Mary Todd Lincoln: A Lunatic, or Just Grieving?

While President Abraham Lincoln’s legacy looms large, his wife remains a maligned, one-dimensional figure and has been considered “one of the most detested public women in American history,” according to biographer Jean H. Baker. I recently became fascinated by Mary Todd Lincoln quite by accident, when a friend gave me a book about her. And now Mary appears in a minimal supporting role in Stephen Spielberg’s new film Lincolnalthough in real life, Mary and Abe were partners in every sense of the word. As much as Sally Field’s portrayal attempted to humanize her, Mary’s lesser angels are all too obvious on screen as seen through that director’s lens.

Many of us know that the former First Lady was convicted of lunacy, instigated by her eldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln. She spent almost four months in an insane asylum until she was able to enlist support for a retrial, at which she was declared sane once more.

What we don’t know much about is what led to the behavior that was considered lunacy in the court of public opinion and a court of law. After extensive reading and my own writing about grief, my assessment is that Mary Todd Lincoln suffered innumerable losses in her life and had few socially acceptable means of expressing her sorrow. Such bottled-up sadness resulted in acting out behavior that was interpreted as insanity.

Mary lost her mother when she was only six. She desperately tried to please her stepmother but was rejected soundly and sent to boarding school. Upon marrying a poor country lawyer, Abraham Lincoln, she gave birth to Robert Todd, who was a cold, judgmental and unaffectionate son.

She birthed three more sons over the years, two of whom died prior to her husband’s assassination. Several of her relatives were killed fighting for the Confederacy, and her Southern family disowned her. Both sides accused her of being a traitor, leaving her with few confidantes. And she was holding her husband’s hand in Ford’s Theater when John Wilkes Booth shot him in the back of the head, exploding his brains all over her dress.

There was no provision for a pension for presidential widows, and she was soon evicted from the White House with no money and nowhere to go. She moved to a boarding house and was never again able to live with her two surviving children under one roof. Her son Tad became her constant companion until he, too, died a few years later at the age of 18. And a woman she considered her closest confidante betrayed her by writing a public expose.

Not only was there little time to grieve between incidents and duties, but women of Mary Todd Lincoln’s time were afforded little opportunity to do so. She was often shooed away from her children’s sick beds by the male doctors because she was too emotional. She was discouraged from attending the funerals, as it was considered unseemly for women to be seen grieving openly in public. (Women were expected to be the ones to give consolation, not to need consolation.)  She desperately tried to stay with her dying husband, but her wailing and pleading with him not to die were unnerving to the attendants, so she was removed from the room, unable to say goodbye to the man she deeply loved.

That seems more than enough to make anyone go crazy! And while it is generally agreed that Mary was eccentric, neurotic and narcissistic, she tried to manage her grief just like so many of us. She shopped excessively, finding comfort in possessions while going deeply into debt. She sought mediums to help her communicate with those who had passed. (President Lincoln participated as well when their first son died, and Abe himself was subject to prolonged dark moods.)

She indulged in self pity and anger, enlisting anyone to listen to her tale of woe. She wore black from the time of her husband’s death until her own. She vacillated between wanting to be alone and wanting to be with friends. She couldn’t sleep and was sometimes delirious as a result. She had panic attacks and took drugs for anxiety. She became greatly despondent on the anniversaries of her loved ones’ deaths. She couldn’t face returning to Washington, D.C., where her husband had been murdered and was fearful that harm would come to her and her surviving children so she chose to live overseas for several years. And when it took too long to settle the estate, she took action unbecoming a woman by making a public case out it.  She also actively and successfully campaigned for a presidential widow’s pension, again stretching the boundaries of acceptable female behavior.

As my own book illustrates, there are physical manifestations of sadness and grief as well. A study conducted at Johns Hopkins has proven that a broken heart can kill you, a condition known as stress cardiomyopathy. Neuroscience has demonstrated the neurological changes that can take place during prolonged grieving and how our emotions influence our brain function. Mary suffered migraines, backaches and a neurological condition. She sought alternative medical treatments, like spas, tonics and mineral waters.

