Frances was the daughter of Thomas and Jane Dawson of Northumberland, England. In 1855 she married Frederick Richards Leyland, shipowner and art collector, but separated in 1879. They had four children: Frederick Dawson (b. 1856); Fanny (1857-1880); Florence (1859-1921); and Elinor (1861-1952).
Her husband commissioned many family portraits from JW including her own, Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland (YMSM 106). She was known for her charming and lively character, and beauty. She became very friendly with AMW. Her sister Elizabeth Dawson was briefly engaged to JW.
r.: Study for 'Arrangement in Black, No. 2: Portrait of Mrs Louis Huth'; v.: Study for 'Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland' (M.454); The Velvet Dress (K.105); Merrill, Linda, The Peacock Room: A Cultural Biography, Washington, DC, 1998, pp. 117-118, 128, 130, 296-97.