Mary Lincoln: Chemical Addictions?

Peter Stines

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Apr 10, 2007
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Gulf Coast of Texas
If this is in the wrong forum can we post where it belongs ? A friend of mine was asking if Mary Lincoln had any chemical dependecy ? I had read that her doctor prescribed cocain at one time. And we know that the president took blue mass (and stopped it soon afterward) Naturally I refered her to CWT. But now my curiosity is bubbling.
 

Yankee Brooke

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PA
Being prescribed cocaine would not have been terribly uncommon in those days....I've never heard or read anything about her having a drug dependency, however I'm not an expert on her either, so that doesn't mean much. I hope you get the answer you seek!
 

huskerblitz

Major
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Jun 8, 2013
Location
Nebraska
Depends on who one asks, I would imagine. I do remember a medicine decanter on display at her family home in Lexington but I can't remember what it said it held.

This book takes a stab at Mary's addictions. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the book as I have never read it.

Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the president we have immortalized, has always been difficult for us to understand. She could appear poised and brilliant one moment yet rude and ugly the next. Sometimes competent and strong, able to entertain dignitaries from around the world, at other times she appeared dependent and weak. At times she seemed utterly beside herself with sobbing and screaming. Historians have mostly avoided saying very much about Mary Todd Lincoln except in reference to her husband, Abraham. To many it would seem that Mary Todd Lincoln is still an embarrassment in the tragic story of her martyred husband. But Mary Todd Lincoln lived her own tragic story even before Abraham was murdered. She was an addict, addicted to the opiates she needed for her migraine headaches. Seeing Mary Todd Lincoln as an addict helps us understand her and give her the compassion and admiration she deserves. In her time there had been no courageous First Lady like Betty Ford to help people understand the power of addiction. There was no treatment center. In Mary Todd Lincoln's time there were many addicts at all levels of society, as there are now, but it was a more socially acceptable condition for men to have than for women. More importantly, addiction was not very well understood, and it was often mistreated. Because Mary Todd Lincoln's only surviving son, Robert Lincoln, made a great effort to protect his mother and his family from journalists and historians, he intentionally destroyed most of Mary Todd Lincoln's medical records and many of her letters. What he could not destroy, however, is the record of Mary Todd Lincoln's pain and the record of how she behaved while living with this pain. In The Addiction of Mary Todd Lincoln, we can see clearly, for the first time, what Mary Todd Lincoln had to live with and the courage it took for her to carry on.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1603810218/?tag=civilwartalkc-20
 

Carol

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Western North Carolina
Book Reference: The Addiction of Mary Todd Lincoln by Anne E. Biedler. Published 2009. Additional source would be Lapham's Quarterly. It may be interesting to know that a great majority were addicted to opium in some format. Thomas Jefferson was well known to have grown white opium on Monticello lands in order to create his own recipe of laudanum. A recipe that he stated cured him of diarrhea which he struggled with for years.
 

Lubliner

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Addiction and dependency is a daily or most times multi-dose per day. It is too easy to categorize someone such as Mary Todd as an addict to make it easier to identify complicated personality traits. If she suffered migraines, how frequent were they, and when she had alleviated the pain, was the drug put away until the pain returned. If not, and she continued administering herself doses daily when no cause was due for months at a time, then she could be termed an addict. Possibly the upsetting tantrums could have come from those very withdrawals, or as her nature could be termed 'out-of-control'. To me it is making a poor judgement to ascribe an addiction for building a case against her character [to defame or slander/ create gossip]. If she had a medical need, and possibly got taken by the strength of the drug, it could be stated in a simple, medical manner. To write a whole book on some psychoanalytical quirk instead of a case study (anonymous subject/patient) I find very distasteful. My apology for the vented opinion.
Lubliner.
 

