Mary Todd Lincoln

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Mary Todd Lincoln
First Lady of the United States
In office
March 4, 1861 – April 15, 1865
Preceded byHarriet Lane
Succeeded byEliza McCardle Johnson
Personal details
BornMary Ann Todd
(1818-12-13)December 13, 1818
Lexington, Kentucky, United States of America
DiedJuly 16, 1882(1882-07-16) (aged 63)
Springfield, Illinois, United States of America
Spouse(s)Abraham Lincoln (1842 – w. 1865)
RelationsRobert Smith Todd (Father)
Eliza Parker Todd (Mother)
ChildrenRobert Todd Lincoln
Edward Lincoln
Willie Lincoln
Tad Lincoln
ReligionPresbyterian
Signature
 
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Mary Todd Lincoln
First Lady of the United States
In office
March 4, 1861 – April 15, 1865
Preceded byHarriet Lane
Succeeded byEliza McCardle Johnson
Personal details
BornMary Ann Todd
(1818-12-13)December 13, 1818
Lexington, Kentucky, United States of America
DiedJuly 16, 1882(1882-07-16) (aged 63)
Springfield, Illinois, United States of America
Spouse(s)Abraham Lincoln (1842 – w. 1865)
RelationsRobert Smith Todd (Father)
Eliza Parker Todd (Mother)
ChildrenRobert Todd Lincoln
Edward Lincoln
Willie Lincoln
Tad Lincoln
ReligionPresbyterian
Signature

Mary Ann Lincoln (née Todd; December 13, 1818 – July 16, 1882) was the wife of the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, and was First Lady of the United States from 1861 to 1865.

A member of a large, wealthy Kentucky family, Mary was well educated. After living in the Todd House and a finishing school during her teens, she moved to Springfield, Illinois, where she lived for a time with her married sister Elizabeth Edwards. Before she married Abraham Lincoln, Mary was courted by his long-time political opponent Stephen Douglas. She and Lincoln had four sons together, only one of whom outlived her. Their home of about fifteen years still stands in Springfield.

Mary Lincoln suffered from migraine headaches, and suffered from other severe illnesses through much of her adult life. She supported her husband throughout his presidency. She witnessed his fatal shooting when they were at Ford's Theater together.

Contents

Early life and education

Born in Lexington, Kentucky as the fourth of seven children, Mary was the daughter of Robert Smith Todd, a banker, and Elizabeth (Parker) Todd.[1] Her family were slaveholders, and Mary was raised in comfort and refinement.[2] When Mary was six, her mother died. Two years later, her father married Elizabeth "Betsy" Humphreys; they had nine children together.[1][3] Mary had a difficult relationship with her stepmother.

Mary Todd Lincoln House, Lexington, Kentucky
Residence (1832–1839) marker

From 1832, Mary and her family lived in what is now known as the Mary Todd Lincoln House, an elegant 14-room residence in Lexington.[4] From her father's two marriages, Mary had a total of 15 siblings, nine of them half siblings.

Mary's paternal great-grandfather, David Levi Todd, was born in County Longford, Ireland, and emigrated through Pennsylvania to Kentucky. Her great-great maternal grandfather Samuel McDowell was born in Scotland, and emigrated to and died in Pennsylvania. Other Todd ancestors came from England.[5]

Mary was sent at an early age to attend a finishing school owned by Madame Mantelle, where the curriculum concentrated on French and literature. She learned to speak French fluently, studied dance, drama, music and social graces. By the age of 20, she was regarded as witty and gregarious, with a grasp of politics. Like her family, she was a Whig.[6]

Mary began living with her sister Elizabeth Porter (née Todd) Edwards in Springfield, Illinois in October 1839. Elizabeth, married to Ninian W. Edwards, son of a former governor, served as Mary's guardian at the time.[7] Mary was popular among the gentry of Springfield, and though she was courted by the rising young lawyer and Democratic Party politician Stephen A. Douglas and others, she chose Abraham Lincoln, a fellow Whig, from their courtship.[6]

Marriage and family

Todd married Abraham Lincoln on November 4, 1842, at her sister Elizabeth's home in Springfield. She was 23 and he was 33.

