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First Lady Biography: Mary Lincoln



Place: Lexington, Kentucky
Date: 1818, December 13
Robert Smith Todd, merchant, lawyer, officer in the War of 1812, member, Kentucky legislature, born 1791, February 25 in Lexington, Kentucky, and died 1849, July 16 in Lexington, Kentucky. 

According to one source, Robert Todd died in Springfield, Illinois but in light of the facts that he died of cholera, which required immediate burial, and is buried in Lexington, Kentucky this claim is highly dubious.

Eliza Ann Parker, born 1794 or 1795; She married Robert Todd 1812, November 26. She died 1825, July 6 in Lexington, Kentucky.
Stepmother: After the death of Mary Lincoln's mother, her father married secondly on 1826, November 1 to Elizabeth Humphreys (1800 or earlier-1874).
Irish, Scottish, English; Mary Lincoln's paternal great-grandfather, David Levi Todd, was born 17..., February 8, in Longford County, Ireland and immigrated through Pennsylvania to Kentucky. Through her mother's family, her great-great grandfather Samuel McDowell was born in Scotland (county and date unknown), immigrated to and died in Pennsylvania. Other Todd ancestors came from England.
Birth Order and Siblings:
Fourth of seven children; Three brothers, three sisters, Elizabeth Todd Edwards (1813-1888), Frances "Fanny" Todd Wallace (1815-1899), Levi O. Todd (1817-1865), Robert P. Todd (1820-1822), Ann Todd Smith (1824-1891), George Rogers Clark Todd (1825-1900)
Four half-brothers, five half-sisters, Robert S. Todd (1827-died in infancy), Margaret Todd Kellogg (1828-1904), Samuel Briggs Todd (1830-1862), David H. Todd (1832-1871), Martha Todd White (1833-1868), Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930), Alexander "Aleck" Todd (1839-1863), Elodie "Dedee" Todd Dawson (1840-death date unknown), Katherine "Kitty" Todd Herr (1841-1875)
Mary Lincoln's brother George R.C. Todd and her half-brothers Alexander Todd, David Todd, and Samuel Todd all fought in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Alexander Todd was killed at Baton Rouge. Samuel Todd was killed in the Battle of Shiloh. David Todd was wounded at Vicksburg. Her half-sister Emilie Helm's husband was a Confederate general killed at Chickamauga. The husbands of her half-sisters, Martha White and Elodie Dawson were ardent supporters of the Confederacy.
Physical Appearance:
5’2”, blue eyes, reddish-brown hair

Religious Affiliation:

