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Misunderstood Mary

September 3rd, 2016 at 09:03 pm

Both DH and I enjoy history, and his favorite president is Abraham Lincoln. Fortunately we live less than an hour away from Lincoln's Presidential Museum, his Springfield home, and New Salem sites. I've learned more about Lincoln since being married to my husband, and there are lots of interesting facts about the man and his family.

Rumors have abounded that his wife, Mary, was crazy. Well, like many folks, I enjoy a good juicy tidbit so I have been reading up on Mary Todd Lincoln the past few years. I just finished a biography and with all the details and references, I hope the author told the real story. I truly think Mary was misunderstood. She grew up in a wealthy family, but being the third daughter, she was told they really wanted a son. When a son was born, she was sort of "forgotten" but still loved. Then her mom died and her dad married a younger woman who really didn't want anything to do with his first family. Mary was sent to a boarding school during the week although she lived close enough to ride a horse to school. But, she was well educated and made to feel appreciated. She had 12 years of formal schooling which was kind of rare for women of that time. Contrast that with Lincoln's only one year of formal schooling.

The book said she married Lincoln because not only did she love him, but she knew he had the ambition and intelligence to become president. She was quite the political figure herself and understood the workings of politics. She apparently didn't get along with the Washington ladies because she was a contrary person yet also they had little in common to talk about...most did not have the schooling and educational background she did.

Her life was pretty sad overall -- lost three children and her husband was killed in front of her and her eldest son was ashamed of her and had her tried for lunacy. Many of the rumors spread about her were actual lies to benefit the person and persons who told them according to the author. Mary wasn't without faults, but after doing all the reading I have, I don't believe she was crazy. I do think she was, as the author said, pretty narcissistic and prickly, but she wasn't a danger to herself or anyone else.

So, you are asking yourself why am I writing about Mary Todd Lincoln on a savings site. Well, although she did overspend the White House renovation budget and she did spend money, she also had some sense about her. Back at her time women rarely had the opportunity to control their finances. If there were no husband, then a grown son would, or an officer of a bank would. When they were in the White House, she saved over 50% of the president's salary. When Lincoln died, he had bonds and she kept them intact. She did buy a house in Chicago, realized she couldn't afford it, and rented it out. She then let her son purchase it at a very reasonable price and even lent him money for some of his financial deals, which most were not successful. Her net worth at her death was over $84,000 that in 2016 would be worth close to 1.8 million dollar according to an inflation site.

So, I think she was more misunderstood that crazy. She did have money. She did save. Yes, she spent money and did buy things she didn't need. But haven't we all?

6 Responses to “Misunderstood Mary”

  1. CB in the City Says:

    I have been interested in Mary, too. I read a biography several years ago that presented her in a new light -- maybe you read it, too. I do think her son was a bit of a jerk; he certainly didn't have his father's qualities!

  2. rob62521 Says:

    CB, so right...Robert wasn't his dad. The biography I just finished was by Jean Baker.

  3. Laura S. Says:

    I watched lengthy PBS special on the Lincolns a few years back. Mary certainly went through a lot.

  4. Carol Says:

    I think there's another new book out that attributes some of her issues to health problems.I heard it on the radio so I don't know the author.

  5. FrugalTexan75 Says:

    Carol, I think I've heard something about a book about her health issues too.

  6. PatientSaver Says:

    Very interesting....thanks for sharing. I would not want to be a woman living in those times!

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