Letting Go Of Mary Todd Lincoln, Rest In Peace Dear Lady

JPK Huson 1863

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#1
photo in mourning 2.jpg

In mourning 1863. That's a pain in her eyes. Two sons lost, one fairly recently when this was taken. How is it possible not to see her more clearly?

You know, there are historical figures deserving of reminiscent ire, mad men and ruthless women litter a past made remarkable by our ability to commit barbaric acts of mind boggling cruelty. They pretty much asked for their dark corner in History and it's sure difficult feeling anything save revulsion about them. With so many repulsive examples of warped and twisted nature to draw from, why, 137 years after her death, is Mary Todd Lincoln one of them?

" ....in keeping with the Copperhead press that hounded Lincoln and his wife until his death then double-fired on Mrs. Lincoln ". Henry Rankin, a good friend from Springfield writing in reply to an author's query. There are more, using this source as representative. Happy to provide others.

The most annoying piece of Mary Todd Lincoln bashing I've come across was a reactionary article where Mary " apologists " ( ??? ) were blamed on the evils of feminism. If it wasn't so silly it would have been hysterical. Then there's the learned, academic study about all her signs of mental illness. That one's replete with terminology you can't penetrate with radar, so dense is it in academic-ese. Beyond that there's a stubborn refusal on everyone's part to lain, old give up picking on shattered woman who's been dead for 137 years. Why? IMO, we're just too good at it. And it's fun when they're still dead, no one can put up a good defense.

We can, if anyone would take the time to pat the last shovel of dirt and plant a flower over the grave of the widow of a murdered man. Here's how. Read. Ascertain fact, understand both agenda and our inclination to find the sordid more tasty than perhaps bland circumstance have been ingredients in Mary Todd stew. Myth V. Bland Truth can allll be sourced, please ask. It's just too much information to put in one thread.

Myth: Mary Todd Lincoln was a home-spun ' nobody ', social climbing wannabe when hitting Washington, D.C. as the new first lady.
Bland Truth: The Todds were old school Southern aristocracy, Mary raised as a belle and a beautifully educated belle. It's also myth Southern women were raised to be helpless, fragile creatures given to fainting spells and with no more serious interests than gallant beaus. When Mary Todd hit D.C., an annoyingly uninformed group of ' ladies ' appointed a representative to instruct the new First Lady in the etiiquette expected in the ' first circles '. It didn't go down well. A Todd? Requiring lessons in etiquette? Neither side came away pleased with the other.

Myth: Mary Todd Lincoln was her husband's default wife, his first the long-lamented Rutledge for whom Abe cherished a lasting passion. Varina Davis still suffers from this ridiculous and intrusive
Bland, Boring Truth: Both Mary and Abraham had previous sweethearts or at least interests. Who did not? Mary's family put huge pressure on her not to marry this swear word of a penniless Yank. Both were strong personalities, of course there were the usual clashes but they had not, one thing to do with why they did not marry sooner.

From one post-war book on the couple. Based on interviews with those who knew them, intent was to refute Herndon's nonsense about the Lincolns. No one seems to have listened well.
wedding book.jpg

Herndon's myth includes a lavish wedding. Witness speak of a cake baked by her sister and still warm, a borrowed dress and small, if hurried ceremony. Lincoln wanted to be married that day.

Myth: Mary Todd was a shop-a-holic, spending until our tax dollars bled then spending more. Insatiably avaricious, she supposedly spent gazillions of ' finery ' while men died on battlefields.
Bland Truth: In 2019 the practice is still around- wear this, it's gratis because you're in the public eye and it's terrific advertising. She'd been led to believe this was the case. Reading all the ' what happened ', at the time it's pretty darn clear the whole mess was turned into a political trebuchet with which to hurl flaming missiles into the Lincoln camp.

Myth: Mary Todd was a screaming, shrieking shrew who made her husband's life miserable.
Bland Truth: She had her hands full. During Lincoln's deep depressions it was she who kept it all together. Lincoln's well known period of dark depression was a hideous time for both of them. Unflaggingly supportive, the boys were raised, house run, business attended anyway.

