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CLICK HERE for a Timeline about Mary Todd Lincoln's Biography     

       Mary Todd Lincoln is often misunderstood in many historical biographies and even in museum and the White House website.  Often the facts of her life are given, with the sad ending after her husband's assassination stressed.  It seems that even Abraham Lincoln, himself, is often studied through the details of his assassination. 

       Mary Todd Lincoln is often misunderstood in many historical biographies and even in museum and the White House website.  Often the facts of her life are given, with the sad ending after her husband's assassination stressed.  It seems that even Abraham Lincoln, himself, is often studied through the details of his assassination. 

       Mary Todd was raised in what you could call an aristocratic home.  She was formally educated and her father encouraged her to join in with adult conservations with men about politics, current events and topics brought out during dinners and other get-togethers in the Todd House.

        Mary would also have her "southern" lifestyle and upbringing changed when she and her sister Elizabeth would move to the new capital of Springfield, Illinois.  She would, as we know eventually marry a northerner, and of all things live in the White House as the First Lady of our country.  This was a radical thing for a southern lady to do in the mid 19th Century. 

        The Union would go to war against the southern states.  Kentucky, her birth-state, would remain with the Union, but her brothers and other close relatives would have close ties with the Confederacy.  She was not trusted by many in Washington D.C., but her husband stood behind her and she was never proven to be a threat to our nation.  In many ways she did the nation a great deed by helping her husband get through the turmoil and mental torture of leading a country in Civil War.

          Mary Todd Lincoln was a good house-keeper, loved her boys, had great patience and more discipline with them than their father, Abraham.  She could cook, decorate, and loved nice clothing and stylish furnishings.  She did like to spend money on such things, as the historical record will tell.

         Mary had a very sad and depressing life during various periods of it.  She lost her father, her mother, got a step-mother that did not like her, had to grow up quickly.  She moved out of the unfriendly Todd home early in life.  She married Abraham and then had to deal with the deaths of three sons and her husband. 

         She had mental problems in her later years and ended up living in the Edwards house in Springfield where she was married.  She had problems getting along with Robert, her oldest son, but did make up in the last moments of her life.

         Let's think of Mary as the beautiful Southern Belle, wife of the Springfield lawyer, Abraham, and mother to four very lively boys.  She was our first grand First Lady, and deserves respect and admiration from all.


A Mary Todd Lincoln Timeline 1818-1849

December 13, 1818  Mary Todd born at Lexington, Kentucky; Robert Smith Todd--Father; Eliza Ann Parker--Mother (died in 1825); Elizabeth Humphreys, Step-mother (1826); Mary was 4th oldest with siblings: Elizabeth Todd Edwards (1813), Frances "Fanny" Todd Wallace (1815), Levi O. Todd (1817) ;  Robert P. Todd (1820), Ann Todd Smith (1824), George Rogers Clark Todd (1825)

Half-Siblings: Robert S. Todd (1827-died in infancy), Margaret Todd Kellogg (1828), Samuel Briggs Todd (1830), David H. Todd (1832), Martha Todd White (1833), Emilie Todd Helm (1836), Alexander "Aleck" Todd (1839), Elodie "Dedee" Todd Dawson (1840-death date unknown), Katherine "Kitty" Todd Herr (1841)


1826-1839--Mary Todd Education:  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, and singing; Dr. Ward's Academy, 1837-1839, advanced studies, in cultural subjects, (details of course study unknown).  She was known to have studied or shown interest  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.  Mary was described as an excellent student "the best in her class."

1832 -1833-- Mary's sister, Elizabeth, and Ninian Edwards moved to Springfield, Illinois.

1836-- Mary's sister, Frances, moves to Springfield

1837-- Mary spent 3 months in the summer visiting her sister Elizabeth in Springfield.  In the fall Mary returned to Ward's, not as a student but as an apprentice teacher helping Sarah Ward with the younger children.

1839--Mary went to Springfield, Illinois, to live with the Edwards' family. Mary was clever and intelligent and soon became prominent in society. She met a rising lawyer/politician named Abraham Lincoln (most likely at a ball).


Pre-Marriage Interests & Politics--  Mary did not have to work, but was allowed to take part in Kentucky political activities.  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.

1840-- Mary traveled to Columbia, Missouri during the summer, visiting her uncle, Judge David Todd. She became a good friend of the judge's daughter, Ann.  

1840--After the trip, Mary Todd became engaged to Abraham Lincoln

January 1841--Abraham Lincoln broke his initial engagement (of several months earlier) with Mary Todd; Mary started dating others including a rising political star named Stephen Douglas. She did not become engaged to Douglas were false, however.


November 4, 1842-- married to Abraham Lincoln, lawyer, in the front parlor of the home of Mary Todd's sister Elizabeth and her husband Ninian Edwards, Springfield, Illinois; Abraham placed a gold wedding ring on her finger. The words "Love is Eternal" were engraved inside the ring. She wore this wedding band until the day she died.

1842-44--Lincolns lived at the Globe Tavern in Springfield. In 1844 ($4.00 per week); they purchased their first and only home at Eighth and Jackson Streets in Springfield; The Lincolns purchased the house from Dr. Charles Dresser  in Springfield for $1500

1843--Robert Todd Lincoln was born



1846-- Abraham and Mary pose for their first photographs, daguerreotypes

1847-- Mary and the children went to Washington, D.C. with Abraham who had been elected to the House of Representatives. In the fall, they stopped to visit the Todds in Lexington on the way (a 3 week stay). In Washington the Lincolns lived at Mrs. Ann G. Sprigg's boarding house (nowadays the Library of Congress occupies this site).

1848-- During the summer Mary, Abraham, Robert, and Eddie traveled through New York State. They visited Niagara Falls, and took a steamer from Buffalo across the Great Lakes. Mary did not return with Abraham to Washington for the 2nd session of the Thirtieth Congress. She and the boys stayed in Springfield.


1849--  Abraham's Congressional term in the House ended, and he decided to quit politics. They would return to Springfield.  

1849--Mary's father, Robert Smith Todd, died July 16 suspected of cholera.



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