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Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary Todd was born on December 13, 1818 in Lexington, Kentucky.
Mary's mother died when she was six.

Her father was a businessman. He provided every need of his children. When she was 8 she went to on of the best schools in the area. She later went to a boarding school outside of Lexington. She learned to speak French and social skills.

Mary live close to Henry Clay, a famous U.S. Congressman This may have started her interest in politics.

She attended some of the best schools at that time and learned about French, music, and art.

She married Abraham Lincoln on November 4, 1842. Her family didn't think Lincoln was a worthy husband.

Mary and Abraham both knew that he had “married up.” (Higher in society.)

Mary set out to upgrade Lincoln’s close and manners. The most expensive thing they purchased during their first year of marriage was a new “superior black cloth" suit.

Mary Lincoln
Library of Congress

She also taught him how to entertain his guests. to use the right fork and interact with the servants.

Mary encouraged Lincoln to run for the U.S. House of Representatives. He lost that election. He also lost an election for the U.S. Senate, but became President in 1860.

When Lincoln was elected to the House of Representatives she went to Washington with Lincoln. She have few social outlets at that time and found Washington D.C. "intolerable". She returned to Lexington after a few months.

Lincoln sometimes referred to Mary Lincoln as his "child wife" or Mother.

She had always wanted to live in the White House.

Mary Lincoln was accused of supporting the South. She stated that she supported the North, but several of her relatives enlisted on the side of the South. People wondered how she could be dedicated to the North when brothers were fighting for the South. She also spent a lot of money on clothes. In 1865 she spent a lot of money on Jewelry and silverware. She told a friend that she spent more than $27,00 on buying sprees. That was much more than her husband earned as president.

She was also criticized for giving parties in war time and Abe was upset with her when she went over the budget for refurbishing the White House.

In 1862, her son Willie died of typhoid. He was 11 years old.

Mary was afraid her older son, Robert, might die also and refused to let him serve in the Union Army.

Lincoln was assassinated on April 14th, 1865. Lincoln had ask General Grant and his wife to go to the play with them. Grant wanted to go home and so he declined. He regretted after the assassination and always thought he might have been able to save Lincoln's live.

Mary was too upset to attend his funeral.

She was in debt when Lincoln died and was worried about having to live in poverty. Lincoln's estate was about $35,00.

Congress had usually paid the wife one years pay for one year. ($22,00) if the President died in office. However, Lincoln was the first president to be assassinated.

Mary thought she should get more. She did sell off some of her jewelry and clothes.

Congress did not approve a pension for her until 1870.

Mrs. Lincoln was always worried about money.

Her son Tad died of tuberculosis in 1871.

Mary's mental state after the third death in her family caused her mental problems. Her son Robert had her declared insane in 1875. They

She did get herself released. At her trial, the judge stated "Mary Lincoln is no more insane than I am."

Mary Todd Lincoln was one of the most written about woman in American History.

In 1882, Congress raised the payment to First Ladies to $3.000 to $5,000. It was to late for Mary who died that year.

She died on July 15, 1882 in Springfield, Illinois. Mary was 63. She is buried next to her husband.

 

 

 

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U.S. Presidents Home

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Sources of Information:

Books:
Barden, Cindy,Meet the First Ladies, Lorenz Corp.
Gormley, Beatrice,First Ladies: Women Who Called The White House Home (First Ladies) , Scholastic Paperbacks, 1997
Smith, Carter, Editor,Smithsonian Presidents and First Ladies DK Publishing, New York, 2002

Web Sites:
The White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/firstladies/
Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/odmdhtml/

 

This page was last updated: August 18, 2017