These are very common behaviors for someone trying to bear up under sorrow. Robert claimed he sought asylum for his mother to save her any further public embarrassment, to get her out of the limelight as the crazy widow of Abraham Lincoln. Others think he was financially motivated or trying to preserve his own social standing. Whatever his motivation, it is possible that had Mary been given permission to openly grieve, a willing ear and physical comfort, the Lincoln family, and the nation as a whole, could have been spared much embarrassment.

From my work with bereavement groups, I would further clarify that prolonged sorrow does not typically cause insanity but rather can present as insanity. How many of us have forgotten to take a turn on a well-known route when preoccupied with our own emotional upheaval? How many of us might have been “put away” if we demonstrated the same supposedly irrational behaviors as Mary–such as compulsive shopping or sleeplessness or repetition of our traumatic stories? That’s why it’s so important to grieve our losses in healthy ways and not bury the sorrow deep within ourselves. And to help others do the same.

I recently gave a keynote address on grief and loss in Lexington, Ky., and so I visited Mary’s childhood home there. I sent healing energy to her, as crazy as that may sound to some.

Photo of Mary Todd Lincoln by Matthew Brady from Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Yes, sending healing energy to Mary Todd Lincoln does sound a bit strange, but I’m sure if you sent it, it was well received. I’ve been to Lexington many times, but missed MTL’s childhood home somehow. Must have been distracted by the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and art festivals in Berea.

  2. Aside from not liking the article’s title (I don’t really like the term ‘lunatic’), I liked that it raised the issue of bottled up grief and its consequences. Even today it’s not really acceptable to openly grieve in public. Most people would just stare at someone sobbing or breaking down. The grieving person might not be institutionalized but could be ostracized. It’s also quite difficult to find a compassionate therapist.

  3. After being a caregiver, then losing my spouse, I know grief can swallow you whole.Even with a loving & supportive family, you still have to go to work each day and present yourself as recovered-that has not changed in our society and then you get to go home to an empty house. To do all this in the public eye is unimaginable to me.MTL had a keen mind & could discuss any of the pressing issues of her day. She was a feminist long before anyone could identify it. After her heartbreaking losses, Mary needs more sympathy than criticism. The life of Robert Lincoln may need to be re-examined-he needed his mother out of the way, her public behavior could have been damaging to his relentless climb up the social, business & political ladders of his time. How will time & society change the way each of us is remembered when we are at our worst?

    • If Mary Todd Lincoln was a feminist before anyone could identify it, do you know if she supported Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony’s work?

      The world’s first women’s rights conference happened in Seneca Falls NY in 1848. If Mary Todd Lincoln wasn’t aware of it and didn’t support it, I wouldn’t quite say that she was a feminist ahead of her time.

      Mary Todd Lincoln may have been more outspoken than a lot of women and I’m glad she campaigned for a widow’s pension, but before we say she was ahead of her time, we need to consider the REALLY groundbreaking example of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, Susan Anthony and other activists.

  4. How about what appeared to be migraines as represented in the movie Lincoln. That can certainly make one behave strangely. I know this from experience.

  5. Debra Istvanik-Strotman says:

    A lady far ahead of her time. I believe jealousy by those around MTL greatly added to the dislike and much gossip surrounding. When a woman speaks her mind, has the ear of a powerful husband, the envious will tear tear her apart behind her back. The sins of those around MTL unfortunately never caught up with them, then again the majority would have been shown for the apathetic, uncaring gossip lovers they were.
    It is a very sad life this woman lived and you’ve got to wonder how she would have been treated had she lived in our time. Life is not fair or just and never will be.

  6. Personally, I think if she had been tall, thin and “beautiful” she would be getting far better PR. Look at what people are always focusing on about Queen Victoria, that dumpy little monarch from across the pond. Face it, to look good is to “be good” unless there are serious examples to the contrary, and sometimes even then. What are modern “social magazines and blogs” concerned with almost to the exclusion of all else? Yes Jessica, stay pregnant, it is the only way they won’t criticize you for your body’s appearance. You can be pretty and stupid but intelligent and opinionated and not a babe? They’ll kill you just by looking at you.

