First Ladies: MARY TODD LINCOLN

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MARY TODD LINCOLN
Mary Todd Lincoln
1818-1882
Born: Lexington, KY
Married: Abraham Lincoln, 1842
Children: Robert, Edward, Willie Tad
First Lady: 1861-1865

Mugs with Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary Todd was a Kentucky belle when she married Abraham Lincoln. Their courtship had been stormy and their wedding had even been canceled once. But Mary Todd had high hopes for her husband. She was delighted when he was elected President but she was unprepared to face the difficulties of life in the White House. Upon her arrival, she learned that hundreds of deaths threats had been sent to the Lincolns and she began to live in fear. She tried to impress Washington society with her fashionable clothing but only succeeded in eliciting nasty criticism for her expensive wardrobe and her over-the-top spending habits. She also began suffering violent headaches, which Lincoln referred to as her "nervous spells". These were associated with crying, rages, and unpredictable mood swings. With the coming of the Civil War, she was immediately suspect because of her Southern roots and the fact that her brothers were serving in the Confederate armed forces. There was even a hearing held by The Committee on the Conduct of the War to investigate charges of "communicating with the enemy". Lincoln testified himself as to her loyalty. Mary's fragile mental health took a severe blow with the death of her son, Willie, in 1862. She had always been fearful for her children (and, indeed, had lost another child, Edward, in 1850). Tad, the youngest, was born with a cleft palate and Robert, the eldest, with crossed eyes. Mary suffered a severe head injury in 1863 when she was thrown from her carriage and all agreed that her behavior was worsening. She seemed to improve when her husband was re-elected. But the assassination of Abraham Lincoln destroyed her. She stayed weeping in the White House while the funeral cortege continued on to Springfield. She left the United States for six years, traveling with her son, Tad. Upon their return, eighteen-year-old Tad unexpectedly died and she plunged once more into irrationality. She was subsequently committed to an institution by her son, Robert. After several months, she was released and lived out the remainder of her life mostly scorned.