The Way to a Fourth Term is Through the Stomach

nesbit article

Mrs. Henrietta Nesbitt was the chief housekeeper of the White House during the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She believed the White House should lead the way in setting an example for the rest of the country about how to get by with less during the Great Depression and to strictly follow rationing requirements during World War II. She also believed in the doctrine of plain food, plainly cooked. For this, she was criticized by those who expected a more extravagant fare at the Executive Mansion. Still, she had a loyal ally in First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, so this philosophy prevailed.

In 1939 Great Britain’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited President and Mrs. Roosevelt at the President’s home in Hyde Park, New York, and they were treated to a bit of this plain cooking when they feasted on hot dogs.

After serving twelve years as President, Roosevelt was tired, and even his family did not know whether he would retire at the end of his third term or seek an unprecedented fourth term. Finally, as he prepared to eat one more bland dinner selection, the President protested and said, “My stomach positively rebels, and this does not help my relations with foreign powers. I bit two of them yesterday!”

Then, with some characteristic drama, Roosevelt announced that he had decided that he would, indeed, seek a fourth term in the 1944 election. Those who heard his grave announcement pondered the implications of his decision. Then they saw FDR’s eyes twinkle as he announced that once re-elected, “I’m going to fire Mrs. Nesbitt!”

Despite this motivation for holding on to the Oval Office, FDR did not carry through with his threat. Mrs. Nesbitt voluntarily left her post during the administration of President Harry S. Truman.


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