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  Mary Ann Todd Lincoln

by John T. Marck

First Lady: 1861 to 1865

Wife of President Abraham Lincoln

Born: December 13, 1818 Died: July 16, 1882

Mary Ann Todd (Molly), was born in Lexington, Kentucky, the daughter of Robert Smith Todd, an important businessman and politician and Eliza Ann Parker Todd. Mary was well educated, attending schools with the best standards, first an academy, then a finishing school owned by a French woman, where the curriculum was concentrated on French and dancing. After school, she went for a long visit to see her sister, Lizzie, who lived in Springfield, Illinois. Lizzie, being married to a prominent lawyer, knew everybody of any consequence in the state capital. Molly met and fell in love with Abe Lincoln, to her sister's surprise, as Lincoln was poor, in debt, and not accustomed to the best society.

Molly became engaged to Lincoln in 1840, however worrying about his feelings toward her, broke the engagement in 1841. Molly and Abe did not see each other for almost two years, during which Molly was seeing other men, including Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln, being concerned for Molly's welfare as she was seeing a "Democrat," tried to protect her. After several meetings together, Molly and Abe were married on November 4, 1842. Molly and Abe lived in a cheap boarding house for many months until he could finally afford a house. Molly also prodded Lincoln into studying law, which improved his professional reputation. The Lincoln's had four children of which only the oldest, Robert Todd, grew to manhood. Of the younger children Eddie, died in his fourth year, Willie died in the White House at eleven, and Tad, his mother's constant companion during her widowhood, died at the age of eighteen.

Mary Lincoln's time in the White House during the Civil War was disastrous. Her Kentucky family was pro-confederate, provoking doubts concerning her loyally to the Union. In spite of the war, she did dazzle Washington with her entertaining and beautiful clothes. She did however run up large bills for dresses and jewels which were never paid. Being sick with grief over the death of her children and the assassination of her husband, it took five weeks to the day for her to be well enough to leave the White House.

From this time on there was no joy in life. Most crushing of all was her son Robert's attempt to have her declared legally incompetent. This resulted however in needed psychiatric treatment giving her some degree of composure. Molly spent the last years of her life with her sister Lizzie, in Springfield, dying on July 16, 1882.

Copyright 1990-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author. From The First Ladies of the Unites States by John T. Marck.