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99 essie grieved over her husband’s death for many months. They had been together for nearly fifty years, fought so many battles, collaborated on so many projects, and agreed on so many issues that at times it seemed, as Lily wrote, as if they were one. Now Jessie was alone. Eventually she moved on, but throughout the twelve years she lived without Frémont, he remained the center of her world and she continued to be the chief guardian of his memory. One example of the many times in her remaining years that she protected the legacy of “the General” came almost immediately after his death. Frémont had been working on an article about California for Century, a leading magazine, and it fell to a distraught Jessie to finish the story. When one of the editors had the temerity, in Jessie’s judgment, to suggest that some of Frémont’s wording might need improving, Jessie shot back, staunchly defending her husband in a letter: “But there is not a fact—I think not even a wording that can be altered without injury to the whole. And the whole is the final speaking of the General. . . . I ask this for justice to the General. And for consolation to me.” In the end, the article appeared with some minor changes that Jessie approved. From this point on, it became her mission to protect and promote her husband’s place in history. To that end, Jessie contemplated completing Frémont’s memoirs , which originally were to be in two volumes. She also planned to work on her autobiography. Her ambitions, however, CHAPTER 10 Jessie Alone m J 100 / JESSIE BENTON FRÉMONT Above, a self-portrait drawn by Jessie in 1901 from an 1899 photo, left. The sketch was made for a magazine that had asked for a picture of her to accompany an article she was writing. The caption reads: “I am 77 but do not look it. I [was] only 75 when that was made.” (Frémont Letters and Papers, James S. Copley Library) got ahead of her and neither project was ever completed. Jessie did continue to write stories for prominent American magazines, though, because it was a way to promote Frémont and because she needed the income. Often during her married life money was an issue. Nothing changed with Frémont’s death except, perhaps, that the situation worsened. Frémont died just after having his military retirement pension reinstated. With his passing, the yearly $6,000 payment ceased. Jessie now had no guaranteed income. Her son Charley, who handled the final arrangements, quickly found out as he settled Frémont’s affairs that his father had left behind a lot of debt. The news spread in the nation’s newspapers that Jessie had financial problems. Embarrassed by the notoreity over their mother’s finances, Jessie’s sons, Charley and Frank, announced that they would provide for her, yet Congress quickly voted to give her an annual pension of $2,000. This annuity was not enough to support her, though, and she did not want to be 101 / JESSIE ALONE An 1890 photograph of the Los Angeles house that was presented to Jessie and Lily by the California Federation of Women’s Clubs. (Frémont Letters and Papers, James S. Copley Library) beholden to her sons, so Jessie still wanted to earn a living. Hence, her stories for well-known publications became a necessity . She also needed an affordable place to live. The women of Los Angeles came to her rescue. Jessie was on the fringe of the burgeoning women’s movement. She was a friend of many of the leaders in the California Federation of Women’s Clubs, but she never became an active participant in that organization. Perhaps the reason for this was that she was too busy defending her husband, or was too involved with her writing. Perhaps she did not agree with all of the movement’s ideas or tactics, or just wanted to avoid the glare of public life. None of this mattered, because those in the movement were eager to embrace Jessie, and when it became known that she needed housing, the California women acted. They raised thousands of dollars, purchased a lot, and had a house built for Jessie 102 / JESSIE BENTON FRÉMONT Jessie, her son Charley’s children, and Lily enjoy the veranda of her home in Los Angeles in 1894. Dignitaries such as President William...


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