Presbyterian; Mrs. Lincoln was also an adherent of spiritualism, believing the living could be in contact with the dead.
Shelby Female Academy, 1826-1832, later known as Dr. Ward's Academy where she studied grammar, geography, arithmetic, poetry, literature; Madame Mentelle's Boarding School, 1832-1837, learned to speak and write French, penmanship, dancing, singing; Dr. Ward's Academy, 1837-1839, advanced studies, likely in cultural subjects, details of course study unknown
Occupation before Marriage:
Daughter of a wealthy and prosperous family, Mary Todd did not have any need for employment. With her father's close friendship to Kentucky political leader Henry Clay of the Whig Party, Mary Todd developed a voracious interest in politics and political issues. As evidenced by one of her earliest letters, she supported the presidential candidacy of Whig William Henry Harrison. While she was trained in the social graces common to her class and time, the level of education she received was unusual. She studied widely and deeply a variety of subjects including the works of Victor Hugo, Shakespeare, astronomy. According to legend, her maternal grandmother aided slaves seeking freedom through the "Underground Railroad" and Mary Todd's later support of abolition is believed to have originated with the influence of this grandmother.
23 years old, married 1842, November 4 to Abraham Lincoln, lawyer (1809-1865), in the front parlor of the home of Mary Todd's sister Elizabeth and her husband Ninian Edwards, Springfield, Illinois. On 1841, January 1, Abraham Lincoln broke his initial engagement to Mary Todd several months after she had accepted. For the first two years of their marriage, they lived at the Globe Tavern in Springfield. In 1844, they purchased their first and only home at Eight and Jackson Streets in Springfield.
Four sons; Robert Todd Lincoln (1843-1926), Edward Baker Lincoln (1846-1850), William "Willie" Wallace Lincoln (1850-1862), Thomas "Tad" Lincoln (1853-1871)
Occupation after Marriage:
Until her husband's election to the presidency, Mary Lincoln spent her years confined to either Illinois or Kentucky, save for a two-year period when he served as a U.S. Congressman in Washington and she made the unusual move to relocate there for a time, living with him and their first child in a boardinghouse.  Her primary focus was raising her family and often did the cooking and cleaning of their home. She nevertheless took an active role in promoting his political career. When he began seeking an appointive position, it was Mary Lincoln who handwrote his solicitation letters to Whig leaders. When he was offered the governorship of the faraway Oregon territory, she successfully advised against his accepting the post since it would remove him from a potential national position. She took in sessions of the state legislature at the capital and filled a notebook with the names of partisan allegiance of each member. Mrs. Lincoln was in attendance at the last of the famous debates. In Alton, Illinois, between her husband and Democratic opponent Stephen Douglas as Lincoln made a second attempt to win a U.S. Senate seat. She took an especial interest in the transition of the Whig Party into the new Republican one and often wrote to influential friends in Kentucky regarding Lincoln's views on slavery.
Presidential Campaign and Inauguration:
Legend claims that as a young woman Mary Todd had announced to friends that the man she married would someday become President of the United States. Her vigorous defense and support of Lincoln's presidential candidacy in 1860, willingness to speak with reporters who came to Springfield to cover Lincoln's campaign, as well as her "speeches," (as a New York Times article termed her overt discussion of political issues), during the transition period between election and inauguration days prove her eagerness to assume a prominent public role in her husband's presidency. Due to the sectional strife and imminent secession of South Carolina, however, Lincoln's 1861 inaugural was overshadowed by threats on his life. Many of the wealthy southern families who had dominated the social-political life of the capital were leaving and those remaining social leaders, including the outgoing First Lady Harriet Lane had pre-judged the "western" Mrs. Lincoln with a regional bias as unsuited to assume a social leadership role. In the 1865 campaign there was a threat that Democratic operatives were planning to make Mrs. Lincoln and her "crockery," meaning the expensive state china she had purchased, an issue; it never materialized. After the 1865 inaugural ceremony at the Capitol, Mrs. Lincoln hosted a large reception in the White House.
First Lady:
1861, March 4 - 1865, April 14
42 years old
With the difficulty of making medical conclusions about Mrs. Lincoln long after she lived, precise assessment of what mental and physical problems she may have suffered is impossible. She did manifest behavior that suggests severe depression, anxiety and paranoia, migraine headaches, even possibly diabetes. Certainly all of her ills were exacerbated by a series of tragic circumstances during her White House tenure: the trauma of Civil War, including the allegiance of much of her family to the Confederacy and their death or injury in battle; an 1863 accident which threw her from a carriage and knocked her unconscious; the accusations by northerners that she was sympathetic to the Confederacy and the ostracizing of her as a "traitor" by southerners; the sudden death of her son Willie in 1862; and, of course, the worst incident of all, the assassination of her husband as she sat beside him in the Ford's Theater.
Mary Lincoln viewed her expensive 1861 White House redecoration and her extravagant clothing purchases (the former over-running a federal appropriation of $20,000 by $6,000, and the latter driving her family into great debt) as a necessary effort to create an image of the stability that would command respect not only for the President but the Union. She felt this most keenly in light of the uncertain neutrality of France and England. Public and press reaction, however, was ridicule and anger. She instead conveyed the image of a selfish and indulgent woman inconsiderate of the suffering that most of the nation's families were enduring as a result of the war her husband was managing. In time, she would even press Republican appointees to pay her debts, since they owed their positions to her husband.
By April, 1861, Union soldiers were encamped at the White House and would remain for the endurance of the Administration. The war overshadowed all of Mary Lincoln's activities. She worked as a volunteer nurse in the Union hospitals, offered intelligence she had learned as well as her own advice to the President on military personnel, recommended minor military appointments to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, toured Union Army camps and reviewed troops with her husband. She was largely successful in her objective of using entertaining as a means of raising Union morale. It is difficult to assess the influence she had on the President, if any, but there is no record of his asking her to stop her flow of advice, recommendations and observations to him. She was not successful in her efforts to oust Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase, Secretary of State William Seward, General George McClellan and General Ulysses Grant. Numerous abolitionists, however, attested to her core value of full emancipation of African-American slaves and her influence on the President to see this not only in political but human terms as well. She considered the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 to be a personal victory. Two public causes in which Mary Lincoln became involved attested to her genuine support of the Union Army and the freedom of slaves: the Sanitary Commission fairs, which raised private donations to supplement the federal funds for soldier supplies, like blankets and the Contraband Relief Association, which also raised private donations, for the housing, employment, clothing and medical care of recently freed slaves, an organization in which she became involved as a result of her friendship with her dressmaker, former slave Elizabeth Keckley.
*Mary Lincoln was the first presidential wife to be called "First Lady" in the press, as documented in both the London Times and Sacramento Union newspapers.
Post-Presidential Life:
Deeply traumatized by her husband's murder, Mary Lincoln did not move out of the White House until May 23, 1865. She relocated to Chicago and there began her effort to settle her husband's estate. In 1868, she moved with her son Tad to Germany and from there commenced her battle with Congress for award of a presidential widow's pension. In 1871, a year after receiving the annual pension of $3,000, she returned to the United States. The sudden death that year of her son Tad left her spirit broken; she soon began behaving in what her son Robert considered to be signs of mental instability and he successfully had her tried for insanity.
In 1875, she was committed to the Bellevue Insane Asylum, in Batavia, Illinois. Later in the day after the verdict was made, she twice attempted suicide by taking what she believed to be the drugs laudanum and camphor - which the suspicious druggist had replaced with a sugar substance. One of the nation's first women lawyers, Myra Bradwell believed Mrs. Lincoln was not insane and being held against her will. She filed an appeal on Mrs. Lincoln's behalf and after four months of confinement, the former First Lady was released to the care of her sister Elizabeth Edwards in Springfield. Once a second trial on June 19, 1876 declared her sane, she moved to France.  After four years abroad she returned to live again in the Edwards home, in October 1880.  Her pension was increased to $5,000 in 1882.
Home of her sister Elizabeth Edwards, Springfield, Illinois
1882, July 16
63 years old
The Lincoln Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois