Katherine Helm (1857-1937)

donna

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#1
Katherine Helm was the daughter of Confederate General Ben Hardin Helm and Emile Todd Helm, who was the half-sister of Mary Todd Lincoln. Katherine was most well known for her portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln which now hangs in the White House.

This portrait was painted based on how she imagined her aunt looked at Lincoln's inauguration in 1861. She was also known for portraits of governors and other heroes of the South. She did them from both photographs and her imagination.

Miss Helm studied art at the Art Student's League in New York City. She maintained an art studio in New York City for several years. In 1912 she returned to Kentucky and painted at Helm Place on Bowman's Mill Road until her death in 1937.

Many of Miss Helm's works were displayed in the Kentucky Building at the World's Fair in Saint Louis.

Katherine Helm also wrote a biography on Mary Lincoln. It is "The True Story of Mary, Wife of Lincoln". It was based on information from her mother and diaries and letters of the Todd family. Katherine Helm visited the Lincolns at the White House when her mother was there after the death of General Helm.
 

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I was thrown off by the color of Mary's hair in Katherine's portrait. I realize I'm only working with black and white photos when I look up images of her, but in my head, her hair was black. It's funny to see a lighter brown color here.

Firstladies.org says she had reddish brown hair. Huh. Now I have to go back and review her images with a new color in mind!
 

JPK Huson 1863

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I'm glad you have a thread on her. The portrait of Mary is quite famous but it's not generally attached to an artist- especially one so close to Mrs. Lincoln. It's very nice, thinking Helm thought so much of aunt. Mary Lincoln really took it in the neck for remaining close to her family. OH the witching- her Southern sister would come to visit and both would be accused of spying for the Confederacy. Inside the White House. She couldn't win. Southerners disliked one of their own married to THE Northerner of All Rotten-To-The-Core Northerners, Northerners never welcomed Lincoln's Southern ( AND Illinois ' bumpkin ' wife, which she was not ) wife. Lonely life for Mary.
 

donna

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According to author Gerry Van Der Heuvel in book, "Crowns of Thorns and Glory" on description of Mary Todd Lincoln.

"A little more than five feet, two inches tall, she was inclined to be plump, though not so plump that she could not grace the latest fashions from "Godey's Lady's Book. She had a lovely "peaches and cream" complexion, brown hair tinged with bronze, sparkling blue eyes, and checks that dimpled when she laughed, which was often. She was also independent minded, witty, an instigator of pranks, and a gifted mimic. She could, her brother-in-law Ninian declared, "make a bishop forget his prayers". She told a story with such drama that Lincoln later observed that he never had to read a book once Mary had given him a synopsis of it. James C. Conkling, a young Springfield lawyer, thought she was "the very creature of excitement."

From: "Crowns of Thorns and Glory Mary Todd Lincoln and Varina Howell Davis: The Two First Ladies of the Civil War", Gerry Van Der Heuvel, E.P. Dutton, New York,1988, page 23.
 

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I'm glad you have a thread on her. The portrait of Mary is quite famous but it's not generally attached to an artist- especially one so close to Mrs. Lincoln. It's very nice, thinking Helm thought so much of aunt. Mary Lincoln really took it in the neck for remaining close to her family. OH the witching- her Southern sister would come to visit and both would be accused of spying for the Confederacy. Inside the White House. She couldn't win. Southerners disliked one of their own married to THE Northerner of All Rotten-To-The-Core Northerners, Northerners never welcomed Lincoln's Southern ( AND Illinois ' bumpkin ' wife, which she was not ) wife. Lonely life for Mary.
It's always a lonely life for the First Lady, but Mary Lincoln got it far worse than others.
 
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#13
Here is a young Katherine Helm

upload_2016-7-25_18-17-8.jpeg


Her mother visited the White House while grieving the death of her husband CSA Colonel Ben Helm in December 1863. Mary was also suffering from the loss of Wille Lincoln. The visit proved emotional for the sisters and the president. Six year old Katherine though argued with Todd about who the president was...she was certain that it was Jeff Davis.

The sisters had a falling out after this visit and were estranged the rest of their lives. So Sad.
 
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According to author Gerry Van Der Heuvel in book, "Crowns of Thorns and Glory" on description of Mary Todd Lincoln.

"A little more than five feet, two inches tall, she was inclined to be plump, though not so plump that she could not grace the latest fashions from "Godey's Lady's Book. She had a lovely "peaches and cream" complexion, brown hair tinged with bronze, sparkling blue eyes, and checks that dimpled when she laughed, which was often. She was also independent minded, witty, an instigator of pranks, and a gifted mimic. She could, her brother-in-law Ninian declared, "make a bishop forget his prayers". She told a story with such drama that Lincoln later observed that he never had to read a book once Mary had given him a synopsis of it. James C. Conkling, a young Springfield lawyer, thought she was "the very creature of excitement."

