Rarely do men like Donald Trump come from happy families. Trump’s father was reportedly a tyrant. What was his mother like?
Mary Anne MacLeod was born in 1912 to Scottish parents living in a remote village on the Outer Hebrides Islands. Mary was one of a large brood of children. Her father worked as a fisherman and postman, and her family spoke Gaelic. Mary decided to emigrate to America at the age of 17 to reinvent herself as a successful American.
When Mary got off the ship in New York, she had only $50 in her pockets. She was one of many Scots who had come to the U.S. to make their fortunes. An older sister, Catherine, who had already moved to the States, found Mary’s a job as a “domestic.” Mary was a nanny for a wealthy family in the New York suburbs.
According to an old penpal of Mary’s and memorist, Agnes Stiven, the two girls met in Glasgow just before Mary’s trip to America. Stiven recalls that Mary’s job lasted four years. Then she had to return to Scotland because her employers lost their money during the Depression.
In 1934, Mary returned for a second try at success. Siven’s memoirs report that Mary was always ambitious, looking for opportunities to get ahead socially. In a photo of Mary just before she sailed from Scotland that year, she wears a glamorous winged coat and jaunty hat, and her confident stance suggests that she already had her eye on the golden ring.
After arriving in New York, Mary Anne MacLeod participated in the city’s social scene as much as possible. Soon she met Frederick Trump at an elite dance. Trump was then building his fortune as a real estate developer. When Mary met him, he was considered one of the city’s most eligible bachelors. They married in 1936. Over the next few years, they had five children, of which Donald was the second.
Despite the fact that the Trump family lived a life of showy opulence, Fred did not give things to his children without conditions. When Donald’s behavior got too bad or his grades poor, his father deprived him of material things. Intimacy seems to have played little role in their relationship—or in any of the family relationships. Only his older brother, Fred, Jr., seemed to be a free spirit. (He died of alcoholism at age 42.)
Mary never worked outside the home during their marriage. She was in most respects a traditional housewife. However, she devoted large amounts of time to social activities and charitable works. Mrs. Trump frequently appeared on New York City’s streets in opulent furs and jewelry—unlike the teenage girl who sailed to America in 1929. From the time her hair began to grey, she styled it in a blonde pompadour similar to her son’s trademark hairdo today. Mary finally became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1940.
From the age of five, Donald was getting into scrapes. He was belligerent in school, bullied other children, and challenged grown-ups. In the family’s prosperous Queens neighborhood, he developed the reputation of being an incorrigible child. He was the image of his father in many ways. After a series of Donald’s pranks when the boy was 13, Fred Trump abruptly sent him to a strict military school. His mother appears to have had no voice in the decision. The abandonment was hard for Donald, but eventually he relished the harsh school environment and the opportunities to bully other cadets.
Although personal information about the family is scant, Mary appears to have had much less influence on Donald’s development than his father. Fred Trump ruled the roost.
Mary MacLeod Trump died in 2000 at the age of 88, just a year after her husband passed away. Today, her remains are buried in New Hyde Park, New York, along with those of her deceased husband, Fred, and their first-born son, Fred Trump, Jr.