Lucy Page Mercer Rutherfurd


Lucy Page Mercer Rutherfurd

Lucy Page Mercer Rutherfurd (April 26, 1891-July 31, 1948) is considered by historians to have been a mistress of United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She was with Roosevelt on the day he died in 1945.

Background

Born in Washington, D.C., Lucy Page Mercer was the younger daughter of Carroll Mercer (1857-1917) and his wife, the former Minna Leigh Tunis (1863-1947). Both were members of prominent Maryland and Virginia families, but the Mercers possessed little money and separated shortly before World War I. She had one sister, Violetta Carroll Mercer (1889-1947, married William Berry Marbury).

Affair with Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Lucy Mercer was hired by Franklin's wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, as a personal secretary in the winter of 1913; previously, Mercer had worked in the Washington D.C. shop of society decorator Elsie Cobb Wilson.Pearson, Drew, "How Roosevelt's Love Affair Broke Up," "The Washington Times-Herald", 16 August 1966, B11.] Pearson, Drew, "More Details on Roosevelt Romance," "The Washington Times-Herald", 22 September 1966, B15.]

It is unclear when the Mercer-Roosevelt affair began, but in September 1918, Eleanor discovered love letters between her husband and her social secretary when he returned from Europe suffering from the flu of 1918. [http://www.nps.gov/archive/elro/glossary/mercer-lucy.htm Lucy Page Mercer Rutherfurd ] ] Eleanor offered her husband a divorce. The future president's mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, however, threatened to disinherit him if he divorced his wife. Eleanor gave an ultimatum to Franklin: stop seeing Lucy Mercer or obtain a divorce. Roosevelt did not want to sacrifice his political career, so he promised never to see his mistress again. However, Roosevelt continued to see Mercer over the years.

The Mercer-Roosevelt affair became public in 1966, when it was revealed in "The Time Between the Wars" (Doubleday), a memoir written by Jonathan Daniels, a former Roosevelt aide from 1943 to 1945 who was then editor in chief of "The News & Observer" in Raleigh, North Carolina."1913-1945 Roosevelt Romance Reported," "The New York Times", 12 August 1966.] However, Mercer's daughter and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. denied any romance between their respective parents had occurred; the historical record, however, has established the romance beyond doubt. As Daniels said of the family's denials, "I'm not surprised. They'll be picking away at this story, but it's very true.""Kin Deny Account of F.D.R. Romance," "The New York Times", 13 August 1966.]

Marriage and death

In February 1920, Lucy Page Mercer became the second wife of Winthrop Rutherfurd, a New York socialite with a horse farm in Aiken County, South Carolina. He had previously been secretly engaged to Consuelo Vanderbilt, whose mother forced her to break their engagement so that she could marry an English duke. The Rutherfurds had one child, Barbara Mercer Rutherfurd (1922-2005). [http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/110905/obi_110905-18.shtml] In 1965, Lewis Polk Rutherfurd—a grandson of Winthrop Rutherfurd by his first wife—married the half-sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Janet Jennings Auchincloss.

It is unknown whether the affair with Roosevelt continued after her marriage, but it is certain that the former lovers remained in contact. According to Jonathan Daniels, when Roosevelt was elected president for the first time, the new chief executive secretly arranged for a private car to bring Lucy Rutherfurd to the 1933 inauguration as well as supplied her with a ticket to the event. She also often visited the White House when Eleanor Roosevelt was absent and met him several times at the winter White House in Georgia.

Rutherfurd was with Franklin D. Roosevelt the day that he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage that killed him in Warm Springs, Georgia. Roosevelt's daughter, Anna, had arranged for the two to meet. [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/eleanor/filmmore/transcript/transcript2.html "American Experience: Eleanor Roosevelt"] , Part 2 enhanced transcript.] According to the president's cousin Laura Delano, who was with the president and Lucy Rutherfurd that day, the latter retreated to another cottage on the property immediately after the president's stroke, and she remained there until his death soon after; upon being told of his demise, Rutherfurd left the property. "She was there when he was stricken," Laura Delano told "The New York Times", "but she was not there when he died.""1913-1945 Roosevelt Romance Reported," The New York Times, 12 August 1966.]

Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd died of leukemia in New York City in 1948, and was interred in Tranquility Cemetery in the Tranquility section of Green Township, New Jersey.

References

Further reading

*Willis, Resa, "FDR and Lucy: Lovers and Friends" (Routledge, 2004)
*Goodwin, Doris Kearns, "No Ordinary Time", (Simon & Schuster, 1997)
*Lash, Joseph, "Eleanor and Franklin", (Norton, 1971)
*Pottker, Janice, "Sara and Eleanor: The Story of Sara Delano Roosevelt and Her Daughter-in-Law" (Macmillan, 2004)
*Persico, Joseph E., "Franklin & Lucy: President Roosevelt, Mrs. Rutherfurd and the Other Remarkable Women in His Life", (Random House, 2008)


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