From: "Crowns of Thorns and Glory Mary Todd Lincoln and Varina Howell Davis: The Two First Ladies of the Civil War", Gerry Van Der Heuvel, E.P. Dutton, New York,1988, page 23.
This is nice to read. I have not read much about her yet, but what little I know is of her grief and her struggles. It's wonderful to read a description that balances things out a little. Make a bishop forget his prayers. :laugh: The very creature of excitement. What compliments!
 

JPK Huson 1863

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According to author Gerry Van Der Heuvel in book, "Crowns of Thorns and Glory" on description of Mary Todd Lincoln.

"A little more than five feet, two inches tall, she was inclined to be plump, though not so plump that she could not grace the latest fashions from "Godey's Lady's Book. She had a lovely "peaches and cream" complexion, brown hair tinged with bronze, sparkling blue eyes, and checks that dimpled when she laughed, which was often. She was also independent minded, witty, an instigator of pranks, and a gifted mimic. She could, her brother-in-law Ninian declared, "make a bishop forget his prayers". She told a story with such drama that Lincoln later observed that he never had to read a book once Mary had given him a synopsis of it. James C. Conkling, a young Springfield lawyer, thought she was "the very creature of excitement."

From: "Crowns of Thorns and Glory Mary Todd Lincoln and Varina Howell Davis: The Two First Ladies of the Civil War", Gerry Van Der Heuvel, E.P. Dutton, New York,1988, page 23.

You read so much negative commentary on Mary- most a slow roll forward from Herndon's carefully
conceived hatefest. Think about it. Like one couple of the era with 10 offspring- how many grgrgrandchildren would they have now? Same with William Herndon's attack on Mary Lincoln- between his book, filled lecture halls and the books spawned by sourcing his book-Mary Lincoln is who she is today. What if Conkling had written THE book on Mary Lincoln, had followed her as closely as William Herndon and she had become an obsession to Conkling to the same degree she became one to Herndon? Heck- they'd be comparing her to Dolly Madison.

Thanks so much for posting this. This Mary was the woman Lincoln married , too- and is a closer image than Herndons. Of course it is. Most Mary Todd Lincoln bios take the ' solution', the Z from x plus y equal z and show us backwards how Mary Lincoln was z all along.I'd trust a brother in law, young Conkling and most of all the brilliant man determined to marry her, to put the numbers together correctly.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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#16
It's always a lonely life for the First Lady, but Mary Lincoln got it far worse than others.
Yes, seem to have been gunning for her before she left Illinois, the society types. It's a little hard to read, isn't it? Even reading between the lines makes you wince- like high school or something. I think Mary would receive more empathy if more understood what she walked into, Day 1, in Washington society. Sheer empathy! We've all watched high school chick world in action, right? Society females, THE society females had pre-determined Mary would be ' out '. And she was. Tough, tough crowd. Heck, this kind of dynamic has never bothered me and still doesn't make a dent but confess these women sound terrifying!
 

Anna Elizabeth Henry

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According to author Gerry Van Der Heuvel in book, "Crowns of Thorns and Glory" on description of Mary Todd Lincoln.

"A little more than five feet, two inches tall, she was inclined to be plump, though not so plump that she could not grace the latest fashions from "Godey's Lady's Book. She had a lovely "peaches and cream" complexion, brown hair tinged with bronze, sparkling blue eyes, and checks that dimpled when she laughed, which was often. She was also independent minded, witty, an instigator of pranks, and a gifted mimic. She could, her brother-in-law Ninian declared, "make a bishop forget his prayers". She told a story with such drama that Lincoln later observed that he never had to read a book once Mary had given him a synopsis of it. James C. Conkling, a young Springfield lawyer, thought she was "the very creature of excitement."

From: "Crowns of Thorns and Glory Mary Todd Lincoln and Varina Howell Davis: The Two First Ladies of the Civil War", Gerry Van Der Heuvel, E.P. Dutton, New York,1988, page 23.
It's wonderful to hear some positive things about her character. So much of what you read or what's depicted is of a bitter, mean spirited woman who was greatly unhinged mentally after all the misery she endured. Lincoln seemed like such an intelligent, kind soul and I often wondered given the modern propensity to see Mary Todd Lincoln only as mentally unstable woman, how someone like Lincoln would've married her. It's a shame Mary is shown as a mere caricature of the woman she was during her lifetime.
 

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