President and Mrs. Grover Cleveland who were ages 49 and 21, respectively, at the time of their marriage
The newspaper paparazzi made the Cleveland honeymoon miserable and he never forgot nor forgave the “correspondents” that harassed and pursued them wherever they went. The impertinence of the press infuriated the President as they continued to follow his wife wherever she went and wrote scurrilous fake news constantly. Everyone noticed, however, the change in the President after his marriage, for Frances was “eager, full of spirits, fond of social life and ready in her girlish way to see everything.“ He seemed rejuvenated as a result. She proved to be the most charming woman in the White House since Dolly Madison more than sixty years earlier. Mrs. Cleveland had an unselfish and genuine interest in people and she so transformed the Presidential social milieu that for the first time in history the President’s wife became known as “the First Lady.”
The young, lively, fashionable Mrs. Cleveland brought a breath of fresh air to both the life of the President and consequently the White House, and quickly endeared herself to all she met
The Clevelands took a long trip around the nation and Frances charmed everyone. She spent long hours with Sarah Polk, the octogenarian wife of President James Knox Polk, in Nashville, discussing the life of a President’s wife, and how to cope with the strains and vicissitudes of life in the White House.
The inauguration of Benjamin Harrison, who defeated Cleveland for the Presidency in 1888. Cleveland is seen holding Harrison’s umbrella. Cleveland would only be absent the White House for four years before returning for a second term in 1893.
After Grover was defeated for a second term in office in 1888, the effusive Frances told the White House staff not to make any changes in the décor, saying that she and Grover would be back in four years, which turned out to be true. In the interim they had their first child, Ruth, after whom a chocolatier named a candy bar “Baby Ruth.” Upon their return to the White House after the election of ‘88, she had two children, Esther and Marion, while serving as First Lady.
Gray Gables—the home of the Cleveland family between Presidential terms and where two of their children were born—also served as Cleveland’s “Summer White House” during his second term as President
After his second term in office, the Clevelands moved to Princeton, New Jersey, where Frances bore two sons, and where Grover died in 1908, age 71. She married again in 1913, to a professor of archaeology, and remained a person of note in Princeton, where she led the fight against women’s suffrage, announcing that “women are not intelligent enough yet to vote.” Frances died in 1947 at the age of 84, and was buried with Grover, whose gravestone reflects both of their characteristic modesty in life, with only their names and dates. There is no reference to his amazing political record, high moral character, and constitutional and marital fidelity, or the fact that his wife made his Presidency more brilliant, delightful, charming and successful as First Lady.
The grave of Grover Cleveland (center), flanked by the graves of his wife Frances (right) and daughter Ruth (left), Princeton Cemetery, Princeton, NJ