ShoreDutyCSN

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Joined
Feb 15, 2021
I wonder what she was like as a child and how she behaved during her teenage years. Does anybody have such information on her?
I hate to just veer off without answering your question but all my books are currently in a state cryogenic freeze in my office with no heat.
I have dealt with a lot of people suffering from mental illnesses. Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) could be, and I'm no sawbones mind you, a reason for many of her actions and might well have lead to chemicals. Some of her reactions, the dinner with Grant and his wife where she became 'hysteric' is very much like the M.O. of someone I know personally who has one of the two issues. As a person with Bipolar Disorder I know just how easy it is to fall into substance abuse.

So maybe it might have been both?
 

Lubliner

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Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Mrs. Lincoln found pleasure in certain luxuries. It comforted her physically and therefore emotionally. She enjoyed shopping and spent frivolously from reports of her New York excursions. So she found pleasure in spoiling herself with such things that gratified. In the case of the outburst with Grant and his wife, she was in a rude setting, probably had disagreeable reactions to time on board a water vessel, was in the company of a man (General Grant and wife) that infringed upon the greatness of her husband. How can she not see this subtle General as a threat to her own Hero? Of course some of these times the only gratification she could muster would be to vent horribly on the smallest of nuances. How many women are put ill at ease by a tight bodice that crimps and makes movement unpleasant? Of course with the idea of pampering her own comforts she may have consumed and abused substances, and the idea of 'When will this all end?' could be a very quick reaction to make it so by unleashed fury. I would rather describe her personality traits as habitual, leading to abusive practice than having the abusive practice the determinant of her personality.
Lubliner.
 

huskerblitz

Major
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Location
Nebraska
I wonder what she was like as a child and how she behaved during her teenage years. Does anybody have such information on her?
As far as I remember, she had a pretty well-adjusted youth. Yes, she clashed with her stepmother, but other than that she had a very good education, learned French and developed a love of literature. She lived not far from Henry Clay and probably got her hooked on politics early. Her father's bank collapsed during the Panic of 1837 during which she accepted an invite to stay with her sister in Springfield...and as they say, the rest is history.
 

Peter Stines

Sergeant
Joined
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Location
Gulf Coast of Texas
Being prescribed cocaine would not have been terribly uncommon in those days....I've never heard or read
Book Reference: The Addiction of Mary Todd Lincoln by Anne E. Biedler. Published 2009. Additional source would be Lapham's Quarterly. It may be interesting to know that a great majority were addicted to opium in some format. Thomas Jefferson was well known to have grown white opium on Monticello lands in order to create his own recipe of laudanum. A recipe that he stated cured him of diarrhea which he struggled with for years.
Franklin used opium for a number of ailments including an abcess on his lungs
anything about her having a dru
 

Peter Stines

Sergeant
Joined
Apr 10, 2007
Location
Gulf Coast of Texas
Addiction and dependency is a daily or most times multi-dose per day. It is too easy to categorize someone such as Mary Todd as an addict to make it easier to identify complicated personality traits. If she suffered migraines, how frequent were they, and when she had alleviated the pain, was the drug put away until the pain returned. If not, and she continued administering herself doses daily when no cause was due for months at a time, then she could be termed an addict. Possibly the upsetting tantrums could have come from those very withdrawals, or as her nature could be termed 'out-of-control'. To me it is making a poor judgement to ascribe an addiction for building a case against her character [to defame or slander/ create gossip]. If she had a medical need, and possibly got taken by the strength of the drug, it could be stated in a simple, medical manner. To write a whole book on some psychoanalytical quirk instead of a case study (anonymous subject/patient) I find very distasteful. My apology for the vented opinion.
Lubliner.
It's frightening to image the extreme pressure she was under. Just about as bad as his. Unfortunately too many books etc are just an excuse to attack, malign or just destroy someone. I hope no one misunderstood my asking/starting this thread. My friend is studying Mary Lincoln and it peaked my curiosity.
 

