February 13, 1818 – July 16, 1882
Mary Todd was a well educated socialite from an influential and wealthy Kentucky family. At the age of 21 she went to live with her sister in Springfield, Ill. Her brother-in-law was state legislator Ninian Wirt Edwards, and Mary enjoyed being a part of Springfield’s political and social circles. Though Todd’s family disapproved, in 1842 she married Abraham Lincoln.
Mary Lincoln had many detractors because of her strong will, temperamental outbursts, and jealously catty remarks. On one occasion Mary tactlessly asked Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, “I suppose you think you’ll get to the White House yourself, don’t you?” Another time when the two women were aboard a warship and Julia Grant was sitting on a coiled rope, Mary snapped, “How dare you sit in the presense of the wife of the President of United States!”
Many also faulted the president’s wife for her reckless spending while in the White House. Mary spent exorbitant amounts on her clothing, furnishings, and entertaining during the Civil War years. Some in Washington even mistrusted her, considering her to be a Rebel sympathizer because she had Southern roots and many relatives who fought for the South.
The White House years put a strain on Mary’s tentative grip on sanity. Having lost one son before the Civil War and another in 1862, her outbursts and strange behavior no doubt added to her devoted husband’s enormous pressures. Nightmares had terrorized Mary since childhood, and she was horrified when she learned of her husband’s dream of finding himself lying in state in the White House.
After the president was shot, Mary was escorted from his bedside several times because she could not cope with the reality of the situation. She was also unable to attend his funeral. Though she had many faults, Mary Todd Lincoln adored her husband, and he her.
Fascinating Fact: Though he had an irresponsible work record, the bodyguard who was supposed to protect the president at Ford’s Theater had been spared the draft and kept on for Executive Mansion duty by Mary Lincoln just two weeks before the assassination.