Myth: Pretty much anything ex-law partner William Herndon had to say.
Bland Stuff: He became an early antagonist when he became a little too snirpy during a dance. She said so and it was on. Herndon is described as a wannabe himself, jealous of his old partner's rise to the Presidency and riding the usual bandwagon to his own fame ( notoriety ) on proverbial coat tails. An era McClure's did a kind of expose on William Herndon's animosity towards Mary inclusive of some awfully good investigative reporting. It's enlightening. No one seems to have paid much attention to it.

Myth: Robert Lincoln had her committed for own good. Because she was crazy.
Not Bland, Tragic Truth: Robert was a politician. What great publicity. This woman had buried three children, been hounded, vilified and slandered, wore her husband's brains on her lap, lost siblings in the war, more because she married the enemiest enemy of them all, lost her closest friend through yet more salacious writings and had her every move scrutinized. She'd also had a nasty concussion when thrown from her carriage in June, 1863. What's amazing is she wasn't crazy.

Like I said, happy to argue any of this into the ground, sourced. It's just, plain time we let go, already. Rest in the peace denied you here, dear lady.
Dress with hair bow.jpg
 

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Ole Miss

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#5
Mrs. Lincoln was a tragic figure who was assailed on all sides. During her lowest times, she was left alone to cope with only Elizabeth Keckley as a friend and support source. She was ostracized by Washington Society treated d**n poorly in my opinion. Hopefully she has found peace in the Lord.
Regards
David
 
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#6
What is amazing to me is how beautiful her handwriting was while being surrounded by all the aforementioned tragedy in her life. It was silky smooth with each letter being written with meaning and purpose. Annie, Thanks for sharing this interesting information about one of America's iconic first ladies and separating myth from the truth. David.
 

Belle Montgomery

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#7
It's so easy to "judge" her. All eyes of the nation on her critiquing her every move at a time most would consider cruel by today's standards. Torn in the middle of her Confederate family and Union husband...how difficult it must have been! Enough to make any sane woman crazy...albeit I believe she wasn't "crazy'...I consider her PTSD from all of the stress she endured! I believe even Mary Custis Lee and her would've been fond of one another had they gotten to really know each other having the weight of the world on their shoulders trying to support their husband's emotionally and raise/keep a family together at the same time.
It's a shame all of these "contemporary" ladies do not study them/her more and realize how strong they were and how in a time of wearing corsets and facing multiple adversities use them for inspiration instead of admiring "flakey" and spoiled celebrities who have no clue of hardship like them! They didn't have "safe" spaces or modern counseling only inner strength and the fortitude to keep going. It's embarrassing what the women did to harangue poor Mary Lincoln after all she had suffered through! :banghead:"walk a mile in her shoes" AND
"Judge lest ye be judged"
 
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Ole Miss

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#9
@Mrs. V I believe that you would make a wonderful Mary Todd Lincoln and it would be nice if people today would realize she was a woman/wife/mother doing her very best in the most trying times in the Nation's history let alone the addition of her personal problems during her husband's administration.
Regards
David
 

7thWisconsin

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#10
Mary Todd was very smart, analytical, clever and witty, and had the misfortune to live at a time when those were not feminine virtues. Today she would have been a lawyer herself. She was also beautiful and a socialite. I believe she was savaged by the social scene around her who didn't like a woman as capable as she was. She experienced the terrible tragedy of losing her sons when still children; which was tragic even in those days when childhood mortality was very high. Then there's the assassination... <sigh> I think she was a very good person dealt a very bad hand. History continues to be most unkind to her as well.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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#12
I don't know if you've read The Madness of Mary Lincoln by Jason Emerson, 2007. (p.s. authors do not necessarily get to chose their book titles) I would be interested in your reaction. The book is less critical of Robert Lincoln than most.

There's more defense of Robert than criticism across the board anyway. I've actually read very little criticism about him? For some reason we just cannot allow Mary Todd Lincoln her dignity- the same we all have a right to by virtue of being born on the planet and goodness, if her own son did what he did of course she was crazy. Which makes it ok. I did have a shot at reading the book, drove me a little crazy myself so didn't finish it. I don't know. Just the idea we get to poke around in other people's tragedies just because they a. were famous and b. not here anymore to defend themselves seems a tawdry one- but that's IMO.


