Presidential Notes: First Lady Frances Folsom Cleveland

President Grover Cleveland's wife, Frances, was an influence in his presidency and life. Information on her causes, dreams, and ideas.

This First Lady was one of the most popular first ladies to grace the doors of the White House. Perhaps having two receptions per week while living in the Presidential Mansion played an important role in her appreciable life.

Frances Folsom Cleveland was born in Buffalo, New York, the only child of Emma C. Harmon and Oscar Folsom. At the age of eleven, Frances's father was thrown from his carriage and killed instantly. However, his law partner, Grover Cleveland, was there to take care of Frances, and that he did. At the death of Frances's father, Cleveland became her legal guardian.

While in Buffalo, Cleveland guided Frances with strong and sound advice on many topics, always keeping her interests, and politics as his priorities. She, in fact, finished high school in Buffalo, and then was admitted as a sophomore to Wells College in Aurora, New York.

While Frances was at Wells, Cleveland saw to it that her room was colorful with regularly sent flowers from the conservatories of the governor's mansion in Albany, until she graduated in June 1885. Frances was graduated with the warm affection of friends and relatives alike. On her graduation day, a sensational floral present, consisting of white flowers, was sent by Cleveland, this time from the White House.

Grover Cleveland was the only one of three presidents to marry while in the White House. He had loved Frances his entire life, and affectionately referred to her as "Frank." They spent their honeymoon at Deer Park in the Allegheny Mountains. After they married, the question was posed to Cleveland, "Why did you wait so long to marry your wife?"

Cleveland chuckled, and was quoted as responding, "I've been waiting for her to grow up." At the time they married, Cleveland was forty-nine. "Frank" was twenty-one.



Frances was the only woman that Cleveland ever loved. He idolized her from early on and always thought of her as a child. However, he treated her with the utmost of respect and tenderness.

Mrs. Cleveland was popular for many reasons while at the White House. Her ability to follow through situations with endurable strength was one of them. Perhaps being the youngest First Lady was one reason for endurance, but it certainly was not the only one. "Frank" was filled with a 'giving' spirit.

During a White House reception Mrs. Cleveland would take a step forward and shake hands with each and every caller, and then return to her position before saluting the next in line. Only a person with tremendous physical endurance could carry this task out successfully. It has been noted, "At New Year's receptions, for example, at least nine thousand persons greeted the President and his wife. Mrs. Cleveland took nine thousand steps and shook hands nine thousand times at each of these occasions."

Cleveland was defeated in 1888, so the Clevelands lived in New York City, where their daughter, Ruth, was born. It was in 1893 that a daughter was born in the White House, after Cleveland was re-elected President. Two years later, another child, Marion, was born in the Presidential Mansion.

Mrs. Cleveland left the White House, being one of the most admirable women ever to live reside there. In 1908, she was at the side of the President when he died.

In 1913, Frances married a professor, and resided with him in Princeton until she died at the age of eighty-four.

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