ABOUT THE WHITE HOUSE * FIRST LADIES
about_first_ladies_marthawashington Martha Washington
about_first_ladies_abigailadams Abigail Adams
about_first_ladies_marthajefferson Martha Jefferson
about_first_ladies_dolleymadison Dolley Madison
about_first_ladies_elizabethmonroe Elizabeth Monroe
about_first_ladies_louisaadams Louisa Adams
about_first_ladies_racheljackson Rachel Jackson
about_first_ladies_hannahvanburen Hannah Van Buren
about_first_ladies_annaharrison Anna Harrison
about_first_ladies_letitiatyler Letitia Tyler
about_first_ladies_juliatyler Julia Tyler
about_first_ladies_sarahpolk Sarah Polk
about_first_ladies_margarettaylor Margaret Taylor
about_first_ladies_abigailfillmore Abigail Fillmore
about_first_ladies_janepierce Jane Pierce
about_first_ladies_harrietlane Harriet Lane
about_first_ladies_marylincoln Mary Lincoln
about_first_ladies_elizajohnson Eliza Johnson
about_first_ladies_juliagrant Julia Grant
about_first_ladies_lucyhayes Lucy Hayes
about_first_ladies_lucretiagarfield Lucretia Garfield
about_first_ladies_ellenarthur Ellen Arthur
about_first_ladies_francescleveland Frances Cleveland
about_first_ladies_carolineharrison Caroline Harrison
about_first_ladies_francescleveland Frances Cleveland
about_first_ladies_idamckinley Ida McKinley
about_first_ladies_edithroosevelt Edith Roosevelt
about_first_ladies_helentaft Helen Taft
about_first_ladies_ellenwilson Ellen Wilson
about_first_ladies_edithwilson Edith Wilson
about_first_ladies_florenceharding Florence Harding
about_first_ladies_gracecoolidge Grace Coolidge
about_first_ladies_louhoover Lou Hoover
about_first_ladies_eleanorroosevelt Eleanor Roosevelt
about_first_ladies_besstruman Elizabeth Truman
about_first_ladies_mamieeisenhower Mamie Eisenhower
about_first_ladies_jacquelinekennedy Jacqueline Kennedy
about_first_ladies_ladybirdjohnson Claudia Johnson
about_first_ladies_patnixon Patricia Nixon
about_first_ladies_bettyford Elizabeth Ford
about_first_ladies_rosalynncarter Rosalynn Carter
about_first_ladies_nancyreagan Nancy Reagan
about_first_ladies_barbarabush Barbara Bush
about_first_ladies_hillaryclinton Hillary Clinton
about_first_ladies_laurabush Laura Bush
administration_michelle_obama Michelle Obama
JANE MEANS APPLETON PIERCE
b.1806 -- d.1863
In looks and in pathetic destiny young Jane Means Appleton resembled the heroine of a Victorian novel. The gentle dignity of her face reflected her sensitive, retiring personality and physical weakness. Her father had died--he was a Congregational minister, the Reverend Jesse Appleton, president of Bowdoin College--and her mother had taken the family to Amherst, New Hampshire. And Jane met a Bowdoin graduate, a young lawyer with political ambitions, Franklin Pierce.
Although he was immediately devoted to Jane, they did not marry until she was 28 -- surprising in that day of early marriages. Her family opposed the match; moreover, she always did her best to discourage his interest in politics. The death of a three-day-old son, the arrival of a new baby, and Jane's dislike of Washington counted heavily in his decision to retire at the apparent height of his career, as United States Senator, in 1842. Little Frank Robert, the second son, died the next year of typhus.
Service in the Mexican War brought Pierce the rank of brigadier and local fame as a hero. He returned home safely, and for four years the Pierces lived quietly at Concord, New Hampshire, in the happiest period of their lives. With attentive pleasure Jane watched her son Benjamin growing up.
Then, in 1852, the Democratic Party made Pierce their candidate for President. His wife fainted at the news. When he took her to Newport for a respite, Benny wrote to her: "I hope he won't be elected for I should not like to be at Washington and I know you would not either." But the President-elect convinced Jane that his office would be an asset for Benny's success in life.
On a journey by train, January 6, 1853, their car was derailed and Benny killed before their eyes. The whole nation shared the parents' grief. The inauguration on March 4 took place without an inaugural ball and without the presence of Mrs. Pierce. She joined her husband later that month, but any pleasure the White House might have brought her was gone. From this loss she never recovered fully. Other events deepened the somber mood of the new administration: Mrs. Fillmore's death in March, that of Vice President Rufus King in April.
Always devout, Jane Pierce turned for solace to prayer. She had to force herself to meet the social obligations inherent in the role of First Lady. Fortunately she had the companionship and help of a girlhood friend, now her aunt by marriage, Abigail Kent Means. Mrs. Robert E. Lee wrote in a private letter: "I have known many of the ladies of the White House, none more truly excellent than the afflicted wife of President Pierce. Her health was a bar to any great effort on her part to meet the expectations of the public in her high position but she was a refined, extremely religious and well educated lady."
With retirement, the Pierces made a prolonged trip abroad in search of health for the invalid--she carried Benny's Bible throughout the journey. The quest was unsuccessful, so the couple came home to New Hampshire to be near family and friends until Jane's death in 1863. She was buried near Benny's grave.
Click about_presidents_franklinpierce here to read the biography of President Franklin Pierce.
MD5: 8666d7de003eb28974d89906a1c7ee4f Original URL: http://whitehouse.gov/about/first_ladies/janepierce/