Elena Ceaușescu (7 January 1916 – 25 December 1989) was a Romanian communist politician who was the wife of Nicolae Ceaușescu, General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party and leader of the Socialist Republic of Romania. She was also the Deputy Prime Minister of Romania.
She was born Lenuța Petrescu into a peasant family in Petrești commune, Dâmbovița County, in the historical region of Wallachia. Her father worked as a ploughman. She was able to acquire only an elementary school level education. After elementary school, she moved along with her brother to Bucharest, where she worked as a laboratory assistant before finding employment in a textile factory. She joined the Bucharest branch of the Romanian Communist Party in 1939 and met 21-year-old Nicolae Ceaușescu. Ceaușescu was instantly attracted to her which, reportedly, made him never look at another woman in a romantic manner. Their relationship was interrupted by Ceaușescu's frequent stints in prison, but they finally married on 23 December 1947.
After the Communists took power, Ceaușescu worked as a secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was an unimportant figure until her husband became Communist Party General Secretary. Starting in July 1972, Elena Ceaușescu was given various offices at senior levels in the Romanian Communist Party. In June 1973 she became a member of the Politburo of the Romanian Communist Party, becoming the second most important and influential person after Ceauşescu himself. She was deeply involved in party administration alongside her husband, and was one of the few spouses of a Communist Party leader to have a high political profile of her own.
Ceaușescu frequently accompanied her husband on official visits abroad. During a state visit to the People's Republic of China in June 1971, she took note of how Jiang Qing, Chairman Mao Zedong's wife, maintained a position of real power. Most likely inspired by this, she began to engineer her own political rise in Romania. In July 1971, after a mini-cultural revolution launched by her husband, she was elected a member of the Central Commission on Socio-Economic Forecasting, and in July 1972, she became a full member of the Romanian Communist Party Central Committee.
In June 1973, after having been nominated by Emil Bodnăraș, she was elected to the party's Executive Committee. In November 1974, at the 11th Party Congress, she was made a member of the (renamed) political executive committee, and in January 1977, she became a member of the highest party body, the Permanent Bureau of the Political Executive Committee. In March 1975, she was elected to the Great National Assembly, the country's national legislature, holding the seat for Pitești, Arges County, the most important industrial region of the country, until her death in 1989. In March 1980, she was made a First Deputy Prime Minister, a state title she also held until she was executed in the Romanian Revolution.
From the early 1980s onward, Elena was the object of a personality cult as intense as that of her husband, which exalted her as the "Mother of the Nation". By all accounts, her vanity and desire for honours exceeded that of her husband. As with her husband, Romanian Television was under strict orders to take great care portraying her on screen. For instance, she was never supposed to be shown in profile because of her large nose and overall homely appearance.
Ceaușescu fled with her husband on 22 December 1989, after the events in Timișoara led to the Romanian Revolution, but she and her husband were captured in the town of Targoviste. At the show trial that took place, she answered only a few questions since her husband took a protective role, asked her to calm down and shook his head each time her mouth opened to reply in anger.
On the afternoon of 25 December 1989, (Christmas Day) in Târgoviște they were turned over to a firing squad and executed. Her arms, and those of her husband, were tied behind their backs. Popular history author Simon Sebag Montefiore has claimed that, before the sentences were carried out, Elena reacted far more belligerently than her husband, allegedly screaming: "You motherfucking assholes!" while being led up against the wall; at the same time Nicolae Ceaușescu sang "The Internationale". Their actual execution was not filmed in time – the firing squad was in a hurry to carry out the sentence – but the aftermath, including echoes of the final volley, the pall of smoke, and the bodies immediately afterwards, were caught on camera. She was 73 years old. She was the only woman ever executed by the modern state of Romania.
Ceaușescu was outlived by her mother, a near centenarian at the time of her death, her brother Gheorghe Petrescu (also an important figure in the party) and her three children: Valentin (b. 1948), Zoia (1949–2006) and Nicu (1951–1996), who was also a very important member of the Romanian Communist Party. Elena Ceaușescu was buried in Ghencea Cemetery.