Their four sons, all born in Springfield, were:

Of these four sons, only Robert and Tad survived to adulthood, and only Robert outlived his mother.

Lincoln's career and home life

Lincoln Home, Springfield, Illinois, residence (1844–1861)

Lincoln and Douglas eventually became political rivals in the great Lincoln-Douglas debates for a seat representing Illinois in the United States Senate in 1858. Although Douglas successfully secured the seat when elected by the Illinois legislature, Lincoln became famous for his position on slavery, which generated national support for him.

While Lincoln pursued his increasingly successful career as a Springfield lawyer, Mary supervised their growing household. Their house, where they resided from 1844 until 1861, still stands in Springfield, and has been designated the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

During Lincoln's years as an Illinois circuit lawyer, Mary Lincoln was often left alone for months at a time to raise their children and run the household. Mary supported her husband socially and politically, not least when Lincoln was elected president in 1860.

White House years

Abraham Lincoln with Mary Todd Lincoln and their sons, Robert and Thomas ("Tad", erroneously recorded as Thaddeus)
Mary Todd Lincoln, 1860–65

During her White House years, Mary Lincoln faced many personal difficulties generated by political divisions within the nation. Her family was from a border state where slavery was permitted.[11] In Kentucky, siblings not infrequently fought each other in the Civil War[12] and Mary's family was no exception. Several of her half-brothers served in the Confederate Army and were killed in action, and one brother served the Confederacy as a surgeon.[13]

Mary staunchly supported her husband in his quest to save the Union and was strictly loyal to his policies. Considered a "westerner", although she had grown up in the more refined Upper South city of Lexington, Mary worked hard to serve as her husband's First Lady in Washington, D.C., a political center dominated by eastern and southern culture. Lincoln was regarded as the first "western" president, and critics described Mary's manners as coarse and pretentious.[14][15] She had difficulty negotiating White House social responsibilities and rivalries,[16] spoils-seeking solicitors,[17] and baiting newspapers[15] in a climate of high national intrigue in Civil War Washington.

Mary Lincoln suffered from severe headaches, described as migraines, throughout her adult life[18] as well as protracted depression.[19] During her White House years, she also suffered a head injury in a carriage accident, after which her headaches seemed to become more frequent.[20] A history of mood swings, fierce temper, public outbursts throughout Lincoln's presidency, as well as excessive spending, has led some historians and psychologists to speculate that Mary suffered from bipolar disorder.[21][22]

During her years in the White House, she often visited hospitals around Washington to give flowers and fruit to wounded soldiers. She took the time to write letters for them to send to their loved ones.[1][23] From time to time, she accompanied Lincoln on military visits to the field. Responsible for hosting many social functions, she has often been blamed by historians for spending too much on the White House. She reportedly felt that it was important to the maintenance of prestige of the Presidency and the Union during the Civil War.[1]

Widow and later life

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln. From left to right: Henry Rathbone, Clara Harris, Mary Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth

In April 1865, as the Civil War came to an end, Mrs. Lincoln expected to continue as the First Lady of a nation at peace. On April 14, 1865, as she sat with her husband to watch the comic play Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre, President Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. Mrs. Lincoln accompanied her mortally wounded husband across the street to the Petersen House, where Lincoln's Cabinet was summoned. Their son Robert sat with Lincoln throughout the night, until he died the following day at 7:22 am. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton ordered Mary from the room as she was so unhinged with grief.[20]

Afterward, she received messages of condolence from all over the world, many of which she attempted to answer personally. To Queen Victoria she wrote:

"I have received the letter which Your Majesty has had the kindness to write. I am deeply grateful for this expression of tender sympathy, coming as they do, from a heart which from its own sorrow, can appreciate the intense grief I now endure."

