Frances Clara Cleveland Preston (née Folsom; July 21, 1864 – October 29, 1947) was First Lady of the United States from 1886 to 1889 and again from 1893 to 1897 as the wife of President Grover Cleveland. Becoming first lady at age 21, she remains the youngest wife of a sitting president.
|First Lady of the United States|
March 4, 1893 – March 4, 1897
|Preceded by||Mary McKee (Acting)|
|Succeeded by||Ida McKinley|
June 2, 1886 – March 4, 1889
|Preceded by||Rose Cleveland (Acting)|
|Succeeded by||Caroline Harrison|
Frances Clara Folsom
July 21, 1864
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
|Died||October 29, 1947 (aged 83)|
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
|Resting place||Princeton Cemetery|
(m. 1886; died 1908)
Thomas Preston (m. 1913)
|Children||5, including Ruth, Esther, Richard|
|Education||Wells College (BA)|
Frances Clara Folsom was born in Buffalo, New York, to Emma (née Harmon) and her husband Oscar Folsom, a lawyer who was a descendant of the earliest European settlers of Exeter, New Hampshire. She was their only child to survive infancy (a sister, Nellie Augusta, died before her first birthday). All of Frances Cleveland's ancestors were from England and settled in what would become Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, eventually migrating to western New York.
She originally had the first name Frank (named for an uncle), but later decided to adopt the feminine variant Frances. A longtime close friend of Oscar Folsom, Grover Cleveland, met his future wife shortly after she was born and he was 27 years old. He took an avuncular interest in her, buying her a baby carriage and otherwise doting on her as she grew up. When her father died in a carriage accident on July 23, 1875, without having written a will, the court appointed Cleveland administrator of his estate. This brought Cleveland into still more contact with Frances, then age 11.
She attended Central High School in Buffalo and Medina High School in Medina, New York, then Wells College in Aurora, New York. While she was in college, Cleveland's feelings for her took a romantic turn. He proposed by letter in August 1885, soon after her graduation, but they didn't announce their engagement until five days before their wedding.
In honor of Frances Cleveland, Cleveland Hall was constructed in 1911 on the Wells College campus. Originally a library, the building currently holds foreign language classes, as well as classes in women's studies, and a food pantry.
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Frances was the first first lady to give birth to a child while her husband was president. The Clevelands had three daughters and two sons:
- Ruth Cleveland (1891–1904) – Born in New York City during the interval between her father's terms as president. She died at the age of 12 of diphtheria and is buried in Princeton, New Jersey. The Baby Ruth candy bar was allegedly named for her.
- Esther Cleveland (1893–1980) – Born September 9, 1893, at the White House in Washington, DC. On March 14, 1918, at Westminster Abbey, she married Captain William Sidney Bence Bosanquet of the Coldstream Guards of the British Army. Their daughter was Philippa Foot (1920–2010), the British philosopher.
- Marion Cleveland (1895–1977) – Born in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, she attended Columbia University Teachers College and married, first, Stanley Dell and second, in 1926, John Amen, a New York lawyer. From 1943 to 1960 she was community relations director of the Girl Scouts of the USA (Girl Scouts of the United States prior to 1947) at its headquarters in New York.
- Richard Folsom Cleveland (1897–1974) – lawyer. Born in Princeton, New Jersey, he served as an officer in the Marines during World War I, graduated from Princeton University in 1919, earned a master's degree in 1921 and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1924. He practiced law in Baltimore with the law firm of Semmes, Bowen, and Semmes and defended Whittaker Chambers against Alger Hiss's libel suit.
- Francis Grover Cleveland (1903–1995) – actor. Born in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, he graduated from Harvard University with a degree in drama. After teaching for a time in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he went to New York to enter the theater.
After her husband's death in 1908, Cleveland remained in Princeton, New Jersey. On February 10, 1913, at the age of 48, she married Thomas J. Preston, Jr., a professor of archaeology at her alma mater, Wells College. She was the first presidential widow to remarry. She was vacationing at St. Moritz, Switzerland, with her daughters Marion and Esther and her son Francis when World War I started in August 1914. They returned to the United States via Genoa on October 1, 1914. Soon afterwards, she became a member of the pro-war National Security League, becoming its director of the Speaker's Bureau and the "Committee on Patriotism through Education" in November 1918.
She stirred up controversy within the National Security League with claims that large sections of the population were unassimilated and in a sense prevented the country from working together properly. After causing outrage among the rank and file of the organization by wanting to psychologically indoctrinate school children to be in favor of war, she resigned on December 8, 1919. She also campaigned against women's suffrage, contending that "women weren't yet intelligent enough to vote". In May 1913 she was elected as vice president of the "New Jersey Association Opposed to Woman's Suffrage" and served as the president for the Princeton chapter.
While staying at her son Richard's home for his 50th birthday in Baltimore, Cleveland died in her sleep at the age of 83 on October 29, 1947. She was buried in Princeton Cemetery next to President Cleveland, her first husband.
- The Folsoms of Exeter, The Exeter Historical Society, Exeter, New Hampshire Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine
- "Frances Cleveland Biography". National First Ladies' Library. Retrieved May 23, 2011.
- Graff, Henry F. (2002). Grover Cleveland. New York: Times Books. p. 78.
- "Cleveland Hall of Languages". Wells College. March 7, 2003. Archived from the original on June 14, 2011. Retrieved May 23, 2011.
- Charles Lachman, A Secret Life: The Sex, Lies and Scandals of Grover Cleveland, p. 420 (2011)
- 1914; Arrival; Microfilm Serial: T715; Microfilm Roll: 2374; Line: 17; Page Number: 11; Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls); Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
- "Needlework Guild for America - About Us". Needlework Guild for America. Archived from the original on 26 January 2016. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
- "President Cleveland's Widow Dies". Newspapers.com. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
- "Grover Cleveland Gravesite, Princeton Cemetery". Presidents USA. Retrieved April 8, 2017.
- Robert Strauss (September 17, 2013). "Where Princeton Buries Its Departed VIPs". NJ Monthly. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
- Original text based on White House biography
- Media related to Frances Cleveland at Wikimedia Commons
- Frances Cleveland at C-SPAN's First Ladies: Influence & Image
- Frank: The Story of Frances Folsom Cleveland, America's Youngest First Lady (full-length biography)
| First Lady of the United States
| First Lady of the United States