Mary Todd Lincoln

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Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary Ann Todd Lincoln (December 13, 1818 – July 16, 1882) was the wife of President Abraham Lincoln. She served as the First Lady of the United States from March 4, 1861 until her husband's assassination on April 15, 1865.

Early life and education

Mary Ann Todd was born in Lexington, Kentucky to Robert Smith Todd and his wife, Eliza Parker Todd, the fourth of their seven children.[1] Eliza died when Mary was six, and Robert Todd soon remarried.[2] Robert's second marriage, to Elizabeth "Betsy" Humphreys, added nine children to the family. Mary and her step-mother did not have an easy relationship and Mary recalled her childhood as "desolate."[1][2]

Robert Todd believed in providing a good education for his daughter, and Mary began attending Shelby Female Academy when she was eight years old. Mary attended Madame Victorie Mentelle’s select academy for young ladies for seven years, with the exception of a break during which she stayed in Springfield, Illinois with William and Frances Wallace, her sister and brother-in-law.[1]

Much of Mary's family supported the Confederacy during the Civil War. Her brother George and three of her half-brothers, Alexander, David and Samuel, fought for the South. Alexander and Samuel died at Baton Rouge and the Battle of Shiloh respectively, and David was wounded at the Battle of Vicksburg.[3] Her half-sister Emilee's husband, General Benjamin Hardin Helm, died from wounds received at the Battle of Chickamauga.[4]

In 1839, Mary decided to live with her sister Elizabeth and her husband, Ninian W. Edwards, the son of a former Illinois governor, in Springfield.[1] It was there she met an aspiring lawyer ten years her senior.[1]

Marriage and family

Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln met at a dance in the fall of 1839. They had a tumultuous relationship, including a broken engagement, due in part to her family's disapproval and to Lincoln's lack of wealth. The couple married at the Edwards' home on November 4, 1842, with Todd giving her sister less than a day's notice about the upcoming wedding. They initially lived in a single room at the Globe Tavern before moving to a small three-room cottage.[1] In 1844, the Lincolns purchased the only home they would ever own.[5]

The couple had four sons: Robert Todd (born August 1, 1843), Edward "Eddie" Baker (born March 10, 1846), William "Willie" Wallace (born December 21, 1850), and Thomas "Tad" (born April 4, 1853).[3] Eddie was a sickly child and after several prolonged illnesses, died on February 1, 1850.[6]

When Lincoln won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1846, Mary, Robert and Eddie joined him in Washington, D.C. The family lived in a hotel for a period before moving into a boardinghouse. Mary took the boys to Kentucky in 1848, and after Lincoln's term ended in 1849, the family reunited in Springfield.[1]

Mary had faith in, and was fully supportive of, her husband's political career, even after two failed runs for U.S. Senate. Lincoln was offered the Territory of Oregon governorship in 1855; she persuaded him not to accept, because it might remove him from national politics. Mary's predictions that her husband would someday become president came true when Lincoln won both the Republican nomination and the general election in 1860.

First Lady



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Mary Todd Lincoln biography
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mary Todd Lincoln
  3. 3.0 3.1 First Ladies biographies: Mary Lincoln
  4. General Benjamin Hardin Helm
  5. Lincoln Home.
  6. Edward Baker Lincoln