There’s an important Minnesota love story of the Victorian era that almost never saw the light of day. A collection of more than 100 love letters from the late 1800s and early 1900s between former First Lady Rose Cleveland, the sister of President Grover Cleveland, and the love of her life, Minnesota’s Evangeline Simpson Whipple, tells the story of two women who defied the odds to end up together.
Their relationship spanned close to 30 years, the ups and downs preserved in these notes, now archived at the Minnesota Historical Society. Their relationship changed during Evangeline’s marriage to Henry Whipple, Minnesota’s first Episcopal bishop, but it picked up again after his death.
Some of the letters are many pages long and traveled all around the world as the women moved. At the height of their correspondence, they wrote to each other multiple times a day.
But the true meaning of these letters was initially kept from the public. The Minnesota Historical Society was given the collection of letters in 1969, the same year as the Stonewall uprising. At that time, historians decided that 10 of them were evidence of a “lesbian relationship” between the two. They were then sealed from the public.
That seal was broken in 1978 after a queer historian asked about the missing letters. Fast forward a few decades, Lizzie Ehrenhalt of the Minnesota Historical Society and Tilly Laskey of the Maine Historical Society transcribed the stacks of letters from Rose to Evangeline and turned them into a book, Precious and Adored, which published in 2019.
Rose and Evangeline’s story is a testament to the importance of documenting your love story. Today, more than 100 years since Rose’s death, love letters aren’t the name of the game. But maybe it’s time we bring them back.
If the act of writing love letters seems like a romantic gesture of days gone by, how do you document your own love story today? Our friends at Rewire.org have a few suggestions.
Despite the 50th anniversary of the landmark Stonewall Riots in 2019, many current-day LGBTQ+ community members don’t know much about queer history because it’s been systematically erased. Take a look back at the events that unfolded in Greenwich Village in June 1969 and their ripple effects on the modern moment.
Watch Out North: MNLGBTQ History, our 2-hour documentary on the history of the pioneers and the places that figured prominently in Minnesota’s own quest for LGBTQ+ civil rights.
Step inside Minneapolis’ Amazon Bookstore, one of the first lesbian/feminist books shops in the nation, which opened its doors in 1970 and closed in 2012.