In 1890, Rose Cleveland, sister of President Grover Cleveland, began writing to Evangeline Simpson, a wealthy widow who would become the second wife of Henry Whipple, Minnesota's Episcopal bishop. The women corresponded across states and continents, discussing their advocacy and humanitarian work—and demonstrating their sexual attraction, romance, and partnership. In 1910, after Evangeline Whipple was again widowed, the two women sailed to Italy and began a life together.
The letters, most written in Cleveland's dramatic, quirky style, guide readers through new love, heartbreak, and the rekindling of a committed relationship. Lillian Faderman's foreword provides the context for same-sex relationships at the time. An introduction and annotations by editors Lizzie Ehrenhalt and Tilly Laskey discuss the women's social and political circles, and explain references to friends, family, and historical events.
After Rose Cleveland's death, Evangeline Whipple described her as "my precious and adored life-long friend." This collection, rare in its portrayal of nineteenth-century LGBTQ history, brings their poignant story back to life.
|Publisher:||Minnesota Historical Society Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Tilly Laskey is the outreach curator at Maine Historical Society in Portland, Maine.
Read an Excerpt
April 23, 1890
My Eve! Ah, how I love you! It paralyzes me. I have been going over & over your written words until the full message of themsome of themhas made me weary with emotion. This I must try and escape, for your sake. But let me cry & shout it. Oh Eve, Eve, surely you cannot realize what you are to me. What you must be. Yes, I dare it, now; I will not longer fear to claim you. You are mine by every sign in Earth & Heaven, by every sign in soul & spirit & bodyand you cannot escape me. You must bear me all the way, Eve; clasp me in my despair of any other and give me every joy & all hopethis is yours to do.
Table of ContentsIntroduction
Overview of Rose and Evangeline’s relationship. .
This year-by-year (and in some cases month-by-month) account will explain key events in the two women’s lives and offer historical context. It will intersperse personal events (e.g., Evangeline’s marriage to Bishop Whipple, Rose’s return from Europe) with facts and time periods not mentioned in the correspondence (e.g., Rose’s tenure as de facto First Lady of the United States, Evangeline’s move to Faribault).
Map of Rose’s and Evangeline’s homes
Map of Rose’s travels with Evelyn Ames in Europe, 1896–1901
The letters (with annotations)
Part 1: ca. 1889–1893
The earliest of Rose’s letters to Evangeline detail the first years of their romance and their efforts to see each other privately as they travel throughout the Eastern United States. Rose’s friends Amelia (Millie) Candler and Evelyn Ames briefly take over the narrative as they write to Evangeline. The section ends with a revealing partial letter from Rose to Evangeline written after a break in their relationship.
Part 2: 1893–1896
After an apparent reunion with Evangeline, Rose continues to record scenes from her life in letters sent while they are apart. Bishop Whipple corresponds with Evangeline, providing a glimpse of their friendship and eventual brief courtship (they married in 1896 and lived together in Faribault). In messages of their own, Evelyn and Millie describe Rose’s health, moods, and career in New England, revealing valuable outside perspectives on her personality. Rose writes to Evangeline’s mother, to whom she was devoted, and prepares for an indefinite holiday in Europe with Evelyn.
Part 3: 1896–1901
Over a four-year period, Rose and Evelyn keep Evangeline (now living in Faribault) informed about their trip aboard the steamship Normannia and subsequent travels to Austria, Italy, Hungary, Turkey, and Egypt. In her letters, Rose tries to maintain an emotional closeness with Evangeline in spite of their separation and Evangeline’s marriage. Evangeline commits herself to serving the Episcopalian Church, St. Mary’s School for Girls, and work and friendships with Dakota and Ojibwe people in Minnesota.
Part 4: 1901-1928
Evangeline continues to live in Faribault, even moving her mother from the East Coast to live in Minnesota. Rose sends condolences to Evangeline in 1901, after Bishop Whipple’s death, and in 1906, when Evangeline’s mother dies. Her letters continue sporadically from 1906 until 1910, when she and Evangeline begin their lives as true partners in their new home in Italy. One of the collection’s last letters includes Evangeline’s description of Rose’s death (from the Spanish flu, in 1918) and funeral; three subsequent letters written by Evangeline to her stepchildren in Minnesota reflect on her life in the 1920s.