Mary Ann <I>Todd</I> Lincoln


Mary Ann Todd Lincoln

Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky, USA
Death 16 Jul 1882 (aged 63)
Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois, USA
Burial Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois, USA
Memorial ID 1341 View Source
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Presidential First Lady. She was the wife of 16th US President Abraham Lincoln and was the First Lady from March 1861 until April 1865. Born the fourth of seven children into an affluent family, her father was a banker and the family owned slaves. At the age of six her mother died and her father remarried and had nine additional children. She attended Madame Mantelle's finishing school at an early age where she learned to speak French fluently and studied dance, drama, music, and social graces. By age 20, she was regarded as witty and gregarious, with a grasp of politics. In October 1839 she moved to Springfield, Illinois and lived with her oldest sister, Elizabeth Porter Edwards, who was married to Ninian W. Edwards, the son of a former Illinois governor, and he served as her guardian. She 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 to marry Abraham Lincoln, a rising circuit lawyer, in November 1842. Her husband became famous for his position on slavery, which generated national support for him. During her White House years, she faced many personal difficulties generated by political divisions within the nation. Several of her half-brothers served in the Confederate Army and were killed in action, and one brother served the Confederacy as a surgeon. Her second son Eddie, had died of tuberculosis in 1850 and her third son William (Willie), died of typhoid fever in the White House in 1862. She had difficulty negotiating White House social responsibilities and rivalries, spoils-seeking solicitors, and baiting newspapers in a climate of high national intrigue in Civil War Washington. She refurbished the White House, which included extensive redecorating of all the public and private rooms as well as the purchase of new china, which led to extensive over expenditures. The president was very angry over the cost, even though Congress eventually passed two additional appropriations to cover these expenses. She suffered from severe headaches, described as migraines, throughout her adult life, as well as protracted depression. Her headaches became more frequent after she suffered a head injury in a carriage accident during her White House years. 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 she possibly suffered from bipolar disorder. She often visited hospitals around Washington to give flowers and fruit to wounded soldiers and took the time to write letters for them to send to their loved ones. On occasion, she accompanied Lincoln on military visits to the field. On Friday, April 14, 1865, she sat with her husband watching the comic play "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theatre. The Civil War had just ended five days earlier with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, Virginia. During the performance, John Wilkes Booth sneaked into the booth where they were seated and shot her husband in the back of the head. She accompanied her mortally wounded husband across the street to the Petersen House, where he was taken to a back bedroom and laid crosswise on the bed there, where Lincoln's Cabinet was summoned. He died early the following morning and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton ordered her to leave the room as she was so overcome with grief. After his national funeral that took place at different locations across the country and internment in Springfield, Illinois, she returned to Illinois and lived in Chicago with her sons Robert and Thomas (Tad). In July 1870 the US Congress granted her an annual life pension in the amount of $3,000 for which she lobbied hard to obtain. At the time it was unprecedented for widows of presidents to receive a government pension, and she had alienated many congressmen, making it difficult for her to gain approval. The death of her son Thomas (Tad) in July 1871, brought on an overpowering grief and depression and her surviving son, Robert Lincoln, a rising young Chicago lawyer, was alarmed at his mother's increasingly erratic behavior. After nearly jumped out of a window to escape a non-existent fire, Robert determined that she should be institutionalized and in May 1875 he committed her to Bellevue Place, a private asylum in Batavia, Illinois. Three months after being committed, she 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 concerning her plight and 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. She had a trial to determine if she was capable of being released. The director of Bellevue had assured the jury she would benefit from treatment at his facility. However, in the face of potentially damaging publicity, he declared her well enough to go to Springfield, Illinois to live with her sister Elizabeth as she desired and In 1876 she was declared competent to manage her own affairs. Following the court proceedings, she 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 instead. The committal proceedings had resulted in her being profoundly estranged from her son Robert, and they did not reconcile until shortly before her death. She 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 that may have contributed to her increasing susceptibility to falls. In 1879 she suffered spinal cord injuries in a fall from a stepladder. She returned to the US and during the early 1880s she was confined to the Springfield, Illinois residence of her sister Elizabeth. On July 16, 1882, she collapsed at her sister's home and lapsed into a coma and died there at the age of 63. She 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" (1988), Sally Field in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" (2012), Penelope Ann Miller in "Saving Lincoln" (2012), and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" (2012). Several biographies have been written about her as well, including Barbara Hambly's The Emancipator's Wife (2005) and Janis Cooke Newman's historical novel "Mary: Mrs. A. Lincoln" (2007).

Bio by: William Bjornstad


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 1341
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Mary Ann Todd Lincoln (13 Dec 1818–16 Jul 1882), Find a Grave Memorial ID 1341, citing Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .