Guest Author - Linda Sue Grimes
Early Life and Education
Born December 13, 1818, to Robert Smith Todd and Eliza Ann Parker in Lexington, Kentucky, Mary Anne Todd was of Irish, Scottish, and English ancestry. Her paternal great-grandfather came to Pennsylvania from Longford County, Ireland, and her maternal great-great grandfather relocated to Pennsylvania from Scotland.
Mary was the fourth of seven children. Her mother died when Mary was quite young, and her father’s new marriage produced nine half-siblings to Mary. Mary was 5’2” with bright, blue eyes, and auburn hair.
From 1826-1832, she studied grammar, literature including poetry, and mathematics, and geography at Shelby Female Academy. At Madame Mentelle’s Boarding School, from 1832-1837, she became proficient in speaking and writing French; she also studied penmanship, dancing, and singings. At Dr. Ward’s Academy 1837-1839, she pursued advanced studies including cultural subjects and the works of Victor Hugo, Shakespeare, and astronomy.
Mary’s father was a close friend of Henry Clay, Kentucky Whig Party leader. Through this relationship, Mary became interested in politics. She favored William Henry Harrison’s presidential run. Her maternal grandmother was part of the Underground Railroad, and Mary became an avid abolitionist through the grandmother’s work.
Mary Todd married Abraham Lincoln November 4, 1842. She was 23 years old. In 1844, they bought a home in Springfield, Illinois. They had four sons, Robert Todd, Edward Baker, William Wallace, and Thomas. The family lived in Illinois and spent time in Kentucky until Lincoln become president.
Mary played an active part in Lincoln’s political career. While doing her own housework, she nevertheless wrote his letter to Whig leaders. Lincoln was recommended for the governorship of Oregon territory, but Mrs. Lincoln persuaded against his moving so far away from the political center in Washington. She was convinced that her husband would one day be president, and she did not want him ruining that chance by leaving the watchful eye of the Washington establishment. She attended legislative sessions and was present at the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates.
Mary Todd thought when she married Abraham Lincoln that he would one day be president. She was shy about talking to the press and her discussions with reporters were referred to a “speeches.” As First Lady, she proved to be a gracious hostess, but she was often criticized for extravagance. During the Civil War, she was considered a traitor by the South and a spy by the North.
After her husband’s assassination, her health deteriorated, but she lived until 1882, dying at her sister’s home in Springfield, Illinois. She was buried in the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery at Springfield, Illinois.
For more information, please visit Mary Anne Todd Lincoln