First Lady: 1853 to 1857
Wife of President Franklin Pierce
Born: March 12, 1806 Died: December 2, 1863
Jane Appleton was born in Hampton, New Hampshire, the daughter of Jesse and Elizabeth Means Appleton. Her father, Jesse, was a Congregational minister and president of Bowdoin College at Brunswick, Maine. Jane's mother came from a very wealthy family of Amherst, New Hampshire. Jane was raised in Brunswick, but moved to Amherst upon her father's death. In Amherst, at age twenty-eight, she met Franklin Pierce who fell in love with her. Franklin was a politician and a drinking man who frequented taverns and was also known to involve himself in a fight or two. These qualities Jane disapproved of strongly. Franklin , now a Congressman, appeared to Jane's family an acceptable suitor. Pierce insisted on marrying Jane, and finally Jane consented. The two were married at her mother's house in Amherst on November 10, 1834.
They moved to Washington and lived in a boarding house, which was to much for Jane to stand. Jane then moved back to Amherst, where her first child was born, who lived only three days. To resolve the living problems, Franklin arranged for the couple to share a house with another couple in Concord, New Hampshire. Jane, not liking Franklin still working in Washington in Congress, nagged him into resigning his position, to open a law practice in Concord. In Concord, they had two children; Frank Robert who died at age five and Benjamin. In her despair, she clung to Benjamin, her only remaining child, every minute of the day. She remained very happy raising Benjamin, but nothing could have more completely undone this happiness than the prospect of becoming the President's wife. Upon learning her husband's nomination, she fell into spells of depression. In January 1853, a final disaster occurred. While returning home from a funeral of a family member in Boston, the coupling of their train car broke, sliding down an embankment, killing Benjamin.
In March 1853, Jane entered the White House with her husband. A girlhood friend, Ada Means, acted as hostess until Jane gradually recovered her emotional stability. Jane finally took over her hostess duties; however, she remained very sad. When Pierce's term ended, they moved back to Concord, and Franklin spent most of his time trying to ease his wife's bereavement, which she blamed on the Presidency. As the house in Concord reminded her of Benjamin, they moved to another house in Andover, Massachusetts. Here, her health failed gradually, dying on December 2, 1863.
Copyright © 1990-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.
From The First Ladies of the Unites States by John T. Marck.