Rose Cleveland’s Queer Legacy

Thursday, January 6, 2022: 1:50 PM
Rhythms Ballroom 2 (Sheraton New Orleans)
Lizzie Ehrenhalt, Minnesota Historical Society
After he was elected president in 1884, an unmarried Grover Cleveland recruited his younger sister, Rose, to fill the official role of Hostess of the White House—a job that usually went to the chief executive’s wife. Rose served as de facto First Lady of the United States for just fifteen months (1885–1886) but made a splash during that relatively short time, drawing attention for her support for women’s rights and her career as a professional writer. Rose Cleveland’s queerest legacy, however, developed after she left the White House. In 1890 she began a passionate romance with Evangeline Simpson, a wealthy widow who would become the second wife of an Episcopal bishop. The couple’s extant letters provide detailed insight into a same-sex relationship during the Gilded Age.