Dorothy ‘Dora’ Sanders, Bernie Sanders’ Mother: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Bernie Sanders Father and Mother

Twitter/Bernie Sanders Bernie and Larry Sanders with their parents, Eli and Dorothy

Bernie Sanders faced grief at a young age when his mom, Dorothy Sanders, died following a failed heart surgery. Some of her dreams were unrealized, and Sanders has said that his parents would never have imagined that their son would one day run for President of the United States. Bernie Sanders grew up in a humble home, but his parents showered him with love and showed him courage that he still demonstrated today. Read on to learn more about Bernie’s mother, Dorothy Sanders.


1. His Mother and Father Weren’t Rich, But They Taught Him Courage

In an excerpt from one of his campaign speeches shared with CNN, Bernie shared that his mother and father weren’t rich, but they were courageous. His speech said, in part: “I did not have a mom and dad who gave me millions of dollars to build luxury skyscrapers and casinos and country clubs. But I had something more valuable: I had the role model of a father who had unbelievable courage in journeying across an ocean, with no money in his pocket and not knowing a word of English.”

On Twitter, Bernie Sanders wrote: “I have seen the promise of America in my own life. My parents would have never dreamed that their son would be a U.S. senator, let alone run for president.”


2. Dorothy Was the Daughter of Immigrants & Married an Immigrant from Poland Who Was Escaping the Nazis

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Dorothy Glassberg Sanders was the daughter of immigrants; her Jewish parents — Benjamin Glassberg and Bessie Glassberg — were from Poland and Russia. Dorothy was born in New York. Dorothy had six siblings.

She married Eli Sanders, Bernie’s dad, who had escaped from Poland to the United States. Much of his family was killed by Nazis. Bernie’s speech says, in part: “He (his dad) came to escape the crushing poverty that existed in his community, and to escape widespread anti-Semitism. Needless to say I would not be with you today if he had not made that trip from Poland because virtually his entire family there was wiped out by the Nazis.”


3. Dorothy Was a Stay-at-Home Mom Who Dreamed of Owning a Private Home

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Dorothy was a stay-at-home mom, raising Bernie and his older brother Larry Sanders. She stayed at home while their father, Eli Sanders, worked as a paint salesman. They lived in a rent-controlled apartment, but she always dreamed of owning a private home. Sadly, she died before that dream could come true.


4. Bernie’s Mom  Died Just After He Graduated from High School from Heart Complications

Bernie Sanders experienced grief and loss at a very young age. His mom had rheumatic fever as a child, and she became ill when Bernie was in high school.  She died shortly after he graduated from high school when she was only 46. Her death followed a second failed heart surgery, according to FeeltheBern.org.

She had always wanted to move out of their small, rent-controlled apartment, but was never able to do so.

His planned speech, shared with CNN, says in part: “Coming from a lower middle class family I will never forget how money — or really lack of money — was always a point of stress in our home. My mother’s dream was that someday we would move out of that rent-controlled apartment to a home of our own. That dream was never fulfilled. She died young while we were still living in that apartment.”

5. His Mother & Father Are Still an Inspiration to Bernie & His Brother Today

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Bernie Sanders still talks about his mom and his dad with glowing, loving terms. They had a hard life. They both died young. But they inspired their son and his brother, Larry, into a life of politics. In fact, in 2016, when Larry Sanders voted for his brother Bernie during the DNC roll call, Bernie got choked up when Larry talked about their parents. You can watch in the video above starting at about 2:32. Larry said about their parents: “They did not have easy lives and they died young. … They loved the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt and would be especially proud that Bernard is renewing that mission.”