Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Family Life

Jane Pierce was a deeply religious woman, born into the Congregationalist church, and her beliefs penetrated almost every aspect of the family's life. No meal took place without grace. Before his tragic death, her son, Benjamin Pierce, was sent to church every single morning and after his death, religion seemed to be the only solace for his parents.

In his rare time away from the cares of office and family, Pierce enjoyed fishing and visits to the country. With the President and his wife still in mourning when they moved to Washington, social life in the Pierce White House was limited. Because of Jane Pierce's frail health, opposition to drinking, and her depression over the loss of her child, social functions at the White House were almost nonexistent during the first half of the Pierce administration. In its later months, she did manage some appearances at events there, but she came to be known as "The Shadow in the White House."