First Ladies: Mary Todd Lincoln

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Mary Todd Lincoln was the first First Lady to have her husband assassinated. She’d watched her husband age with the progression of the Civil War.

Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary Lincoln suffered much loss and tragedy in her life.

Mary Ann Todd was born on December 13, 1818 in Lexington, Kentucky. She was the fourth of seven children born to Robert Smith and Elizabeth Parker Todd. She was raised in a life of comfort and refinement.

When Mary was six, her mother died. Two years later her father married Elizabeth “Betsy” Humphreys and they would have nine children together. Mary is said to have a difficult relationship with her stepmother.

After completeling finishing school, Mary moved in with her married sister, Elizabeth Edwards, who lived in Springfield, Illinois. “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. Like her family, she was a Whig.”

She courted Stephen A. Douglas, who would become her future husband’s opponent, before meeting Abraham Lincoln.
Mary met Abraham Lincoln and the two became engaged before calling it off. They later reconnected and were married on November 4, 1842.

Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary had four sons, Robert Todd Lincoln was born in 1843, Edward Baker Lincoln was born in 1846 and died of tuberculosis in 1850. Later that year, William “Willie” Wallace Lincoln was born and Thomas “Tad” Lincoln was born in 1853.

Mary is said to support her husband’s political ambitions. She was often left alone for months at a time while her husband served as a circuit lawyer.

Mary is said to suffer from severe migraines and depression throughout her adult life. She is known for her mood swings, public outbursts, excessive spending and fierce temper at times.

On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln became President of the United States to a country already divided and on the brink of war.

The Civil War was difficult on Mary Lincoln. She saw the effect it took on her husband, but she also had a brother and several half-brothers that served for the Confederate Army and were killed in action.

She is said to try and encourage her husband to go for a ride with her each week to give him a period of rest.

Mary refurbished the White House, which her husband objected to, which lead to high cost. She worked hard in her role as First Lady, but it is said to be difficult on her due to all of the political intrique and being a “Washington outsider”.

She often visited wounded soldiers in the hosptials and wrote letters to their loved ones for them. She even accompanied Lincoln to the field for military visits.

Mary Todd Lincoln

On February 20, 1862, their son, Willie, died from typhoid fever. Both of his parents were deeply affected by his death.

On April 9, 1865, as the Civil War ended, Mary Lincoln must have been hopeful for a nation of peace and more time with her husband. Sadly, on April 14, 1865 her world crashed in around her. She and Abraham Lincoln attended the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre. Jhn Wilkes Booth shot her husband while she was holding his hand. She accompanied him across the street to Petersen House. She was so “unhinged with grief” that she was ordered from the room.

Mary received condolences from around the world. She would only wear black for the remainder of her life.

Mary Lincoln retruned to Illinois and lived in Chicago, upon her widowhood. In 1870, she received a life widow’s pension of $3,000 a year. She had to lobby hard for this pension.

In July 1871, her son Tad Lincoln died at the age of eighteen. This brought on an overpowering amount of grief and depression.

Her only surviving son, Robert, became concerned over his mtoher’s increasingly erratic behavior.
On May 20, 1875, after a jury trial she was committed to a private asylum in Illinois. This led to an estrangement from her son, Robert. She became so despondent she even attempted suicide.

Three months later, she was sent to live with her sister, Elizabeth.

After regaining her own affairs in 1876, Mary traveled in Europe for the next four years. She even took up residence in Pau, France for a while.
In 1881, she lobbied for an additional pension, which was granted. Her health began to suffer.

Shortly before her death, Mary again saw her only living son, Robert.

On July 16, 1882, she collapsed and died at the age of 63. She is buried beside her husband in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.