Agreed. I have been told/accused of looking like Mary Lincoln. (It’s the double chins, I’m sure). I’ve always liked her, sympathized with her. Maybe one day I’ll do an impression. Not in mourning clothes either. People need to be reminded of her happier days.

That would be amazing. If you do is it ok to ask you for a photo? I understand it could give anyone the willies posting a personal shot so understand if you'd rather not. And heck, descriptions of Mary seem to be that of a ' plump, pretty woman ', the two going together. We've gotten weird about what's ' pretty ' over the past 150 years. ' 10 ' means one's ribs could cut paper, every pound past that puts us lower on that silly ' scale '. Bleah.

Mrs. Lincoln was a tragic figure who was assailed on all sides. During her lowest times, she was left alone to cope with only Elizabeth Keckley as a friend and support source. She was ostracized by Washington Society treated d**n poorly in my opinion. Hopefully she has found peace in the Lord.
Regards
David

Then Keckley pitched her under the bus although there's current discussion she didn't do it willingly- given the social clime of the era I'm willing to believe that. Or maybe it'd be a relief to believe that.

It pays to read first hand accounts and dig until finding them. They were there in the era but it wasn't popular to say anything positive about the poor woman plus it paid much better to go for her throat. McClure's did a deliberate myth busting article, publishing rebuttals to Herndon's nonsense in the form of interviews with those who were for instance present at the wedding and could attest to his wildly inaccurate description. Salacious nonsense sells better.
 

7thWisconsin

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#13
I don't think the publication of their correspondence in Elizabeth Keckley's book was Elizabeth's fault - I lay that one on the publisher who played Mrs Keckley. "Let me have your letters to verify your narrative" then they end up published. America didn't have a celebrity culture then, and private correspondence was supposed to be understood to remain private. Mrs Keckley was naive, and that ended the relationship in a tragic way for both women.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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.I consider her PTSD from all of the stress she endured! I believe even Mary Custis Lee and her would've been fond of one another had they gotten to really know each other having the weight of the world on their shoulders trying to support their husband's emotionally and raise/keep a family together at the same time.
Ah. Don't get me started on Mary Custis Lee. Boy, all it seems to have taken to ensure history remembers you poorly is to have married someone who became famous. Mary Todd Lincoln, Varina Howell Davis and Mary Randolph Custis Lee compose an awful and absurd trifecta. BTW, I ' think ' ( it's only an opinion ) Mary Custis gets it in the neck to this day because she wrote letters begging the Union be preserved- they're not anti-South. The Revolution wasn't far in our past and to her, it was all in the family. By ' Union ' she didn't mean the North, she was heartbroken this idea of the United States was going ' poof '.

History continues to be most unkind to her as well.

I think you nailed it with unkind. Why do we do this? It's not being Pollyanna to have an expectation we could be plain, old nice to and about each other and at least try to get History right while we're at it. Being unkind to someone who isn't even around any more seems to mean we're so addicted to the nasty stuff we'll go dig someone up to have a shot at them.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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#15
I don't think the publication of their correspondence in Elizabeth Keckley's book was Elizabeth's fault - I lay that one on the publisher who played Mrs Keckley. "Let me have your letters to verify your narrative" then they end up published. America didn't have a celebrity culture then, and private correspondence was supposed to be understood to remain private. Mrs Keckley was naive, and that ended the relationship in a tragic way for both women.

Ah! Thank you! Yes, I've always, always been incredibly baffled about it. They genuinely were close, wonderful friends. It's only conjecture but each losing a child/children had to have been a bond, too. It's unfortunate Mary wouldn't listen to Elizabeth post-publication- if anyone could understand having their life taken out of one's hands by someone unscrupulous it would have been Mary. What a loss for the two women. I'm a little biased towards both women, Keckley's story so astonishing it's crazy it isn't more well known.
 



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