Francine was born September 26 (1967 or 1971) to a wealthy couple in South Carolina, Nicholas and Cassandra Dawson. She was abandoned by her birth parents because they were forbidden to bring their baby into first class with them, and so they selfishly left her at the airport.
She spent her early childhood in a Roman Catholic orphanage. She is naturally left-handed but this was literally beaten out of her, with a side of beef (or a mackerel on Fridays), by the nuns working there who saw lefties as "the devil's minions." As a result, she took to using her right hand and was conditioned to hate left-handed people. This was made evident in later life when she forcibly asked Steve's science partner to leave the house (at first the family thought she was a racist because Steve's science partner was an African American girl). But in recent episodes, she has adapted to being left-handed; she uses her left as her more dominant hand.
In "National Treasure 4: Baby Franny: She's Doing Well: The Hole Story", it is revealed that as a toddler she fell down a well in her hometown of Grundy, Virginia.
She was adopted at age seven by Bàba and Māma Ling, Chinese Americans, who had first seen her at age five but could not afford to adopt her for another two years. She speaks fluent Chinese, and often speaks in it to her parents to disguise their conversations in front of Stan. Her parents have their own biological daughter, Gwen, but they're ashamed of her because although supposedly she's very attractive (Stan often rhapsodizes about how "hot" she is, to Francine's calm frustration), she's not as bright as Francine (as Bàba puts it, "Imagine a Chinese girl [who] can't do math!") and is obviously promiscuous.
When Francine was about fourteen years old, she had an obsessive crush on her algebra teacher, Mr. Feeny. At one point, his wife discovered her in his closet, "cutting herself and sniffing his T-shirts." The police were called and Francine lied to them and said that she and Mr. Feeny were lovers. Mr. Feeny was sent to jail, where he committed suicide. From then on in high school, she was attacked by a group of popular pretty girls while showering in gym class and was said to have been "very depressed" until she found the "miracle of marijuana", although in "Jones for a Smith," she doesn't believe Hayley smokes marijuana, despite Hayley's realization that she has a problem with it and begging to go to rehab (though this could simply be Francine looking down on and calling 911 on her daughter).
In college Francine stabbed her roommate to death, which she casually admits to her family over dinner. Even though she was a party girl in college and seems to hold very liberal beliefs, she keeps them mostly to herself and follows her husband's conservative values. Exception: her extremely intent hatred of George Clooney. She hates him because he stole her spotlight in her only television appearance on an episode of Scarecrow and Mrs. King, which would have guaranteed her a movie career (though in "Deacon Stan, Jesus Man", Francine hated George Clooney because he won't settle down and get married like everyone else). Since then, Francine's dream has been to, at the very least, make George Clooney cry—which she has accomplished with Stan's help.
Francine first met Stan when he had just graduated from the CIA academy and been offered a post as an operative. She was a groupie trying to hitchhike home, and Stan pulled over and gave her a lift. During the trip, Stan veered to avoid hitting a car and accidentally ran over a raccoon, which he then shot to put it out of its misery. This act of compassion made her fall for him, and they married soon afterward. When Stan was still oblivious to the fact that next-door neighbors Greg Corbin and Terry Bates were gay, he suggested that he and Francine fix them up with her sister Gwen. While Francine knows they're gay, Stan thinks her reluctance is because Gwen is "too hot" and then reminisces about her appearance at their wedding (though Stan eventually discovers the truth). She and Toshi's mother Hiko don't get along, as demonstrated in "Weiner of Our Discontent", where they show minor hatred and Francine asks if anyone speaks "sushi-hostess" after Hiko finishes speaking. It escalated in "Spelling Be My Baby", where both she and Hiko push their kids trying to prove whose is better, even battling with swords.
Although she enjoys being a housewife (once criticizing Stan for locking her up without shirts to fold, as she "hates down time"), as well as becoming aroused during spring cleaning, Francine occasionally yearns for more fulfillment. Sometimes this is in the form of a job; she was briefly a successful realtor and even sold local newsreaders Greg and Terry the house across the street from the Smiths', achieved her dream of owning a muffin kiosk (she has tried sleeping with Adam Ant, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, and Dexys Midnight Runners to get an investment for one when she was younger) at the mall, and even becoming a surgeon for an organized-crime syndicate made up of handicapped people. Once she joined a group of ultra-chic local ladies by faking an affair with a valet. Stan often neglects Francine, ignores what she says, and has forgotten their wedding anniversary at least twice despite being viciously beaten by her to the extent she had to be restrained by two police officers. Despite this, Francine loves him and seems to be unable to cheat on him; even when her life was threatened she still would not sleep with another man. However, Francine has offered to let Stan cheat on her twice. When Klaus, whose long-time attraction to Francine we are made well aware of, is put into the body of a handsome black man who was once in an Earth, Wind and Fire tribute band, he temporarily manages to win Francine over; however, she does resist him, noticing something familiar about him. It is only until Stan reveals Klaus's identity that she is turned off completely.
Francine enjoys drinking alcohol (she has one bottle of wine for each special occasion, such as "Told Klaus to Shut Up"), occasionally smokes cigarettes (particularly when under stress), and has a history of using marijuana (which causes her to drink an entire bottle of Sunkist soda in a second) and even cocaine. Francine has an unhealthy obsession with keeping Steve as 'her baby' which has led her to pursue emotionally and physically abusive behavior towards him in an effort to keep him from becoming an independent man. She seems to go on obsessive jaunts and can resort to violence when the need demands. However, she maintains a warmth for animals and an unstoppable maternal instinct regarding her family, including a nonchalant acceptance of Stan's murderous overreactions. She also has an extreme hatred of George Clooney, according to "Deacon Stan, Jesus Man" and "Tears of a Clooney."
