21 Apr ROSE CLEVELAND. THE FORMIDABLE SISTER OF PRESIDENT GROVER CLEVELAND. THE NATION’S 12th SURROGATE FIRST LADY. PART TWO.
Grover Cleveland is the only United States President to serve two non-consecutive terms (1885-9; 1893-7). 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.
Rose successfully fulfilled the social, ceremonial, and management responsibilities as a surrogate first lady for the first fifteen months of her brother’s first term. In June 1886 she gladly relinquished her White House duties to Cleveland’s young wife Francis Folsom Cleveland.
The well-educated Ms. Cleveland early on grasped the career path most fulfilling for professional women during the Victorian period, that of an educator. Her first position after graduation was as a teacher of literature and history at the Houghton Seminary. Other academic posts followed including one at Hamilton College. She continued teaching and lecturing while broadening her horizons to include publications and editorial tasks.
Her first book, George Eliot’s Poetry and Other Studies was published while she was Grover Cleveland is the only United States President to serve non-consecutive terms surrogate first lady. It went through 12 editions in a year and earned her $25,000. This book established her lifelong financial independence. The following year she published You and I. Moral, Intellectual and Social Culture. Her last book, The Soliloquies of St. Augustine translated into English, was published in 1910.
Rose was an ardent feminist who advocated in her writings, in her lectures, and in her personal life, women’s freedom from the social, intellectual, and political constraints of her era. She had a very long intellectual, economic, and sexual relationship with Evangeline Simpson, fourteen years her junior. In the early 1900s the partners emigrated to Italy where the tolerance towards overt lesbians was thought to be greater. There Rose Cleveland lived, died, and was buried.
Rose Cleveland. The National First Ladies Library.
Salenius, Sirpa: Rose Elizabeth Cleveland: First Lady and Literary Scholar (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)