US Lincoln, Mary Todd

Mary Ann Todd Lincoln
First Lady of the United States
From A to Z
- Women
Lincoln 2.jpg

:us34stars: Mary Todd Lincoln was the wife of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, and as such the First Lady of the United States from 1861 to 1865. She dropped the name Ann after her younger sister, Ann Todd (Clark), was born, and did not use the name Todd after marrying.

Born: December 13, 1818

Birthplace: Lexington, Kentucky

Father: Robert Smith Todd 1791 – 1849
(Buried: Lexington Cemetery, Lexington, Kentucky)​

Mother: Elizabeth Ann “Eliza” Parker 1794 – 1825
(Buried: Lexington Cemetery, Lexington, Kentucky)​

Husband: President Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865
(Buried: Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois)​
Married: November 4, 1842 in Springfield, Illinois


Robert Todd Lincoln 1843 – 1926​
(Buried: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia)​
Edward Baker “Eddie” Lincoln 1846 – 1850​
(Buried: Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois)​

William Wallace “Willie” Lincoln 1850 – 1862​
(Buried: Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois)​
Thomas “Tad” Lincoln 1853 – 1871​
(Buried: Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois)​

Attended Madame Mentelle’s finishing School​
1842 – 1865: Wife of President Abraham Lincoln​
1861 – 1865: First Lady of United States of America​
While first lady she redecorated the White House​
While first lady she visited Wounded Soldiers​
1865 – 1882: Widow of President Abraham Lincoln​
She Suffered from migraines and depression​
Committed to an Asylum in Batavia, Illinois​
Lived in Springfield Illinois with her Sister​
Suffered from poor eyesight due to cataracts​
1879: Suffered from Spinal Cord injuries due to ladder fall​

Died: July 16, 1882

Place of Death: Springfield, Illinois

Cause of Death: Stroke

Age at time of Death: 63 years old

Burial Place: Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln 1.png

Life before the White House

Born in Lexington, Kentucky, the daughter of Robert Smith Todd, a banker, and Elizabeth Parker-Todd, Mary was raised in comfort and refinement.[1] After her mother's death at age seven, her father remarried Elizabeth "Betsy" Humphreys-Todd in 1826. [2] Mary had a difficult relationship with her stepmother. Beginning in 1832, Mary's childhood home was what is now known as the Mary Todd Lincoln House, a 14-room upper-class residence in Lexington. [3] From her father's marriages to her mother and stepmother, she had 15 siblings.

Mary Todd attended fine schools, spoke French fluently, and studied dance, drama and music. She had a ready wit and sparking personality that made her quite popular. She suffered from agonizing migraine headaches. Some recent historians and physicians have suggested that she suffered from schizophrenia, and her name often appears on lists of famous persons with schizophrenia.[4][5] However, such a diagnosis would have been impossible in her lifetime, and any diagnosis at this late date cannot be certain.

At the age of twenty, in 1839, Mary Todd left the family home and moved to Springfield, Illinois, where her sister Mrs. Ninian[6] Edwards was already living.[7] Although Mary was courted by the rising young lawyer and politician Stephen A. Douglas, she was unexpectedly attracted by Douglas's lower-status rival, and fellow lawyer, Abraham Lincoln.

Ninian facilitated their courtship and introduced Mary to Abraham at a dance on December 16.

After a hesitant two-year courtship, Abraham Lincoln, age 33, married Mary Todd, age 23, on November 4, 1842, at the home of Mrs. Edwards in Springfield, Illinois. The Lincolns apparently had a comfortable marriage before the pressures of public life began to threaten her fragile mind.

Abraham pursued his increasingly successful career as a Springfield lawyer, and Mary supervised their growing household. Their home together from 1844 until 1861 survives in Springfield, and is now the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

Their children, all born in Springfield, were:
  • Robert Todd Lincoln (1843-1926) - lawyer, diplomat, businessman.
  • Edward Baker Lincoln known as "Eddie" (1846-1850)
  • William Wallace Lincoln known as "Willie" (1850-1862)
  • Thomas Lincoln known as "Tad" (1853-1871)
By all accounts, both Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln were indulgent, careful, kind, and loving parents. Of these four sons, only Robert and Tad survived into adulthood, and only Robert outlived his mother.

While she often resented her husband's absence from their home as he practiced law and campaigned for political office, Mrs. Lincoln staunchly supported him as he faced the growing crisis caused by American slavery. This concluded in Lincoln's election as President of the United States.

Anti-Union sentiment was very strong in Mrs. Lincoln's home state of Kentucky, one of the four slave states that did not secede. Many upper-class Kentuckians who were members of the social stratum into which Mrs. Lincoln had been born, supported the Southern cause.