  7. Linda LeTendre says:

    Thank you for this insightful look at MTL. Finally some real facts to bring a reality based perspective on her as a person. She journeyed though life with some incredibly heavy burdens and not much of a warm and accepting (to say nothing of loving) community to support her. All of us require this to remain physically and psychologically healthy. All things considering, she did remarkably well advocating for herself under the most difficult of situations and historical times. We all should do so well.

  8. Gail Griffin says:

    Thank you for this insightful take on MTL, one of the most doggedly misunderstood women in a whole universe of historically misunderstood, maligned, betrayed, and mistranslated women. Just one point of difference I’d like to raise: I do not think the Spielberg film reduces MTL as you suggest. In fact, I was pleased by how seriously it took her, how clearly it seemed to ground her powerful emotions in powerful experience, how her opinions and perspectives were legitimized. I supposed this is a matter of individual response, but I’m grateful to Sally Field, and to Spielberg, for giving us a very rich, complex Mary Todd Lincoln.

    • I believe Mary also had a severe head injury when her carriage tipped over during an earlier assassination attempt. Brain injury can often result in an inability to control emotions, erratic behaviors or any number of other things that could have been called “crazy”.

      • Thank you for saying this–brain injury is a much overlooked! It would be interesting to see the medical reports surrounding her carriage accident! This is exactly what I was searching for about MTL

    • Indeed, Sally Field rocked as the First Lady. She did not just have arguments with Abe but participated in some of the political machinations that helped get the 13th Amendment passed.

      Yes, Sally, we like you. We really, really like you!

  9. Thank you for posting this… If you read about her life, I don’t know how anyone can classify her as “crazy” when she endured as much trauma as she did. She really had an abnormal amount of pain and loss in her life, even for those times. She likely had been living her entire life with untreated, undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder….that continued to wallop her with every nasty blow that hit her throughout most of her life. The events didn’t seem to end. She had no treatment, little support…and thus, no healing or relief. Therefore of course her behavior was erratic at times. I don’t know that I agree that some historians allege she may have been bipolar. I think she was just a quirky lady that had severe untreated generalized anxiety and depression (and PTSD) caused by actual events.

    We should all thank our lucky stars that we live in modern times with modern medicine, equal rights and civilized treatment. So many people back in those days were treated like they were crazy when they weren’t and those asylums often treated people like animals! What a terrible sentence for those with mental suffering.

    I too am sending MTL peace and well wishes tonight. I truly hope heaven is real and all of life’s trials and tribulations are separated from us at passing. My mother was also heavily traumatized by life events, misdiagnosis, and a traumatic death. I would give anything to know she is at peace and has no memory/energy of the sadness she endured here…

  10. Well, me too, as somebody else here, was a bit resentful of the title of the blog post. In fact if it was me writing this I would have changed it after a while, because writing what you wrote – like sending a healing energy to her – should mean that you have a greater understanding of what emotions mean and could come to a change of opinion upon finishing this post and then reflecting on it. There are many doctors and scientists who say that mental health illnesses are all not what we and the psychiatric profession think of them. They are not really some sort of disease that makes people ‘not normal’. A lot of them are caused by poor diets and inability to handle one’s own emotions, emotional situations, and emotions of other people. Yes, of other people: when a perfectly ‘traditional’ biologist talks about our mind extending beyond our bodies then one cannot ignore what contemporary spirituality (which is largely a synthesis of the best in philosophy, religion, and science that the humankind has produced to date) tells us about emotions being not just an empty air but a type of energy, that we all are capable of exchanging. Women have always been slaves up to the XX century, and male bullying – even if it was done without too much thinking a lot of the time, – is what caused women’s mental health issues. We are all born to be free and born to fulfill ourselves. Imagine Mary Lincoln, an educated woman, to be unable to fulfill herself as Hilary Clinton is able to. I used to have migraines – they are all but gone now and if one appears I am fully aware of what causes one, I go and meditate – it all evaporates almost instantly, but I am happy to live in the age when I can learn how to do it easily by just googling. It’s such complicated combination of things that made people, especially women, behave and feel the way they did (and still do). We are all privileged to live in a time when there is so much knowledge of how to understand oneself and so much freedom to make our lives fulfilling and happy, that not only we must reconcile with our past when so many people were deemed mad for just being different, but we also must make sure that mental health is not something that makes one ‘mad’ or ‘crazy’. It is not surprising to me that Mary Lincoln could not forgive her son – she knew perfectly well whether she was mad or not, she was well aware what she was doing despite it being eccentric or a desperate cry for help – it definitely was not about her being insane.