Peter Stines

Sergeant
Joined
Apr 10, 2007
Location
Gulf Coast of Texas
Book Reference: The Addiction of Mary Todd Lincoln by Anne E. Biedler. Published 2009. Additional source would be Lapham's Quarterly. It may be interesting to know that a great majority were addicted to opium in some format. Thomas Jefferson was well known to have grown white opium on Monticello lands in order to create his own recipe of laudanum. A recipe that he stated cured him of diarrhea which he struggled with for years.
Didn't she have back pain and the opium was for that as well ? I read about the migranes and doesn't that leave you prostrated for days ?
 

Peter Stines

Sergeant
Joined
Apr 10, 2007
Location
Gulf Coast of Texas
Being prescribed cocaine would not have been terribly uncommon in those days....I've never heard or read anything about her having a drug dependency, however I'm not an expert on her either, so that doesn't mean much. I hope you get the answer you seek!
Judging from the amount of laudinum (spelling?) opium, cocaine and other drugs imported and consumed in America Abbie Hoffman and Timothy Leary would have felt right at home
 

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
I read about the migranes and doesn't that leave you prostrated for days ?
Absolutely. I've had migraines so bad that I wound up in the hospital. Even worse are cluster headaches (often confused with migraines) that go on for incredibly long periods. Anyone who suffers from migraines has my sympathy--especially in a time when there was no effective medicine and when most people regarded this malady as some sort of brain disorder. Despite common usage of the word, a migraine is NOT simply a bad headache.
 

John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
Depends on who one asks, I would imagine. I do remember a medicine decanter on display at her family home in Lexington but I can't remember what it said it held.

This book takes a stab at Mary's addictions. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the book as I have never read it.

Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the president we have immortalized, has always been difficult for us to understand. She could appear poised and brilliant one moment yet rude and ugly the next. Sometimes competent and strong, able to entertain dignitaries from around the world, at other times she appeared dependent and weak. At times she seemed utterly beside herself with sobbing and screaming. Historians have mostly avoided saying very much about Mary Todd Lincoln except in reference to her husband, Abraham. To many it would seem that Mary Todd Lincoln is still an embarrassment in the tragic story of her martyred husband. But Mary Todd Lincoln lived her own tragic story even before Abraham was murdered. She was an addict, addicted to the opiates she needed for her migraine headaches. Seeing Mary Todd Lincoln as an addict helps us understand her and give her the compassion and admiration she deserves. In her time there had been no courageous First Lady like Betty Ford to help people understand the power of addiction. There was no treatment center. In Mary Todd Lincoln's time there were many addicts at all levels of society, as there are now, but it was a more socially acceptable condition for men to have than for women. More importantly, addiction was not very well understood, and it was often mistreated. Because Mary Todd Lincoln's only surviving son, Robert Lincoln, made a great effort to protect his mother and his family from journalists and historians, he intentionally destroyed most of Mary Todd Lincoln's medical records and many of her letters. What he could not destroy, however, is the record of Mary Todd Lincoln's pain and the record of how she behaved while living with this pain. In The Addiction of Mary Todd Lincoln, we can see clearly, for the first time, what Mary Todd Lincoln had to live with and the courage it took for her to carry on.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1603810218/?tag=civilwartalkc-20
What women did not subscribe to some drug? As is known these drugs were not known till latter in use what would be the net result of usage. There was no law against selling or purchase of same. Many a famous man or woman took some dosage of these beneficial medication that was sold over the counter in this time. .
 

huskerblitz

Major
Joined
Jun 8, 2013
Location
Nebraska
What women did not subscribe to some drug? As is known these drugs were not known till latter in use what would be the net result of usage. There was no law against selling or purchase of same. Many a famous man or woman took some dosage of these beneficial medication that was sold over the counter in this time. .
Sure....And I'm not saying Mary was addicted to anything or took more than a typical person of the era. Just provided a book that looked at that aspect of her life, as the post I replied requested.
 
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