Victoria had suffered the loss of her husband, Prince Albert, four years earlier.[24]

As a widow, Mrs. Lincoln returned to Illinois and lived in Chicago with her sons. In 1868, Mrs. Lincoln's former modiste and confidante, Elizabeth Keckley, published Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House. She had been born into slavery, purchased her freedom and that of her son, and become a successful businesswoman in Washington, DC. Although this book provides valuable insight into the character and life of Mary Todd Lincoln, at the time the former First Lady (and much of the public and press) regarded it as a breach of friendship and confidentiality. Keckley was widely criticized for her book, especially as her editor had published letters from Mary Lincoln to her.[25][26]

In an act approved by a low margin on July 14, 1870, the United States Congress granted Mrs. Lincoln a life pension in the amount of $3,000 a year ($50,000 in 2011, adjusted for inflation).[27] Mary had lobbied hard for such a pension, writing numerous letters to Congress and urging patrons such as Simon Cameron to petition on her behalf. She insisted that she deserved a pension just as much as the widows of soldiers, as she portrayed her husband as a fallen commander.[28] At the time it was unprecedented for widows of presidents, and Mary Lincoln had alienated many congressmen, making it difficult for her to gain approval.[1]

The death of her son Thomas (Tad) in July 1871, following the death of two of her other sons and her husband, led to Mary Lincoln's suffering an overpowering grief and depression.[20] Her surviving son, Robert Lincoln, a rising young Chicago lawyer, was alarmed at his mother's increasingly erratic behavior. In March 1875, during a visit to Jacksonville, Florida, Mary became unshakably convinced that Robert was deathly ill. She traveled to Chicago to see him, but found he was not sick.

In Chicago she told her son that someone had tried to poison her on the train and that a "wandering Jew" had taken her pocketbook but would return it later.[20] During her stay in Chicago with her son, Mary spent large amounts of money on items she never used, such as draperies and elaborate dresses; she wore only black after her husband's assassination. She would walk around the city with $56,000 in government bonds sewn into her petticoats. Despite this large amount of money and the $3,000 a year stipend from Congress, Mrs. Lincoln had an irrational fear of poverty. After she nearly jumped out of a window to escape a non-existent fire, her son determined that she should be institutionalized.[20]

On May 20, 1875, he committed her to a private asylum in Batavia, Illinois.[29] Three months after being committed to Bellevue Place, Mary Lincoln devised her escape. She smuggled letters to her lawyer, James B. Bradwell, and his wife Myra Bradwell, who was not only her friend but a feminist lawyer and fellow spiritualist. She also wrote to the editor of the Chicago Times. Soon, the public embarrassments that Robert had hoped to avoid were looming, and his character and motives were in question, as he controlled his mother's finances. The director of Bellevue at Mary's trial had assured the jury she would benefit from treatment at his facility. In the face of potentially damaging publicity, he declared her well enough to go to Springfield to live with her sister Elizabeth Edwards as she desired.[30]

Mary Lincoln was released into the custody of her sister in Springfield. In 1876 she was declared competent to manage her own affairs. After the court proceedings, Mary Lincoln was so enraged that she attempted suicide. She went to the hotel pharmacist and ordered enough laudanum to kill herself, but he realized her intent and gave her a placebo.[20] The earlier committal proceedings had resulted in Mary being profoundly estranged from her son Robert, and they did not reconcile until shortly before her death.[1]

Mrs. Lincoln spent the next four years traveling throughout Europe and took up residence in Pau, France. Her final years were marked by declining health. She suffered from severe cataracts that reduced her eyesight. This condition may have contributed to her increasing susceptibility to falls. In 1879, she suffered spinal cord injuries in a fall from a stepladder.[1]

Death

Mary Todd Lincoln's crypt

During the early 1880s, Mary Lincoln was confined to the Springfield, Illinois residence of her sister Elizabeth Edwards. She died there on July 16, 1882, aged sixty-three. She was interred in the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield alongside her husband.[31]

