Matilda Edwards - The woman who almost stole Abraham Lincoln’s heart

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Belle Montgomery

2nd Lieutenant
Oct 25, 2017

Matilda Betham-Edwards

ALTON — Though most credible historians consider the marriage of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln a strong one, their courtship was rocky. An area woman may have had something to do with that.

Matilda Edwards, who grew up in Edwardsville and Alton, was the heartthrob of Springfield societyand received a number of marriage proposals from suitors. One of them may have been Lincoln, whose attraction may have led to a temporary breakup with Mary Todd in early 1841.

Dr. Samuel Wheeler, State Historian of Illinois and Director of Research and Collections at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, said Lincoln scholars “are quite divided on the issue of whether or not Matilda was the cause” of Abraham and Mary’s breakup.

“But if you focus on the recollections of those who knew Lincoln best, I think there is some truth in it,” said Wheeler. “It seems they had an...

Rest of Article:

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Feb 14, 2012
Central Pennsylvania
Welllll. Maybe? He wasn't exactly a cavalier or of an overly amorous disposition. It's a little funny how many ex-loves burbled to the top later. The thing is, when they are mentioned there's generally an implication Abe wore his heart on his sleeve for the rest of his life, pining for his past while stuck with that darn Mary.

According to family members left standing after the rest pitched Mary under the bus, the relationship broke up over the family's opposition to the match. Hence that whole ' We're getting married today ' wedding. The Todds objected to everything about Mary's boyfriend. No money, no aristocratic, old family, an alarming tendency to say outrageous things about slavery and family roots in Pennsylvania of all places.

I'm always wary when hearing recollections by ' those who knew Lincoln best '. Herndon claimed precedent there and we all know how that turned out.


First Sergeant
Official Vendor
Jul 26, 2018
I believe Matilda was unaware of her effect on Lincoln. James Speed also went gaga over the very young girl. Neither of them apparently let her know about their interest. She knew Lincoln was Mary's beau and he was not considered a "catch" by anyone except Mary. She was 18. He was 31. His infatuation probably had some role in his personal doubts about himself as a husband. I don't take the idea of a proposal seriously. Mary, apparently did not see her as a rival, but recognized that Lincoln would come to his senses eventually.
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