Frances Folsom Cleveland
Wife of President Grover Cleveland
1864 - 1947
Frances Folsom Cleveland holds
the distinction of being the first bride of a
President to be married in the White House. She
was only twenty-two years old when she took over
the duties of First Lady under the
administration of her new husband, Grover
Frances was born Frances Folsom in 1864 to Oscar
Folsom and Emma C. Harmon Folsom in Buffalo, New
York. Her father was a lawyer and became a law
partner of Grover Cleveland's before his death
when Frances was only eleven years old. Upon the
death of her husband, Emma moved with her
daughter to Medina, New York, where they stayed
for only a few years. Upon their return to
Buffalo, Frances entered the Central High
School, where she prepared for college. Grover
Cleveland stayed a close friend of the family.
As administrator of the Folsom estate after
Oscar's death, he guided Frances' education with
sound advice. Frances was extremely bright and
so thorough in her studies that she was allowed
to enter college as a sophomore at Wells
When Frances entered Wells College, Mr.
Cleveland asked permission from Mrs. Folsom to
correspond with her daughter. At the time of her
graduation from college in 1885, Frances
received a superb floral tribute from the White
House conservatories. The affection they had for
each other turned into Romance, despite their 27
year difference in age. After graduation,
Frances went abroad with her mother, but
returned the following spring. Though no public
announcement had been made of her engagement to
Grover Cleveland, the interested public was sure
there would be one. Upon landing in New York,
Frances was met by Grover's sister, Rose
Elizabeth Cleveland and his private secretary.
The wedding took place on June 2, 1886 in the
blue room of the White House.
The first fifteen months of his first term as
president, Grover's sister Rose played hostess.
She gladly gave up these duties to Frances and
the new First Lady occupied the position with
rare grace. For one so young it was an
exhausting position, but at no time did she ever
forget the dignity of her position. Mrs.
Cleveland's charm and grace won her immediate
popularity. She was very thoughtful and held two
receptions every week, one on Saturday
afternoons, when women with jobs were free to
After the President lost the next election, the
couple resided in New York city. It was there
they had a daughter, Ruth. In 1893, Grover
Cleveland was re-elected President and he and
Frances returned to the White House. The First
Lady was welcomed with most cordial
affection as if she'd only been gone a day
instead of four years.
The Clevelands had two more children along while
holding office as President at First Lady.
Esther was born in 1893 in the White House,
Marion was born in 1895 at their summer home,
Gray Gables. When the family left the White
House, Mrs. Cleveland had become one of the most
popular First Ladies to ever serve in the White
Frances bore two sons while the Clevelands lived
in Princeton, New Jersey. She was with her
husband when he died at their home, "Westland",
in 1908. Still being a fairly young woman,
Frances was married again in 1913, to Thomas J.
Preston, Jr., a professor of archeology at
Princeton. She died in 1947 at the age of 84. Up
until the time of her death she was noted for
her charitable work and charming personality.
But she was most admired for her devotion to her
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Patricia Chadwick is a
freelance writer and columnist in several
online publications as well as editor of
several newsletters. History's Women is
weekly online magazine highlighting the
extraordinary achievements of women.