Mary Blanche Hoover was born September 1, 1876 in West Branch, Iowa to Jesse and Hulda Hoover in the same two-room cottage as future president Herbert Hoover. “May” as her family called her, was the younger sister of Theodore (“Tad”) and Herbert (“Bert”).
Mary's brother Theodore described her as a “dark-eyed, sprightly, and lovable little sister.” She went to live with her grandmother Mary Minthorn in Oregon following the death of Jesse and Hulda. She later followed in her brothers’ footsteps and attended Stanford University. On March 8, 1899 Mary married Cornelius Van Ness Leavitt. Together they had a son, Van Ness Hoover Leavitt, born on July 1, 1907.
Mary wrote to Herbert and his wife Lou throughout their adult lives. She often praised them for their “generous kindness” both to her and to people around the world. Lou invited Mary and her family to Herbert Hoover’s presidential inauguration on March 4, 1929, but only Mary attended. Mary and her husband made their home in San Francisco, California and later retired to Santa Monica where they lived until her death from an ongoing illness on June 7, 1953. Mary “was a gallant soul,” President Hoover wrote in a telegram sent to her son following her death.