Assassination Survivor and Later Life

In April 1865, as the Civil War came to an end, Mrs. Lincoln hoped to renew her happiness as the First Lady of a nation at peace.

However, on April 14, 1865, as Mary Lincoln sat with her husband to watch the comic play Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre, President Lincoln was mortally wounded by an assassin. Mrs. Lincoln accompanied her husband across the street to the Petersen House, where the President died on the following day, April 15. Mary Lincoln would never fully recover from the traumatic experience; she became even more unhinged.

As a widow, Mrs. Lincoln returned to Illinois. In 1868, Mrs. Lincoln's former confidante, Elizabeth Keckly, published Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty years a slave, and four years in the White House. Although this book has, over time, proven to be an extremely valuable resource in the understanding and appreciation of Mary Todd Lincoln, the former First Lady regarded it as a breach of what she had considered to be a close friendship. Mrs. Lincoln was further isolated, and often railed against "Slick Lizzie" in her later years.

In an act approved July 14, 1870, the United States Congress granted Mrs. Lincoln a life pension for being the widow of President Lincoln, in the amount of $3,000 a year.[8]

For Mary Lincoln, the death of her son Thomas (Tad), in July 1871, led to an overpowering sense of grief and the gradual onset of depression. Mrs. Lincoln's sole surviving son, Robert Lincoln, a rising young Chicago lawyer, was alarmed by his mother's free spending of money. Mary Lincoln was prescribed laudanum for sleep problems which caused her to suffer anxiety and hallucinations. Upon increase of these hallucinations, more laudanum and chloral hydrate was administered, which increased the problem and led to her eventual commitment to a mental institution. In 1875, Mary Lincoln was committed by an Illinois court to Bellevue Place in Batavia, Illinois. After three months, she was released into the custody of her sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Edwards in Springfield and in 1876 was once again declared competent to manage her own affairs.


Mary Todd Lincoln's Crypt
Lincoln's Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois
Photo CC by
Robert Lawton, 2006

Mrs. Lincoln spent the next four years abroad taking up residence in Pau, France. She spent much of this time travelling in Europe. However, the former First Lady's final years were marked by declining health. She suffered from severe cataracts that affected her eyesight. This may have contributed to her increasing susceptibility to falls. In 1879, she suffered spinal cord injuries in a fall from a step ladder.


During the early 1880s, Mary Todd Lincoln lived, housebound, in the Springfield, Illinois residence of her sister Elizabeth Edwards. She died there on July 16, 1882, age 63, and was interred within the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield along with her husband.

  1. Catherine Clinton, Mrs. Lincoln: A Life (New York: HarperCollins, 2009)
  2. Mary Todd Biography:
  3. Mary Todd Lincoln House:
  4. Famous People with Schizophrenia:
  5. Diagnosis of schizophrenia by John Bromley Moses, MD:
  6. White House Website:
  7. Mary Todd Lincoln biography:
  8. Acts of 1870, Chapter 277
Last edited by a moderator:

James N.

Forum Host
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Feb 23, 2013
East Texas
I'm not sure if it ever actually happened but I imagine there would be some awkward family get togethers for honest Abe I believe his brother in laws were confederates
As has been discussed in the forum previously, when Confederate General Benjamin Hardin Helm was killed leading the famous Kentucky Orphan Brigade in the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia in September, 1863, his widow came to live with the Lincolns IN the White House. This drew a great deal of criticism, much like the current foolishness over President G. W. Bush sharing a box at the ball game next to Ellen De Generis, so didn't last too long; but that had nothing to do with Abe's or Mary's feelings for her relative!

Buckeye Bill

Forum Host
Annual Winner
Jul 29, 2013
I have always had a historical soft spot for Mary Todd Lincoln. I know she is painted by some as a mental case and an out of control First Lady. But imagine losing a husband, three sons and numerous relatives which perished during the American Civil War. I think this loss would weigh heavily on an individual and possibly cause that individual to crack mentally and spiritually. Just my .02 cents.....



2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
May 4, 2015
Boonville, MO.
When I was working on my genealogy, I found that I had some Todd's in my family tree, and found we share a common Todd ancestor, so we're 3rd or 4th cousins X times removed. But even before I discovered that, I too had a soft spot for Mary. I do hope that in the future, historians will look at her again and come away with a more positive view of her.
Aug 4, 2019
Happy Birthday Mary belatedly as I am a big fan of you and your husband. From what I understand so far I am a supporter of the Lincoln's political/philosophical/and spiritual positions. Those were the bonds that held them together through a painful existence. Since your birthday this year fell on a Friday the 13th I am inclined to think it must be of special importance to a spiritualist couple. Cheers!


Sep 15, 2018
South Texas
I haven't done a whole lot of research on the Lincoln family. The book that I'm presently reading doesn't note the cause of death to Tad.