Mary Lincoln: Chemical Addictions?

Carol

Private
Joined
May 26, 2019
Location
Western North Carolina
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 ?
I have not personally documented her back pain with materials and sources over the years. I have read several documents describing the terrible headaches that she suffered. Lincoln himself even documented these during the White House years and before in Springfield.
 

Peter Stines

Sergeant
Joined
Apr 10, 2007
Location
Gulf Coast of Texas
This is off thread but it does show one way that the 19th Century market was supplied. And opium must have been in extremely high demand. Recently I was given some silver "trade dollars" dating from late 1870s. From what I'm reading these were produced for trade in orient. Paper money wasn't wanted. It was gold and silver. The coins were counterfeited easily and silver content was near non-existant but there was a more nefarious intent. The story goes that many, many coins were cut and hollowed out. Some sources say they were HINGED. OPIUM WAS CAREFULLY PACKED IN the coin reassembled and the drug was soon on its way. Now if you examine these coins it's DIFFICULT TO SEE HOW THEY DID IT. Not much metal to cut and hollowing out would have been a CHORE. The cutting or other tampering would be HARD TO HIDE. Only a small amount of the drug could be carried but multiply that by thousand or even a million coins. Maybe so or maybe not ?
If there was a big enough demand the smugglers were willing to gamble. Not sure when it was first brought here but in young Mary's lifetime it seemed to be well known. And serious pain can be very persuasive. I'm taking morphine and sometimes it still hurts
 

Peter Stines

Sergeant
Joined
Apr 10, 2007
Location
Gulf Coast of Texas
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
It looks like a weaker person would have folded like a house of cards under half the strain.
 

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
Perhaps Mary Lincoln and her contemporaries are being judged by today's standards--that it, we are looking at the issue with what we know today. Use of serious drugs wasn't unusual at the time of the Civil War. Estimates are that some 400,000 ACW soldiers became addicted. Opium was used by the battlefield doctors to stem blood loss and relieve pain. Depression was a side effect.

The Smithsonian Magazine has this very good article on ACW addiction: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/hist...icas-19th-century-opiate-addiction-180967673/

Obviously, Mrs. Lincoln was not on the battlefield but she was under the care of physicians to whom opium was a valuable tool.
 

Mrs. V

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 5, 2017
I cannot imagine having a migraine in the time before more effective treatment. I do have them, and at times I cannot buy a noun to save my soul. It is really hard to describe a migraine to someone who has never had one. And those with chronic daily headaches...I would not wish what I have on my worst enemy.
 

Deni7492

Cadet
Joined
Dec 19, 2019
I could not imagine living in an era before mental illness was understood and treatable. Let alone an era when it was socially unacceptable for a female to speak her mind especially in public. I’m sure the multiple deaths of most of my children and murder of a spouse (which I witnessed) would impact me psychologically.
 
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