Wednesday 20 January 2021

Mrs Cleveland was 21 and 27 years younger than Grover Cleveland when they married

With a few hours to go before the most unusual U.S. President since Abraham Lincoln leaves office, I stumbled by chance on the story of Frank or Francis Folsom, who became Mrs Grover Cleveland.

She was 21 when she became the youngest ever First Lady of the United States in 1886 and is the only woman to have become First Lady a second time, when in 1893 her husband returned to the White House for his second term six and a half years later. She was christened Frank after her uncle, but chose to be called Francis because it was more feminine. 

She met her future husband when she was a baby and he was 27. He became her guardian when her father died when she had just turned 11 and paid for her education. 

Grover Cleveland, with Woodrow Wilson, was one of the only two Democrat presidents to serve between 1861 and 1933. Along with the previous Democrat president, James Buchanan, he was one of the only two bachelors to be elected US President. He was then aged 47 and when he married in the Blue Room of the White House he was 49. 

The couple had five children. The age gap did not matter to the public.

Although a bachelor when he became President, Cleveland was a father, giving rise to the famous chant in the 1884 election campaign of “Ma, ma, where's my Pa?" After he won, Democrats replied, "In the White House, ha ha ha!”

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