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Mary Todd Lincoln's Marriage - was it a happy marriage?
By Lois Zook Wauson
Saturday, November 05, 2011
Rated "G" by the Author.
II remember reading about Abraham Lincoln and Mary Lincoln when I was in school. But I didn't really get interested in Mary Lincoln before I saw a documentary about them and their marriage. It was so fascinating I wanted to know more. So I ordered three books about Mary Todd Lincoln. What I found out was fascinating about her marriage to Abraham Lincoln.
Abe Lincoln's personality was different from Mary Todd's personality. He was prone to melancholy and depression and was not an outgoing person. Of course we all know he was of poor circumstances and raised in a long cabin. She was of rich, aristocratic families in Kentucky. She was smart, outgoing, and attractive though short and sort of dumpy, but had many beaus, especially after she moved to Springfield, Illinois to live with her sister and husband. Several of them wanted to marry her, but Abe Lincoln was the one she had her eye on, and made up her mind to marry him before he wanted to marry her. Evidently she saw potential in him that she didn't see in the other men. But he didn't have much money, was just a struggling lawyer. He never wanted to run for political offices, and was pushed into it each time by men who saw his potential.
After they were married, Mary among others, pushed him to run for president. She yearned to be a president's wife. She got her wish. But she also loved a social life, giving dinners and parties often. Even during the Civil War she threw expensive and elaborate dinners. She was criticized for that, and the thousands of dollars she spend on clothes each year. She also went over the budget to refurbish the White House spending thousands of dollars that was not in the budget. Yet despite all the criticism. Mary did much that was good. She visited hospitals, bringing food and flowers, reading to the soldiers, writing them letters.
She was prone to anger fits and sometimes embarrassed Abe in a crowd of people, when she was angry with him. One time during the war, which time she stayed in Washington most of the time, President Lincoln was going to review the troops nearby. Mary was going with him to be by his side when the reviewed troops, but was late because of the roads which were muddy and the carriage got stuck. Lincoln didn't know if she was coming or not, so finally after hours of waiting, he decided to do it.
Mary finally made it, while he was reviewing the troops on his horse, where she saw a Senators wife on a horse beside him, where Mary should have been. Mary was so angry, that after the parade, she got out of her carriage, and confronted the woman with a loud voice, yelling and shouting, with terrible anger. The president was so embarrassed as were the generals and important men with him. Lincoln managed to calm her down and apologized later to the General and others.
This was only one of the times she embarrassed her husband. She was bossy and domineering and made many enemies when they were in the White House.
But it seems Abe loved her till he died. He was gentle, kind, and never raised his voice at her. He had a way of handling her tirades and anger. And Mary loved him too, and she was very possessive and jealous of Abe.
My favorite book about the Lincolns was by Elizabeth Keckely who was a African American seamstress who came to be Mary Todd Lincolns best friend! She kept a diary all those years (about 4 years) and there are lots of pages from that diary in this book. That book was more personal and she wrote about many things that she saw and heard all the years she was a friend to Mary Todd Lincoln.
But what happened to Mary Lincoln after Lincoln was killed,was the most interesting thing and surprising things that I never knew. She never got over her husband's death, and didn't have much money to live on. She was a lonely, neurotic woman.
Mary lost two sons while her husband was president, and this broke her and Abe's hearts. They mourned their deaths ever after. And the third son, passed away after Abe Lincoln died, He and his mother came back from living in Europe for a year or two, where she went to escape the newspapers and the terrible things they were writing about her. She was a sad woman and I don't really think she was ever happy most of her life.
Her one surviving son, Robert, Abraham and Marys' oldest, had her committed to an insane asylum when she came back from Europe and then her third son died. But she wasn't crazy, and later was released from the asylum. Mary Todd Lincoln died a lonely woman. She did not have many friends or family left that liked her.
Abe Lincoln always wanted the simple life. Living in Springfield and being a lawyer, and having a home and a wife and children is all he ever wanted. But Mary and others kept pushing him to be more, and when he was president, he fought for the black people to be free. Maybe that is what God wanted him to do.
His wife was from Kentucky and people accused her about always "sitting on the fence" as far as slavery was concerned. She had brothers who fought in the Confederate army and lost their lives. Mary helped many black people find their freedom. But a black woman ended up being the only good friend she had.
Mary thought being the President's wife would make her happy. But did it?
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Lois Zook Wauson