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Frances Cleveland: The Causes That Defined President Grover Cleveland's First Lady

By    |   Tuesday, 09 Jun 2015 12:14 PM

Frances “Frank” Folsom Cleveland, wife of U.S. President Grover Cleveland, holds many historic “firsts” as a First Lady.

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At 21, she was the youngest presidential wife to become the First Lady. She was the only First Lady to be married in the White House, and she was the only First Lady who gave birth to a child in the White House itself.

She was also the only woman to serve as First Lady for her husband’s two non-consecutive terms.

Frances was born in 1864 in New York to lawyer Oscar Folsom, who died in a carriage accident when she was two.

Her father’s law partner, bachelor Grover Cleveland, was also a devoted family friend and the administrator of the Folsom estate after her father’s death.

Although he had always taken a great interest in her, his affection for her did not morph into romance until after Frances and her mother visited Grover in the White House after his inauguration, according to the Whitehouse.gov. 

Americans were astonished when 49-year-old Grover married 21-year-old Frances in the White House without announcing who his bride-to-be was beforehand, and they were instantly intrigued by this “White House romance,” according to the Miller Center.

Frances immediately catapulted to celebrity status as reporters scrounged for details and the president’s bride and the public likened it all to a European royal wedding.

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The press continued to capitalize upon her wild popularity with the American people throughout her husband’s two terms as she became a fashion icon. 

Although Frances did not take on any special causes or projects as First Lady, her interest in the Washington Home for Friendless Colored Girls and the Colored Christmas Club charities raised awareness for white women to reach out and support black women and children.

Despite her support for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, she refused to ban liquor from the White House, although she refrained from drinking herself.

Frances appealed to both the young and the old alike with her beauty, youth, and charm, as well as her devotion to her husband and her growing family.

Although she didn’t accomplish anything significant during her time in the White House, Frances proved that the First Lady position enticed the public based upon a celebrity status level, and not merely upon causes and activism.

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Frances “Frank” Folsom Cleveland, wife of U.S. President Grover Cleveland, holds many historic “firsts” as a First Lady.
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