Mary Todd Lincoln
|Mary Ann Todd Lincoln|
|Date & Place of Birth||December 13, 1818, Lexington, Kentucky|
|Parents||Robert Smith Todd and Elizabeth Parker-Todd|
|Spouse||Abraham Lincoln, married on November 4, 1842|
|Children||4: Eddie Lincoln, Robert Todd Lincoln, Willie Lincoln, Tad Lincoln|
|Date & Place of Death||July 16, 1882, Springfield, Illinois|
|Place of Burial||Lincoln Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, IL|
- Office Held: First Lady of the United States from 1861 to 1865
- Cause of Death: "Paralysis" (possibly a stroke)
- Age at Death: 63 years old
Life before the White House
Born in Lexington, Kentucky, the daughter of Robert Smith Todd, a banker, and Elizabeth Parker-Todd, Mary was raised in comfort and refinement. After her mother's death at age seven, her father remarried Elizabeth "Betsy" Humphreys-Todd in 1826.  Mary had a difficult relationship with her stepmother. Beginning in 1832, Mary's childhood home was what is now known as the Mary Todd Lincoln House, a 14-room upper-class residence in Lexington.  From her father's marriages to her mother and stepmother, she had 15 siblings.
Mary Todd attended fine schools, spoke French fluently, and studied dance, drama and music. She had a ready wit and sparking personality that made her quite popular. She suffered from agonizing migraine headaches. Some recent historians and physicians have suggested that she suffered from schizophrenia, and her name often appears on lists of famous persons with schizophrenia. However, such a diagnosis would have been impossible in her lifetime, and any diagnosis at this late date cannot be certain.
At the age of twenty, in 1839, Mary Todd left the family home and moved to Springfield, Illinois, where her sister Mrs. Ninian Edwards was already living. Although Mary was courted by the rising young lawyer and politician Stephen A. Douglas, she was unexpectedly attracted by Douglas's lower-status rival, and fellow lawyer, Abraham Lincoln.
Ninian facilitated their courtship and introduced Mary to Abraham at a dance on December 16.
After a hesitant two-year courtship, Abraham Lincoln, age 33, married Mary Todd, age 23, on November 4, 1842, at the home of Mrs. Edwards in Springfield, Illinois. The Lincolns apparently had a comfortable marriage before the pressures of public life began to threaten her fragile mind.
Abraham pursued his increasingly successful career as a Springfield lawyer, and Mary supervised their growing household. Their home together from 1844 until 1861 survives in Springfield, and is now the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.
Their children, all born in Springfield, were:
- Robert Todd Lincoln (1843-1926) - lawyer, diplomat, businessman.
- Edward Baker Lincoln known as "Eddie" (1846-1850)
- William Wallace Lincoln known as "Willie" (1850-1862)
- Thomas Lincoln known as "Tad" (1853-1871)
By all accounts, both Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln were indulgent, careful, kind, and loving parents. Of these four sons, only Robert and Tad survived into adulthood, and only Robert outlived his mother.
While she often resented her husband's absence from their home as he practiced law and campaigned for political office, Mrs. Lincoln staunchly supported him as he faced the growing crisis caused by American slavery. This concluded in Lincoln's election as President of the United States.
Anti-Union sentiment was very strong in Mrs. Lincoln's home state of Kentucky, one of the four slave states that did not secede. Many upper-class Kentuckians who were members of the social stratum into which Mrs. Lincoln had been born, supported the Southern cause.
Assassination Survivor and Later Life
In April 1865, as the Civil War came to an end, Mrs. Lincoln hoped to renew her happiness as the First Lady of a nation at peace. However, on April 14, 1865, as Mary Lincoln sat with her husband to watch the comic play Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre, President Lincoln was mortally wounded by an assassin. Mrs. Lincoln accompanied her husband across the street to the Petersen House, where the President died on the following day, April 15. Mary Lincoln would never fully recover from the traumatic experience; she became even more unhinged.
As a widow, Mrs. Lincoln returned to Illinois. In 1868, Mrs. Lincoln's former confidante, Elizabeth Keckly, published Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty years a slave, and four years in the White House. Although this book has, over time, proven to be an extremely valuable resource in the understanding and appreciation of Mary Todd Lincoln, the former First Lady regarded it as a breach of what she had considered to be a close friendship. Mrs. Lincoln was further isolated, and often railed against "Slick Lizzie" in her later years.
In an act approved July 14, 1870, the United States Congress granted Mrs. Lincoln a life pension for being the widow of President Lincoln, in the amount of $3,000 a year.
For Mary Lincoln, the death of her son Thomas (Tad), in July 1871, led to an overpowering sense of grief and the gradual onset of depression. Mrs. Lincoln's sole surviving son, Robert Lincoln, a rising young Chicago lawyer, was alarmed by his mother's free spending of money. Mary Lincoln was prescribed laudanum for sleep problems which caused her to suffer anxiety and hallucinations. Upon increase of these hallucinations, more laudanum and chloral hydrate was administered, which increased the problem and led to her eventual commitment to a mental institution. In 1875, Mary Lincoln was committed by an Illinois court to Bellevue Place in Batavia, Illinois. After three months, she was released into the custody of her sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Edwards in Springfield and in 1876 was once again declared competent to manage her own affairs.
Mrs. Lincoln spent the next four years abroad taking up residence in Pau, France. She spent much of this time travelling in Europe. However, the former First Lady's final years were marked by declining health. She suffered from severe cataracts that affected her eyesight. This may have contributed to her increasing susceptibility to falls. In 1879, she suffered spinal cord injuries in a fall from a step ladder.
During the early 1880s, Mary Todd Lincoln lived, housebound, in the Springfield, Illinois residence of her sister Elizabeth Edwards. She died there on July 16, 1882, age 63, and was interred within the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield along with her husband.
- ↑ Catherine Clinton, Mrs. Lincoln: A Life (New York: HarperCollins, 2009)
- ↑ Mary Todd Biography
- ↑ Mary Todd Lincoln House
- ↑ Famous People with Schizophrenia from schizophrenia.com. Accessed December 12, 2008.
- ↑ Diagnosis of schizophrenia by John Bromley Moses, MD. Accessed December 12, 2008.
- ↑ White House Website/ www.whitehouse.gov
- ↑ Mary Todd Lincoln biography
- ↑ Acts of 1870, Chapter 277