Rockefeller, Laura Spelman (1839–1915)

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Rockefeller, Laura Spelman (1839–1915)

Affluent American and wife of John D. Rockefeller. Name variations: Cettie Spelman Rockefeller. Born Laura Celestia Spelman in 1839; died in 1915; married John D. Rockefeller (1839–1937, founder of Standard Oil and philanthropist), on September 8, 1864; children: Elizabeth or Bessie Rockefeller (1866–1906); Alice Rockefeller (1869–1870); Alta Rockefeller (1871–1962); Edith Rockefeller McCormick (1872–1932); John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (1874–1960).

When her children were young, Laura Spelman Rockefeller, the wife of one of the richest men in America, once noted to a neighbor, "I am so glad my son has told me what he wants for Christmas, so now it can be denied him." Laura and John D. Rockefeller raised their children with stern discipline and few luxuries; although they lived in a mansion and had a grand country estate, the younger ones wore their older siblings' hand-me-downs, and all the children earned their allowances by doing chores. Laura and John had met in high school, and were devoted to each other throughout their marriage. Although Laura loved music and literature and her husband did not, both were religious and serious-minded, somewhat uncomfortable with the temptations offered by the enormous wealth John had acquired, and they believed strongly that life was for duty, not enjoyment. Indifferent to the social whirl to which her position entitled her, Laura suffered from tuberculosis for a number of years, and spent the last six years of her life in a wheelchair. She died in 1915. Among the some $530 million which her husband gave away in his lifetime was a donation to Atlanta's Spelman College, founded by Sophia B. Packard , which in return was named in honor of Laura's parents. At his request, he was buried beside her after his death in 1937.

suggested reading:

Stasz, Clarice. The Rockefeller Women: Dynasty of Piety, Privacy, and Service. St. Martin's, 1995.