  11. I just read a post by Jams above and couldn’t stop myself to write again. I agree with everything wholeheartedly, but my comment above, whilst acknowledging how happy we are to live in this day and age, actually does call not to rest on our achievements. I have recently had a discussion with a lady who is about 40 years old and who was made to believe she suffered from a mental health illness during her late teenage years by her family (just because her parent had long-term depressions and could not see things straight). Believing this must be true she voluntarily went into an institution, where she had some most horrible experiences of her life and was almost actually made ill and insane. She eventually got out of there only because she met a friend who was able to help her and convince there was nothing wrong with her. Of course, she was still receiving various support and had to go back to her psychiatrist from time to time. This person, I would even go as far as to say this educated criminal, told her persistently that she would never be able to be in a relationship or have children because of her ‘illness’. Not only I was shocked to hear the beginning of the story, not only I was shocked to find out anybody could find that anything was wrong with her – she is so intelligent and one only can see that she is a bit blocked rather than there is anything strange, stupid, or even merely eccentric about her, but I also was simply floored by my emotions upon hearing that a qualified psychiatrist that is meant to make somebody feel better about themselves, because the main reasons of our ‘failures’ in life are usually related to low self-esteem and self-worth, was again and again telling a patient that they had nothing to hope for and to live for in this life. And this is our modern ‘traditional’ or orthodox psychology and psychiatry. Devoid of love. So, yes we are lucky, but goodness the world is far from perfect, there are so many atrocities committed in the name of one’s ego that nobody should rest in peace until we make this a better world to live in.

  12. Crazy, insane, lunatic, mad excentric. We, as a society, are communicating in terms of the dark ages to this day! Mental health issues are as vast and complex as the remedies and the people we seek to heal us. C’mon women, stop using these terms and we just might stop the incessent sterotyping of mental health, thus progressing to the most significant understanding of Humanism in this. Do you really think many men would do this? Have we not always led by example!
    I was so severely abused as a child that I have subsequent PTSD, Anxiety Disorder, Agoraphobia, and the likes of insomnia, migraines and today, my hair hurts. So what!
    My Husband was murdered, my ‘siblings’ abandoned me because of the Agoraphobia ect.. Carly’s crazy. Their term and not mine! Life is sometimes very, very hard and unfair but you go on! You also prove the finger pointers wrong.
    Mary Todd Lincoln was not any of the things mentioned. She was a victim of her time and the old boys network. She had moxy when moxy in a woman meant “uh oh, better find a way to shut her up.” I see and have seen for years now that this still exists!
    The more we lable the less we accomplish.
    Say NO to all derogatory tems for all issues!
    Advocate for those who suffer this and the next
    time someone lables you or a person dealing with
    their mental health issues in a derogtory way, just
    say ” I can sue you for defamation of character,
    slander, harassment, Do you really want to mess with
    me? My attorney would like the money. Ps. it does not
    matter if you have an attorney or not. Bluff the schumks.
    They scare easy!

