Precious and Adored: The Love Letters of Rose Cleveland and Evangeline Simpson Whipple, 1890-1918

Precious and Adored: The Love Letters of Rose Cleveland and Evangeline Simpson Whipple, 1890-1918


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"You are mine, and I am yours, and we are one, and our lives are one henceforth, please God, who can alone separate us. I am bold to say this, to pray and to live by it."—Rose Cleveland to Evangeline Simpson, May 6, 1890

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781681341293
Publisher: Minnesota Historical Society Press
Publication date: 05/01/2019
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 829,839
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Lizzie Ehrenhalt is the editor of MNopedia, the online encyclopedia of Minnesota.

Tilly Laskey is the outreach curator at Maine Historical Society in Portland, Maine.

Read an Excerpt

In spite of her exclamations that she failed or declined to find the language to express her love for Whipple, Cleveland did, in fact, do exactly that. Falling back on the standard vocabulary of Victorian affection used by friends as well as lovers, she made Whipple her beloved; darling; everything; Love; Sweet; and Sweetheart. The combined impact of the epithets throughout Cleveland’s letters suggests a longing that bordered on obsessiveness. The US Post Office delivered the mail twice a day during Whipple and Cleveland’s courtship. Cleveland’s rapid frequency of correspondence and demand of prompt replies from Whipple during this time of heightened emotions can appear, at times, oppressive:
Eva, do you know in what distress I was? No word from you at all since you had my letter written after receipt of your telegram and in anticipation of what your letter (it promised) should contain. The letter came on Thursday by Orange Belt and another by regular evening mail. Then on Friday one in Orange Belt and one in evening mail . . . your happiness & mine are floating somewhere—impossible to get hold of!!
Cleveland’s insistence on possession, however, nudged the relationship into erotic and even conjugal territory. Cleveland repeated the epithet “my Eve” fourteen times throughout the letters written between 1890 and 1893. During the same period, she announced, “I will not longer fear to claim you; you are mine.”
Legal language—references to oaths, contracts, and evidence—appeared in many of Cleveland’s letters. “You must swear, Eve,” she insisted in the spring of 1890. “Take all the oaths you can to keep me easy until I have you.” Around the same time, she begged Whipple to sign a written statement of commitment. She later referred, teasingly, to a similar promise: “Please remember, Madam, that I have a writing that can appear as evidence, if you do not fulfill your contract.”
In the most dramatic example of legalese, Cleveland invoked a marriage vow, telling Evangeline, “You are mine, and I am yours, and we are one, and our lives are one henceforth, please God, who can alone separate us.” The officiant’s blessing used at many Protestant weddings in Victorian America used similar language, adapted from Mark 10:8: “What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.” Without a vocabulary to express the seriousness of her love for another woman, Cleveland turned to a traditional and legitimate institution—Christian marriage—to confirm her commitment.

Table of Contents

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.

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