13 Apr ROSE CLEVELAND, THE FORMIDABLE SISTER OF PRESIDENT GROVER CLEVELAND. THE NATION’S 12TH SURROGATE FIRST LADY. PART ONE
Grover Cleveland is the only United States President to serve non-consecutive terms (1881-5; 1893-7). As a consequence his presidencies are counted twice, he is both our 22nd and 24th presidents.
Cleveland, when elected the first time, was and still remains the nation’s only second bachelor president. However, in contrast with his predecessor James Buchanan, he married during his time in office. Grover Cleveland wed Francis Folsom on June 2, 1886.
Rose Elizabeth Cleveland, a younger sister, served as surrogate first lady for the first fifteen months of her brother’s administration. Rose had begun management of Cleveland’s domestic life towards the end of his term as Governor of New York state.
Rose easily transitioned into the role as her brother’s keeper in the White House. The ceremonial responsibilities of a surrogate could be onerous. Intelligent and educated, Rose was required to stand while shaking hands with endless lines of guests at White House receptions. Finding this especially dull, she later revealed that she was conjugating Greek and Latin verbs in her mind during this process.
Rose, described as “a woman of large stature, not unattractive in features, but with a masculine manner and an air of decision, made a distinctive and impressive hostess.” (1)
Moreover, Cleveland wanted to show the country that the White House would be managed with the utmost decorum. In this regard he was capably aided by Rose who was a model of propriety. However some people found her strong personality, energy, and purposeful movements rather terrifying. There was no question that she governed the White House. (2)
After successfully fulfilling her social, ceremonial, and management responsibilities Rose concluded her service as surrogate first lady in June 1886 when she supervised the arrangements for her brother’s White House wedding.
However, Ms. Cleveland’s biography is far too interesting to be restricted to this brief synopsis. She was both a successful author and a lesbian. These two aspects of her story will be treated in Rose Cleveland. Part Two.
- Allan Nevins, Grower Cleveland. A Study in Courage (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1948) 213.
- Ibid. 300.