  13. Ms. Nugent: Another issue that you may already have examined is the lack of treatment for migraine headaches which were triggered then as they are now during times of duress, stress, or unpredictable schedules. Imagine being First Lady during a Civil War, there were more triggers for headaches than can be assessed. The physical and emotional stresses and her own health were also huge contributions to the perceived “lunacy” that Mary bore as well as she could. If I had to watch two small sons and one large husband die, I imagine I might have fallen apart. Thank you for bringing in the grief issues regarding Mary’s fragile state of mind. Lin

  14. Jmiller says:

    After reading about Mary Todd Lincoln and of events that certain others considered insane the thought came to me that possibly ms Lincoln had surges in her hormone levels. From what is described at times as severe mood swings as a “young girl and teen years” could have been what we know now as pre menstral syndrome, and migraines certainly goes along with fluctuations of hormones. After enduring so many losses of her children and her husband, there is no small wonder that she had layers of grief that she seemed to be trying to express, but maybe not allowed to express it in HER WAY. She may also have begun to experience peri- and post- menopausal symptoms, which use to be labeled as “hysteria” in women, until more studies were done. Mary Todd Lincoln really appears to be a remarkable woman, who tried to take care of herself and handle whatever came her way. She may have come across as odd or different during her time; however, with all of the new information and medical research that we have available, MTL’s behavior doesn’t appear strange at all.

  15. To be fair, before you decide Robert Lincoln was wrong for institutionalizing his mother, remember Mary Todd’s suicide attempts and the lack of understanding/resources for dealing with psychological issues in those days. Given the period in history and the considerable and chronic level of Mary Todd’s distress, it is likely Robert did the best he could for his only surviving family member. Remember also that Robert suffered all the same tragic losses as his mother and was probably struggling with his own issues while he tried to deal with hers. One needs to look at the larger context in which these people lived and not just focus narrowly on Mary Todd’s (understandable) feelings of grief.

  16. Suzanne says:

    To Suzie, I would say that, Yes, Robert did have the same distresses, and he was blessed that under those same circumstances, he was a man in a man’s world. His work gave him alternative mental and emotional choices. I am currently reading Wayne C. Temple’s book, Abraham Lincoln: From Skeptic to Prophet. This and other sources I have read establish that even President Lincoln suffered from sleeplessness, depression, and grief at the loss of his sons. His work kept him busy. Mary was a woman in a man’s world with little support and fewer alternatives. The women she encountered, no doubt, used flattery and flirtations to “court” the President with the design to advance the positions of their husbands. She also had to deal with that. Mary had a head for politics, but not the heart for it. She suffered greatly in many, many ways. I have suffered through death of beloved family members, and I have suffered through divorce. I found that people neither wanted nor allowed me to let me talk through these highly emotional experiences. Death is such a mystery, and in divorce people do not want to take sides. My children did not want to hear my “issues” and the best thing any of my siblings had to say was “if its what’s right for you, then I support you.” I have been traumatized by life, as has others, and I have had to swim to the top on my own. I do not put myself above Mary in having accomplished that task, I attribute the ability to do so to the tremendous amount of resources, by comparison, a woman has today, especially those things that keep the hand, heart and mind busy.

  17. I have always had deep sympathy for Mrs. Lincoln. It’s unfortunate that more of the people surrounding her didn’t have that quality. She endured griefs that would have sent many women completely out of their minds, to the point where they could never have lived outside an asylum again. Also, her coping mechanism was impaired because of too much inbreeding in her family. All her heart-wrenching troubles, coming on top of her tendency to emotional instability, could easily have resulted in total madness. That they did not shows deep reserves of character and strength. As for her detractors, they dwell on her temper storms but seldom mention that she was also warm-hearted and generous and loyal. I’m just happy that she’s at peace and can’t be hurt anymore.

  18. Just a clarification…Lincoln’s brains were not splattered on her dress. Booth used a small caliber Derringer that entered just behind his left ear and settled behind his right eye. The bullet hole was about the size of a dime. Just clarifying history

  19. I’d like permission to repost your article. Grieving is different for everyone. It takes time– more time than originally believed. It takes support. And, from personal experience, I believe it is most important to be able to feel the grief to be able to move through it. Thank you for your response.

