sentiments. They continued to see each other regularly, and, thanks in part to an unseasonably warm winter, Barrett’s health began to improve.
- January 1846, Elizabeth left the room where she had spent the last six years of her life.
- May 1846, Barrett began to walk outside, also decreasing her use of the morphine and opium.
- September 12, Barrett and Browning were married in secret, due to her fear of her controlling father’s wrath, she was forty years old.
- When her deception was revealed, she was disinherited by her father
- A week after their marriage, they left London for Italy, where they spent the next fifteen years of their lives.
In Italy, both poets would enjoy many productive years of writing, as well as the birth of their son, Robert Wiedeman Barrett Browning, in 1849. They remained in Italy for fifteen years, until Elizabeth died in her husband’s arms on June 29, 1861. Casa Guidi, the Brownings’ home in Florence, Italy, has been preserved and is open to visitors.
Jackie Robinson is one of the most admired people in sports, but endured many battles. His most important battles were against the racism that not only excluded blacks from participation in major league baseball, but from economic opportunities in fields of all kinds. Robinson led the Dodgers to four National League pennants and one World Series championship in 1955. And, in the process, he led his nation in a struggle for civil rights.
When the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Branch Rickey began his search for a talented and educated black baseball player to be the first to integrate the sport, twenty-six-year-old Jackie Robinson seemed the perfect man for the job. A graduate of UCLA, he was a superb four-sport athlete with strong religious roots and a strict work ethic. But, Rickey realized the hard road that lay ahead of Robinson, and during their first meeting, on August 28, 1945, he harshly questioned him about whether or not he could handle the hatred, threats of violence, and baiting he would have to endure as he crossed the color line. In his autobiography, Robinson recalled Rickey asking, “You got a girl? There are going to be times when you’re going to need a woman by your side.”
Rachel Isum was Robinson’s fiancee. They had met in 1940 when she was a first-year nursing student at UCLA and he was already an accomplished athlete. They were married on February 10, 1946. Two weeks after the wedding, they left for Robinson’s first spring training, for the minor league Montreal Royals, in Daytona Beach, Florida — the deep South, hard-core racism. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Rachel Robinson later recalled, “That first spring training was like a nightmare. There was so much degradation. There was bigotry like we had never encountered.” But Jackie, with Rachel at his side, endured the indignities of the training trip and a season filled with countless insults, threats, and bean balls on his way to leading the league in batting, runs scored, and fielding. The next spring, despite a threatened boycott by the club’s players, the Brooklyn Dodgers promoted Robinson to the major league — seven years before the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling integrated the country’s schools.
In the majors, the Robinsons again suffered through death threats, constant verbal harassment from managers, players, and fans, and physical abuse, including more pitches to his head and body. But Robinson succeeded in winning the respect of players and fans.
- 1947 he was named Rookie of the Year, after batting .297, 125 runs scored and twenty-nine stolen bases
- 1949 signed more blacks to major league baseball, integration had arrived in major league baseball.
Throughout his life, Jackie credited his wife Rachel for providing the support that allowed him to work through the difficulties of his baseball career. “Strong, loving, gentle and brave, never afraid to either criticize or comfort,” he once wrote of his wife. Later, according to People magazine, he said, “When they try to destroy me, it’s Rachel who keeps me sane.”
After Jackie’s retirement from baseball in 1956, the Robinsons continued to play a visible role in politics and the civil rights movement. They were staunch supporters of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the fight against segregation, and spoke out against black separatists like Stokely Carmichael. The Robinsons were especially proud of their three children, Jackie Jr., Sharon, and David. Sadly, Jackie Jr. died in a car accident in 1971.
Even after a heart attack cut short Jackie’s life on October 23, 1972, Rachel, who has also worked as a nurse and teacher, has continued to work hard to advance the legacy that she and her husband began as newlyweds. In 1973, she founded the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which she still chairs. Major league first baseman Mo Vaughn, who wears number 42 in honor of his hero, Jackie Robinson, once told the Boston Globe, “Jackie Robinson couldn’t have been Jackie Robinson if it wasn’t for Rachel Robinson. It’s another case of the fact that behind every good man is a good woman.