A gay first lady? Yes, we’ve already had one, and here are her love letters.Breaking News
tags: First Ladies, Cleveland, LGBTQIA history, LBGTQ history
In the summer of 1910, Evangeline Simpson Whipple told the caretaker of her home not to move anything in her absence. The wealthy widow was going on a trip, but would be back soon, she said.
She never returned. When she died in 1930, she was buried at her request in Italy next to the love of her life — a woman with whom she had a relationship that spanned nearly 30 years. That woman, Rose Cleveland, had served as first lady.
The letters, preserved by the caretaker at Evangeline’s Minnesota home, are collected in a new book, “Precious and Adored: The Love Letters of Rose Cleveland and Evangeline Simpson Whipple, 1890-1918,” and make clear that they were more than just friends, according to its editors.
When Grover Cleveland took office in 1885, he was a nearly 50-year-old bachelor, a fact that almost derailed his campaign when rumors spread that he had fathered a child out of wedlock. (He had.) Protocol for unmarried or widowed presidents called for a female relative to fill the role of first lady. In stepped his sister, Rose.
She was seen as an important counterbalance to her brother’s scandalous baggage: She was respectable, well-educated, a former teacher at a women’s seminary and the author of serious books.
Her term as first lady, however, was a mixed bag, according to the National First Ladies’ Library. Her book of essays, “George Eliot’s Poetry,” became a bestseller based on her fame, but she was frustrated with public scrutiny of her necklines and a ban on her going to private dinners or public markets.