  20. I do sympathize and even in some ways identify with Mrs. Lincoln, but this article is full of many historical inaccuracies. Mary Lincoln’s mental and emotional instability was evident long before her husband’s assassination or the deaths of her children, noted by family members and close friends in Lexington and Springfield since her youth. Her Confederate family did not disown her; the Lincoln family (most notably her son Robert) visited them regularly and maintained a close relationship throughout their lives. Many people didn’t like Mary because she was emotionally volatile, took offense easily, and verbally attacked in response to any perceived offense; but those who knew her warm, affectionate, gregarious side loved her dearly. She took to bed and grieved for months after each of her son’s deaths; her grief after Willie’s death was so intense and prolonged that the president himself expressed concern about the possibility of committing her to an asylum. She did not attend Lincoln’s funeral because she was grief stricken (no one told her she could not attend), and stayed in bed grieving in the White House for weeks after the assassination. Lincoln left an estate on which Mary and her sons could have lived in reasonable comfort, but she was under the delusion that she was poverty-stricken, which led to the Old Clothes Scandal, among other things. She was originally denied a pension because there was no precedent for granting a pension to former first ladies; it was later granted to her because her husband’s death was considered a casualty of the war. Congress also granted her Lincoln’s full salary for 1865, which was unheard of at the time. Robert Lincoln, far from being a “cold, judgmental and unaffectionate son”, had a very close and loving relationship with his mother prior to the insanity trial, as evidenced by their letters prior to 1875. He begged her for years to live with him and his family (or to live with her sister in Springfield) but she refused, choosing instead to travel the country and Europe seeking & paying dearly for the help of ‘spas’ and ‘spiritualists’, most of whom were no more than con artists. Robert sought to have her committed only after her audio and visual hallucinations made her a danger to herself and others (including his family). He sought the advice of close friends, family members and several doctors (including her personal physician) before taking action. Most agreed that he should have acted sooner. The original request for commitment was only supposed to be for one year, after which she was to be re-evaluated, and she was sent to a private sanitarium, not an asylum. In retaliation for Robert’s actions, Mary and her attorneys began a “smear” campaign in the national media, attacking Robert as cold, unaffectionate and after his mother’s money. After four months, she was given permission to move in with her sister in Springfield for the remainder of the year, but the judgement of insanity was upheld. Her sister and brother-in-law wrote many letters to Robert during that year describing her continued volatile and erratic behavior, and warned him that she claimed to have hired men to kill him. A year later, at her re-evaluation, she was declared “restored to sanity”, which irked her to no end, since it again upheld the original judgement. She then sent a scathing letter to Robert through her attorneys, demanding that he return all her possessions which she claimed he had stolen from her, including many items that clearly were gifts to his family. Mary and her son did not speak for several years, but appear to have reconciled at the end of her life. There are many good works on Mary Todd Lincoln and Robert T. Lincoln now available, and anyone interested in the truth behind their relationship and her lifelong suffering is encouraged to read them.

    • We all seem to see her through slightly different colored glasses. Truth is that because none of us was there, we’ll never know the full explanation, that event or conversation with Mary that would have shed light on her fundamental personality. Exactly because we all view her slightly differently is what gives a negatively biased historical record some flesh, making her a more realistic figure. I know that if I had lost my mother at the age of six, it would have done a number on me, particularly if my step-mother slightly resented me. And I probably would have thrown a few temper tantrums upon returning from boarding school during a time when boarding schools were for the minority elite and run by who knows what kind of characters. Yeah, I think I would have been insecure, somewhat paranoid, probably a “collector.” How about you?

    • Mary LINCOLN WAS SMARTER THEN MOST MEN and had more education then most men.As a woman of her time she was expected to say little and as the saying goes be seen when and not heard.Look at other country the way they treat woman and you will see that it was a person of that generation that gave Mary LINCOLN her reputation.I know I would not be able to have all the losses and the unkind attitude of others and be as strong as Mrs LINCOLN.

  21. Sharon Forsyth says:

    I rented the movie Lincoln this weekend . I watched it with the utmost interest . I was so sad for MTL . What she must of went though .she was laughing on the outside but crying on the inside . I no what that is like and like Mary I also suffer with migraine Ora’s they don’t go away until I am literally sick . I went to bed and I dreamt the whole movie over again. I thought they were an awesome couple and seemed like very loving people. I did not no that AL was shot ! I was not prepared for that. He did an awesome thing freeing the black slaves. But I guess someone didn’t like it! The movie has had me very interested in more research. God bless them both.

