Presidential First Lady. She even eclipsed Mary Todd Lincoln as the most tragic First Lady and was known as the "Shadow of the White House." She was born Jane Appleton in Hampton, New Hampshire to a father who was a Congregational minister and president of Bowdoin College. With the death of her father, the family moved to Amherst where she met the future President, a Bowdoin graduate, Franklin Pierce. He was an ambitious lawyer and active in politics. Jane abhorred politics imploring Franklin to leave the political arena. Two sons were born: Franklin died on the third day of birth and Frank at the age of five. Jane believed their demise was punishment from God for her husband's political involvement. Only after she contracted tuberculosis did he resign from the Senate to return home. He even turned down President Polk's offer to the post of Attorney General. When he became the President-elect, she lost all emotional stability. Then the ultimate tragedy struck. Before Pierce's inauguration, the family was returning from Boston after attending a funeral, the axle on the train broke, hurling their passenger car down an embankment and Benny, their eleven year old son, was thrown from his seat and instantly killed. Jane was now firmly convinced of punishment from God. She did not attend Franklin's inauguration and when finally joining him in the White House refused to leave her room. She attended no social functions while First Lady. She often sat crying by the fireplace while writing letters to her deceased son, Benjamin. Jane did little to help her beleaguered husband and he was not offered the nomination for a second term. She endured the four year term and upon leaving Washington was so weakened by tuberculosis that she had to be carried out. The Pierces sailed to the Caribbean on board the U.S.S. Powhatan, a government ship loaned to them by President Buchanan seeking relief from the tuberculosis and the chronic depression which had engulfed Jane. She lived almost the rest of her life in Andover, Massachusetts with her sister looking after her until her death at age fifty seven. The ex-president took his wife home to Concord, New Hampshire to lie beside their sons, Frank and Benjamin. Franklin, Jr was buried in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. He outlived his wife by five years and upon his death was buried beside Jane in the Old North Cemetery in Concord. Very little remains of historic value in regards to Jane Pierce. In 1966, the only Concord house ever owned by Franklin Pierce and where the family lived in relative happiness, was threatened with demolition but saved and moved to the Concord Historic District. It has been restored and many of the furnishings belonged to the Pierce family. Some items are known as "White House Pieces." She is barely remembered today.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield
1804–1869 (m. 1834)