|First Lady of the United States|
March 4, 1853 – March 4, 1857
|Preceded by||Abigail Fillmore|
|Succeeded by||Harriet Lane|
|Born||Jane Means Appleton
March 12, 1806
Hampton, Rockingham County, New Hampshire, U.S.
|Died||December 2, 1863
Andover, Essex County, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Children||Franklin Pierce, Jr.
Franklin "Frank" Robert Pierce
Early life 
Born in Hampton, New Hampshire, the daughter of Reverend Jesse Appleton, a Congregationalist minister, and Elizabeth Means-Appleton, Jane was a petite, frail, shy, melancholy figure. After the death of her father, who had served as president of Bowdoin College not long before Franklin enrolled there, she at age 13 moved into the mansion of her wealthy maternal grandparents in Amherst.
How she met Pierce, a young lawyer with political ambitions, is unknown, but her brother-in-law Alpheus S. Packard was one of Pierce's instructors at Bowdoin. Franklin, aged almost 30, married Jane, aged 28, on November 19, 1834, at the home of the bride's maternal grandparents in Amherst, New Hampshire. Theirs was a small wedding, conducted by a brother-in-law of Jane, the Reverend Silas Aiken. The couple honeymooned six days at the boardinghouse of Sophia Southurt near Washington, D.C..
Pierce was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives by the time they married, and became a U.S. Senator in 1837. Mrs. Pierce hated life in Washington, D.C., and encouraged Pierce to resign his Senate seat and return to New Hampshire, which he did in 1842.
Service in the Mexican-American War brought Pierce the rank of Brigadier General and local fame as a hero. He returned home safely, and for four more years the Pierces lived quietly at Concord, New Hampshire, in the happiest period of their lives, where Jane watched her son Benjamin "Benny" grow up.
In 1852, the Democratic Party made Pierce their candidate for President. His wife fainted at the news. When Pierce took her to Newport for a respite, eleven-year-old Benny wrote to her: "I hope he won't be elected for I should not like to be at Washington and I know you would not either." But the President-elect convinced Jane that his office would be an asset for Benny's success in life.
The Pierces apparently had genuine affection for one another, but quarreled often and gradually drifted apart. She opposed Pierce's decision to run for president, for she much preferred private life. When her son Bennie was killed in a train accident before Pierce was sworn in as President, she believed God was displeased with her husband's political ambitions. After the deaths of her children, Mrs. Pierce was overcome with melancholia and distanced herself during her husband's presidency. She never recovered from the tragedy.
For nearly two years, she remained in the upstairs living quarters of the White House, spending her days writing maudlin letters to her dead son. She left the social chores to her aunt Abby Kent-Means and her close friend Varina Davis, wife of War Secretary Jefferson Davis. Mrs. Pierce made her first official appearance as First Lady at a New Year's Day reception in 1855 and thereafter served as White House hostess intermittently.
The Pierces had three children, all of whom died at young ages:
- Franklin Pierce, Jr. (February 2–5, 1836)
- Franklin "Frank" Robert Pierce (1839–1843) - died at the age of four from epidemic typhus.
- Benjamin Pierce (April 13, 1841-January 16, 1853) - Two months before Pierce's inauguration as president, a tragedy occurred as the family traveled by train from Andover, Massachusetts, to Concord, New Hampshire, where they had planned to attend the funeral of a family friend. Minutes after departure, their passenger car broke loose from the train and rolled down an embankment. The only fatality was Bennie Pierce.
- Letter to Benjamin Pierce from Jane Pierce after Benjamin's death
- Painting of Jane Pierce
- the memory palace, history podcast episode: "The Saddest President."
Abigail Powers Fillmore
|First Lady of the United States