  22. Vena Collier says:

    I am a student of medicine and have known that grief was a major part of MTL’s behavior because I too watched my firstborn son, Michael , pass on at four years of age. I was treated unkindly like MLT was and have only recently after the loss of both parents realized that I am coming out of the deep grief. ALL the time I knew I was not my true self and prayed daily that I would get better. Another significant but overlooked fact, was that MTL suffered from uncontrolled diabetes, Anyone familiar with this illness knows that it was untreated during those times causing diabetic neuropathy ex. sudden outbursts, erratic behavior, and at times irrational thinking. Diabetes also causes blindness, which MTL became at the end of her life. Her plumpness , short stature, and blindness in later life would make this diagnosis more than plausible. To suffer from all these conditions along with grief from the losses in her life makes her a surviver in every sense of the word.

  23. Great story but very sad. Grief is indeed very personal and unique to each person and
    how each responds to it is something no other person can understand if they have
    never had to grieve.

  24. What a poor poor woman. To lose three sons. To have the only surviving one to have you committed for insanity and to have your hubby shot dead WHILE YOU WERE HOLDING HIS HAND must be beyond hell.
    This lady deserves nothing but sympathy. And to top it all if I was a Yank and her being the great Abe Lincolns Mrs I wouldn’t have a word said against her. Those of you smug ones that do: you think you could go through what this lady went through? Do you???

  25. I have listened to the audio book written by her dressmaker Elizabeth Keck, and had concluded that Mary had enough heartache and grief to behave as she did. She may very well have suffered from depression or bipolar disease also. My heart goes out to her, and love that you sent healing energy to her. I think she has been wrongly maligned. Thank you for your comments.

  26. I have heard about MTL and her crazy ways. After watching the movie LINCOLN and reading all of these comments. I am more interested in the life f MTL. Shes a qwoman I would have likes to have known. I too have had my fair share of loss and diappontments. I don’t have the personally that allows me to react like MTL. Had I have known her, I just might have grown to say and do what she did. I stopped watching the movie to type this and now I want to go back to the movie.

  27. rad68camaro says:

    It has also been mentoned that Mary Todd Lincoln had a brain tumor that was discovered upon her death. Brain tumors putting pressure on the brain and/or creating chemical imbalances would easily wreak havoc on an individual and their behavior. Mary may truly have been unable to control her behavior due to that kind of illness.

  28. Heather says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article about Mary Lincoln. It is a reminder of our gender biased world. Thank goodness she had enough pluck, despite all her sorrows, to fight for a pension, and not just limp away defeated into the shadows. I am sad when I see homeless women and wonder how they got there…My mother survived WWII years and remembers when there were no shelters or help for women who were orphans or had no family to turn to. Poor Mary’s only family, her last living son, was her worst enemy, greedy and selfish. My dear stepfather had a brain tumor for half of his life and severe migraines and he would get angry about the uncontrollable pain and it would make him more vulnerable / or “sensitive” emotionally. He felt so much better when they discovered the large frontal tumor and removed it. Mary may have had one of those. Medicine and gender equality has advanced a little bit since then. Being a woman of the next generation, and getting a livable pension, is still a struggle. There are more women living in poverty in this country then men. Let’s cover that next!

  29. Eileen Libbey says:

    It sounds like Mrs. Lincoln might have had bi- polar illness, from the description of her. Anger, acting out, depression, not sleeping, spending excessively, and anxiety and panic attacks, could all have been connected with bi- polarity, in my opinion. In the era Mary Lincoln lived, in, they had no term, or name, for the condition, as we have, they simply looked at the behaviors, and had little, or no way to actually treat the cause. And anything society does not understand, or cannot deal with, perhaps, especially, in that day, was judged sternly, and cast aside. But good for Mary Lincoln, for trying to be a “survivor,” despite all her losses, and with the apparent challenge of having what appeared to be a mental challenge.

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