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Jane Addams, known prominently for her work as a social reformer, pacifist and feminist during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was born Laura Jane Addams on September 6, 1860, in Cedarville, Illinois. The eighth of nine children born to an affluent state senator and businessman, Addams lived a life of privilege. Her father had many important friends, including President Abraham Lincoln.

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After first arriving at the White House the First Lady retired to her room, where she spent her days writing heartbreaking letters of apology to her deceased son:

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The Pierces returned to the United States in 1860, and Jane rarely left her sister’s home in Andover, Massachusetts after that. Her worsening disease soured their remaining years together. During the Civil War, the Pierces were divided. Franklin was all for preserving the Union while Jane hoped for an end to slavery, even if it took a war and breaking up the Union to do so.

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As time passed, Jane Pierce gradually became more involved in her husband’s life making her first official appearance as First Lady at a New Year’s Day reception in 1855 and thereafter served intermittently. But her health and her disinterest in Washington society made her unable and unwilling to embrace the full responsibilities of the role. She did attend Congressional debates, which is surprising considering her dislike of politics.

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Jane’s aunt Abigail Kent Means handled the First Lady’s social responsibilities. Since Mrs. Means had no children, she found it easier to spend long periods of time with Jane, whom she loved like a sister. When Mrs. Means was absent from the Capitol, (wife of the Secretary of War and future First Lady of the Confederacy) officiated.

Jan 06, 2010 · Generation #5

It is too late for you to have the sweet benefit of it – and now this Sabbath evening you will come in fancy before me and I sit close by you, with your hand in mine perhaps, or you will lean against me on the sofa, or as sometimes you did on Sunday evening sit on my lap a little while and we talk together and say hymns and then play and then by and by you go to bed first putting your arms around me and laying your dear head on my shoulder and then you get in your bed and we have our Sabbath night kiss – but to think I can never have another – Oh Benny, I have not valued such a sweet blessing as I ought.


My precious child – I must write to you, altho’ you are never to see it or know it – How I long to see you and say something to you as if you were as you always have been (until these last three dreadful weeks) near me. …my dear son, how much I feel my own faults in regard to you – I know that I did not take the right way and should have dealt with you very gently often when I judged hastily and spoke harshly. I can see that I was ‘unreasonable’ and sometimes almost wonder that you loved me at all. God help me now to correct in bitterness my errors…

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While in deep mourning, a woman would not take part in social events other than those necessary for the continued well-being of the family. Jane’s period of mourning lasted a full two years. She seems to have found the additional time necessary, perhaps in order to find relief from the pressure of social events.