Donner in 1933
|1st First Lady of South Korea|
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Gong Deok-gwi|
|Born||June 15, 1900
Inzersdorf, Vienna, Austria-Hungary
(now Vienna, Austria)
|Died||March 19, 1992 (aged 91)
Seoul, South Korea
|Revised Romanization||Peurancheseuka Doneo|
|Native Korean Name|
|Hangul||이부란 / 리부란|
|Revised Romanization||I Buran / Ri Buran|
|McCune–Reischauer||Yi Puran / Ri Puran|
Francesca Maria Barbara Donner (Korean: 프란체스카 도너; Peurancheseuka Doneo; June 15, 1900 – March 19, 1992) was the second wife of Syngman Rhee, and was the inaugural First Lady of South Korea, from 1948 to 1960.
According to birth documents, she was born Franziska Donner. She later used the spelling Franzeska Donner (even in official documents). Otherwise, the most common spelling of her name was the Italian form, Francesca. This version is used in all of her Korean documents (including her passport).
Early life and education
Donner was born in the municipality of Inzersdorf, which would be incorporated into Vienna in 1938. She worked at the League of Nations in Geneva as an interpreter, diplomat, and hostess. In 1933, she met Korean politician Syngman Rhee (Yi Seung-man 이승만) in a Geneva hotel. At the time Rhee was living in the United States, he was only on a visit in Geneva. He visited her shortly afterwards in Austria and asked to marry her. Donner followed him to the United States, and the marriage took place in 1934 in New York. For both, it was a second marriage.
Donner and Rhee lived initially in New York and Washington, D.C., and then in Hawaii, where a large Korean expatriate community-in-exile was politically active. Donner worked in the U.S. as Rhee's secretary, particularly in the preparation of the book Japan Inside Out (1940).
In March 1948, Rhee was elected first president of South Korea, an office he held until 1960. "Francesca Rhee" was from 1948 to 1960 the first First Lady of South Korea. She appeared at her husband's side in almost all public functions.
After five years of residence in Austria, which she had left more than 30 years earlier, Donner returned to South Korea in 1970. She lived from 1970 to 1992 in Seoul, specifically in the Ihwajang, the former home of President Rhee, together with their adoptive son, Rhee In-soo (Korean: 이인수; Yi In-su) and his family.
Donner died on March 19, 1992, in Seoul, South Korea.
- Yi Sun-ae 이순애 [Soonae Lee-Fink], Peurancheseuka Ri Seutori 프란체스카 리 스토리 [The story of Francesca Rhee] (Seoul: Raendeom Hauseu Jungang 랜덤하우스중앙 [Random House JoongAng], 2005), cover. (ISBN 89-5924-999-8.)
- Yi Sun-ae, Peurancheseuka Ri Seutori (Seoul: Raendeom Hauseu Jungang, 2005).
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|First||First Lady of South Korea