Jessie Fremont: Powerhouse some called ‘General Jessie’
It was the turn of the 20th century. The woman was small, frail and destitute, living in a small house in Los Angeles donated by a group of concerned women. Her hair was white and her hands trembled, but her keen eyes still reflected the blazing fire that characterized one of the most powerful women in the previous century. Jessie Benton Frémont was bowed by age but unbroken in spirit. Jessie was the daughter of Sen. Thomas Hart Benton, the powerful sponsor of America's westward expansion, and Elizabeth McDowell, a fifth-generation Virginia belle. Born May 31, 1824, near Lexington, Va., Jessie inherited her father's qualities of spirit, imagination and intellect while gaining grace and etiquette from her mother. The Bentons alternated their time between three homes: Washington, D.C., St. Louis and the large family estate in Virginia. Jessie grew up to become her father's favorite child, occupying "the place a son would have had" in her father's heart. She frequently took the place of her mother when the senator attended or hosted social functions.