Civil War Women – Mary Todd Lincoln

by Sarah on September 25, 2008

Mary Todd Lincoln was born in Lexington, Kentucky on December 13, 1818.   Mary’s mom died when she was 7 years old. After her mom died, her dad remarried to Elizabeth Humphreys and she had 2 sons and 2 daughters who became her half-brothers and half-sisters.

Mary attended Madame Victoria Mentelle’s Boarding School.  She received an education that no other women could receive during that period.  Elizabeth Todd Edwards took Mary into the highest social circles of the state capital.  While attending these events, she meet Abraham Lincoln, an aspiring young politician.  Mary wanted to marry a future president. They say that tradition or not this was something that she desired.

Mary and Abe married in the Edwards Parlor Nov 4, 1842.  They had four sons: Robert Todd, Edward Baker , Willy, and Thomas (nick name Tad).  Robert was the only of the four sons that survived.  Eddie died with something the doctors called  bilious fever at four years old.  When Willie died in February, 1862, his bones stayed with the family until Abe was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Then Willie’s small coffin was placed on the Lincoln train and taken to Springfield to laid rest with his father. Tad died in 1871 at the age of 18 from what the doctors said was fluid in his lungs.

Other deaths surrounded Mary, Young Col. Elmer Ellsworth, who Abe loved like a son, was killed on May 24, 1861.  Afterward, one of Mary’s half-sisters dad was killed in action during the Civil War.

After Abe’s assassination financial struggles and a bitter relationship with Robert Todd made Mary’s life even worse.  Robert had her committed to an insane asylum in 1875 but she was released after four months. She was pronounced sane in 1876 then she spent four years in France. She returned to the United States in 1880 because of poor health and died sister Elizabeth’s home in Springfield, Illinois, in 1882.

Mary Todd Lincoln Links:

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Dianne Krause September 26, 2008 at 2:26 am

Thanks for this informative article Sarah. It’s not very often that we hear about the women “behind” the men in history! I will be sure to tell my social studies teachers about your post and about this blog.


Chris Champion September 26, 2008 at 5:09 am

Wow! You put a lot of work into this. Did you find anything on other websites that is missing in Wikipedia? If so, add that information to Wikipedia =)


Lori Sheldon September 26, 2008 at 5:34 am

Wow, it’s hard to believe that this is written by a middle school student! I have two classes, one high school and one middle school, that would love to see this. They study the Civil War and “biographies” at the same time. Thanks, Sarah, for the interesting read! Keep writing! 🙂


Jim Gates September 26, 2008 at 6:32 am

Mary Todd Lincoln is one of my wife’s favorite women of history. We like to think that our Presidents and their wives had wonderfully fullfilling lives – above the stress of the “common folks.” But, here’s your terrific story of Mary Todd Lincoln to show otherwise. ANd then Grant’s story, and.. so many others.

Thank you for sharing this with us.


Ian McCoog September 26, 2008 at 2:42 pm

Great work, Sarah! It is always great to see that today’s kids enjoy history as much as your dad and I did when we were young (yes, we were once young). Keep up the good work!


Linda Nitsche September 27, 2008 at 6:29 am

I really loved the way you gave insight into the personality of Mary Todd Lincoln. It is just what a person like me, who was always just taught the facts in history which resulted in my dislike of history, needed to bring history alive!

This line “They say that tradition or not this was something that she desired” really piqued my interest. What was expected of women at that time and how was it that Mary Todd Lincoln successfully ‘broke the rules’?

The issue of treatment Mary Todd Lincoln’s treatment for her emotional distress you point out here ‘Robert had her committed to an insane asylum in 1875 but she was released after four months. She was pronounced sane in 1876’ also raises many questions in my mind about medical treatment at the time and how the medical community and the public have changed how this is viewed and treated today.

Your post is great food for thought and further study Sarah! Well done! Looking forward to reading more of your work.


Kristin Hokanson September 27, 2008 at 10:44 am

I had no idea that Mary Todd Lincoln suffered so much tragedy in her life. Like Linda I didn’t care much for history as I disliked having to memorize the “facts”. I like the stories and so learning about hardships of the wife of a president gave me more insight into who Lincoln really was! Keep on writing


Mrs. Dolson October 1, 2008 at 1:22 pm

What an informative piece! I’m impressed with the content and the blogging! Keep up the good work!


Yendy Yanes February 17, 2009 at 9:03 am

WOWWW 4 boys


bennesha May 26, 2010 at 2:08 pm

i love her when we were learning about her in class my heart feel in love with the love she had 4 abe


lexis September 12, 2012 at 11:37 pm

i like this i had to use it for my wax museam at school


Nancy Kane October 9, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Does anyone know the cause of death of Mary Todd Lincoln?


fifer1863 November 10, 2012 at 7:02 pm

The official doctor’s report was “paralysis” but it was more likely a stroke according to some reports.


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