Jane Appleton Pierce


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Mary Appleton Pierce

by Michael Gabriele


Jane Appleton Pierce was the First Lady of the United States from 1853 to 1857, while her husband Franklin Pierce served as President. Born on March 12th, 1806, in Hampton, New Hampshire, Jane spent her childhood at home learning piano and how to write. She developed a passion for music and wanted to pursue it as a career later on in her life.

When her family moved to Amherst, New Hampshire, Jane met Franklin and they dated for years before their marriage. Jane was twenty-eight years old, an uncommonly old age for women to marry at the time. Jane disliked politics and being involved with them, so she did not express much enthusiasm that her husband pursued a career in public service. In the first few years of their marriage, Jane gave birth to two sons, but they both passed away within the year of their birth. Her third and final child, Benjamin, only lived to age twelve.

In 1852, Franklin Pierce was made the Democratic candidate for President. Jane disliked the prospect of living in the White House. On their way to Washington, D.C. for the inauguration, a train accident derailed their car and their only son was killed. Jane was devastated, and the incident made moving into the White House even worse to her. She sunk into a severe depression during her husband’s presidency, only carrying out the duties of the First Lady with reluctance.  Most of the duties of the First Lady fell upon her aunt, or, Varina Davis, the wife War Secretary, Jefferson Davis. She blamed all of her problems in life, including her husband’s alcoholism, on politics.

In 1857, Jane and Franklin left the White House at the end of his term and traveled to Europe. Jane’s depression had developed into a chronic problem at this point, causing her to contract tuberculosis. Their trip to Europe was cut short. Franklin took Jane moved to her sister’s home in Andover, Massachusetts, where her sister cared for her. She died in the home on December 2nd, 1863.