Representations in other media

Biographies have been written about Mary Lincoln as well as her husband. Barbara Hambly's The Emancipator's Wife (2005) is considered a well-researched historical novel that provides context for her use of over-the-counter drugs containing alcohol and opium, which were frequently given to women of her era. Janis Cooke Newman's historical novel Mrs Lincoln (2007), in which Mary tells her own story after incarceration in the asylum in an effort to maintain and prove her sanity, is considered by Mary's recent biographer, Jean H. Baker, to be 'close to life' in its depiction of Mary Lincoln's life.[32]

Mary Lincoln has been portrayed by several actresses in film, including Julie Harris in The Last of Mrs. Lincoln, a 1976 television adaptation of the stage play; Mary Tyler Moore in the 1988 television mini-series Lincoln; Sally Field in Steven Spielberg's 2012 film Lincoln;[33] Penelope Ann Miller in Saving Lincoln (2012); and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012), set during the Civil War.

Family

Her sister Elizabeth Todd married Ninian Edwards Jr., the son of the Illinois Governor Ninian Edwards. Their daughter Julia Edwards married Edward L. Baker, editor of the Illinois State Journal and son of Congressman David Jewett Baker. Her half-sister Emilie Todd married Benjamin Hardin Helm, son of the Kentucky Governor John L. Helm and a CS General.