Francine has a curious and often perplexing intellect: while frequently displaying extreme ditziness through her social interactions with other characters, such as through failures to reason properly, inappropriate or misguided behavior, and laughing prematurely during jokes, Francine has also shown herself to possess incredible intellectual capacity: she is fluent in French, Spanish, and Mandarin, and, in "Stan Time", manages to gain expert-level knowledge of marine biology through self-study in only a few weeks, to such an extent that she manages to get an article on the habitat of the colossal squid published in a scientific journal, gaining her instant international recognition.
Previous to her marriage Francine had a history of sexual promiscuity, most notably as a groupie who slept with numerous rock stars and pop singers and planting a rose bush for every person she has slept with, creating "the world's largest sex garden" which is so big it has a tour group (and is rumored to have, within its confines, an Indian civilization that has never seen a white man). In the second season episode "Finances With Wolves" it is established that the Dexys Midnight Runners' hit song "Come On Eileen" was written about Francine after the band had an orgy with her but couldn't remember her name.
While initially portrayed as a devoted housewife who tries to have her family bond with one another, Francine's morality slowly deteriorates in later seasons and she becomes a more shallow and contemptuous character, often speaking insultingly and heartlessly of others, including her own family, and proving just as selfish and shallow as her husband. There are times when Francine has demonstrated that she might be mentally unstable, including her vendetta against George Clooney and her extreme empty nest syndrome. In "Family Affair" she nonchalantly admits she stabbed her college roommate to death and expresses surprise that no one in the family knew before. In "Max Jets" she is visibly excited by the idea of Charles Manson being released from jail and "finishing what he started". In "Live and Let Fry" she tells Hayley that she can't handle much, and when someone rings the doorbell she screams "It's too much!". She also becomes violent and angry seemingly at random, once point sweeping Klaus' bowl onto the floor screaming 'Humans are talking!' because he interrupted her. Similarly, in the episode "Stan of Arabia," Francine resorts to physical violence when challenging Stan's Arabian wife, Thundercat, for Stan's affection; saying "you want to dance bitch; then let's dance" and proceeded to fight her reasonably well. In "Every Which Way But Lose", Francine also admitted that she doesn't know how to vote as it confuses her too much. She just enters a booth, waits ten seconds, then comes out and yells "Democracy!"
Francine has also apparently spent time in prison before, and has recounted her experiences - with varying degrees of horror - on at least two occasions as seen in the fourth season episode "Pulling Double Booty". She also seems to be very experienced with weapons, though whether or not this is because she is married to Stan is never established. She is shown to carry machetes with her in the pilot and has pulled a gun on Stan on more than one occasion. She was also able to make a weapon out of a government-issued rubber shoe Roger had to wear as part of his stint as a prison therapist.
Despite being somewhat an animal lover, Francine has shown a cruelty to small birds, especially when it comes to cooking. In Live and Let Fry, she throws a chick at a window after becoming frustrated about not getting trans fat. During "In Country...Club," she sings with a small bird, only to drown it in alcohol and cook it for Roger.
Francine has suffered great brain damage, as Stan ran over her (twice) causing her brain to temporarily detach from her central nervous system. Though Roger restored the damage, she was left with severely reduced mental functions. Stan also accidentally erased the last 20 years of her memory (making Francine act like a teenager from 1985), which he managed to restore. Francine has told Steve that she used to stalk her old school teacher and she also willfully cut her own hand off when it was handcuffed to a pole so she could kill George Clooney (the hand was later reattached). Francine has two birth scars, a caesarian scar from Hayley's birth (although in "The Most Adequate Christmas Ever" Hayley's birth is shown to be natural, albeit delivered by a baboon), and a scar on her perineum ("tore from [her] V to [her] A") from Steve's birth. Despite this, she claims in "Surro-Gate" that both of her own children's births were "a breeze" for her, and therefore becomes the natural choice to carry Greg and Terry's daughter for them. She also seems to have a case of empty nest syndrome, as she had problems coping with Steve's girlfriend, Debbie, and was more than willing to comfort Steve when Debbie broke up with him. This has recently begun to take obsessive levels, including Francine using a CIA anti-aging formula to turn Steve into a toddler that she could coddle and baby, and sabotaging his surprisingly successful attempts at popularity to keep him home (and also to keep him from possibly going into any potentially violent mood swings). It is also hinted that she has done cocaine in the past. She can be seen smoking a cigarette in several episodes.
Francine was originally 38, but she became 40 years old in the episode "Tears of a Clooney". The episode starts with her 39th birthday, she attempts to get revenge on George Clooney for a year, and the episode ends with her 40th birthday. It's unknown whether or not the other characters aged as well, except for presumably Stan. He says in one episode that she is ten months younger than he is. However, in "May the Best Stan Win", Francine's year of birth is listed as being in 1971, and Stan's is shown to be 1967. However, in "Da Flippity Flop", he refers that he is an American made man since '68–implying his birth year was in 1968. In "Shallow Vows", it says Francine's birthday is September 26, 1967 on her driver's license. In the same episode, she later tells Stan she was indeed born on September 26.