One of Mary Todd's cousins was Kentucky Congressman/US General John Blair Smith Todd. Another cousin, William L. Todd,[34] created the original Bear Flag for the California Republic in 1846.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Emerson, Jason. "Mary Todd Lincoln." The New York Times, Dec. 13, 2010. Accessed Nov. 17, 2012
  2. ^ Catherine Clinton, Mrs. Lincoln: A Life (New York: HarperCollins, 2010) ISBN 0-06-076041-9
  3. ^ Historians have suggested that Robert Smith Todd and Elizabeth Parker were double first cousins: his paternal aunt was married to her father, and her paternal aunt was married to his father.Mary Todd Biography
  4. ^ Mary Todd Lincoln House, National Park Service, (1977-06-09). Retrieved on 2011-09-14.
  5. ^ Mary Lincoln. Firstladies.org. Retrieved on 2011-09-14.
  6. ^ a b Donald, David Herbert (1995). Lincoln. New York: Touchstone. p. 85.
  7. ^ "Springfield". Lincoln's Life. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. http://www.abrahamlincoln200.org/lincolns-life/bio/lincoln-in-illinois/springfield.aspx. Retrieved 3 September 2009.
  8. ^ "Abraham Lincoln and Chicago (Abraham Lincoln's Classroom)". The Lincoln Institute. http://www.abrahamlincolnsclassroom.org/Library/newsletter.asp?ID=60&CRLI=140. Retrieved December 2, 2012.
  9. ^ "The Lincoln Boys". Library of Congress. http://myloc.gov/Exhibitions/civil-war-in-america/april-1862-november-1862/ExhibitObjects/Lincoln-Boys.aspx. Retrieved December 2, 2012.
  10. ^ Davenport, Don (2001). In Lincoln's Footsteps: A Historical Guide to the Lincoln Sites in Illinois. Big Earth Publishing. p. 210. http://books.google.com/books?id=Rz3VkkikvngC&pg=PA210#v=onepage&q&f=false.
  11. ^ MacLean, Maggie. "Abolishing slavery in America." Accessed Dec. 13, 2010
  12. ^ Kentucky Historical Society, moments 14.pdf "Kentucky's Abraham Lincoln: Divided Kentucky families during the Civil War." February 2008 – February 2010. Accessed December 13, 2010
  13. ^ Neely, Mark E., Jr. (1996). "The secret treason of Abraham Lincoln's brother-in-law". Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 17 (1): 39–43. JSTOR 20148933. http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jala/17.1/neely.html.
  14. ^ Phillips, Ellen Blue. Sterling Biographies: Abraham Lincoln: From Pioneer to President. New York: Sterling, 2007
  15. ^ a b The Lincoln Institute, The Lehrman Institute, and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. "Mr. Lincoln's White House: Mary Todd Lincoln (1818–1882)." No date. Accessed Dec. 13, 2010
  16. ^ Flood, Charles Bracelen. 1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.
  17. ^ Norton, Mary Beth, et al. A People and a Nation: a History of the United States. Since 1865, Volume 2. Florence, KY: Wadsworth Publishing, 2011.
  18. ^ NNDB/Soylent Communications, "Mary Todd Lincoln." 2010. Accessed Dec. 13, 2010
  19. ^ Holden, Charles J. (2004). "Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A house divided". Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies 34 (1): 76–77. doi:10.1353/flm.2004.0019. http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/film_and_history/v034/34.1holden.html.
  20. ^ a b c d e f Emerson, Jason (2006). "The madness of Mary Lincoln". American Heritage Magazine 57 (3). http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/2006/3/2006_3_56.shtml.
  21. ^ Graham, Ruth (2010-02-14). "Was Mary Todd Lincoln bipolar?". Slate. http://www.slate.com/id/2244675/. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  22. ^ Bach, Jennifer (2005). "Was Mary Lincoln bipolar?". Journal of Illinois History.
  23. ^ The Lincoln Institute, The Lehrman Institute, and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. "Mr. Lincoln's White House: Campbells General Hospital." Accessed Dec. 13, 2010
  24. ^ Turner, Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters, Fromm International Pub. Corp., 1987 ISBN 0-88064-073-1 p. 230
  25. ^ Page, Yolanda Williams (2007). Encyclopedia of African American Women Writers. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 331–333. ISBN 9780313334290. OCLC 433369250. "Behind the Scenes and Keckley were mocked and renounced by the press."
  26. ^ "1860s: An uneasy reaction to a White House memoir". White House History Timelines: White House Workers. White House Historical Association. http://www.whitehousehistory.org/whha_timelines/timelines_workers-02.html. Retrieved July 3, 2012. "Others believe that Keckley’s unscrupulous editor tricked her into lending him Mrs. Lincoln’s letters, which he then included in the book."
  27. ^ "277 – An Act granting a Pension to Mary Lincoln". Public Acts of the Forty-First Congress of the United States. p. 653. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsl&fileName=016/llsl016.db&recNum=688. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  28. ^ Jennifer Bach, "Acts of Remembrance: Mary Todd Lincoln and Her Husband's Legacy"
  29. ^ Mary Todd Lincoln's Stay at Bellevue Place, Showcase.netins.net. Retrieved on 2010-11-13.
  30. ^ Wellesley Centers for Women – The Madness of Mary Todd Lincoln | Women's Review of Books-May/June 2008. Wcwonline.org (2010-06-24). Retrieved on 2010-11-13.
  31. ^ "Mary Todd Lincoln". Presidential First Lady. Find a Grave. Jan 01, 2001. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=1341. Retrieved Aug 18, 2001.
  32. ^ "Mrs. Lincoln". Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mrs-Lincoln-Janis-Cooke-Newman/dp/1905802102/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  33. ^ Bloomer, Jeffrey. "Was Mary Todd Lincoln Really "Insane"?". slate.com. TheSlate Group. http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2012/11/09/mary_todd_lincoln_crazy_bipolar_while_historians_argue_new_spielberg_movie.html. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
  34. ^ Mary Todd Genealogy See Generation 5, Child "C" Grandchild 3 for William L (WLT), Generation 5 Child "G" = Generation 6 (grand) Child D for Mary (MATL) Shorthand Common Ancestor 5 WLT = 5C3, MATL= 5G4 = 6D = 7. 5C & 5G are brothers, which makes their children first cousins. The Revolutionary William is generation 3 child "I" The MATL/WLT line follows 3B to 4D to 5'

Further reading

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Harriet Lane
First Lady of the United States
1861–1865
Succeeded by
Eliza McCardle Johnson

External links