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Presenter Information

Bella Biancone

Department of History

Department of Political Science

Department of Classics

Center for Women's and Gender Studies

Abstract

First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln was perceived by Victorian America as materialistic and unbalanced. Behind the closed doors of the Executive Mansion, however, lie a grief-stricken mother struggling to manage an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness. Her fragile condition was exacerbated with each death of her beloved family. Yet, this First Lady played an integral role in the White House, acting as hostess, advisor to the President, and activist in her own right. She was not a passive bystander as her husband worked tirelessly to preserve the Union, but an active participant in the war effort. Following Abraham Lincoln’s premature demise, Mary Lincoln’s internal battle amplified tenfold. The devastated widow’s mental well-being continued to rapidly decline until her death. Despite her handicap, Mary became the sole custodian of the Lincoln legacy and worked determinedly to honor his memory and wishes. After her time as First Lady came to an abrupt end, Mary continued to lobby for the lavish lifestyle she believed the wife of Lincoln deserved. She became an advocate of widow’s rights, especially when it came to bereavement pensions. While battling her inner demons Mary Lincoln battled the Democrats, Confederates, Radical Republicans, her own family, and the American people. Despite her external traumas and internal turmoil, Mary Todd Lincoln was an active and trendsetting First Lady both during and after her tenure at the White House.

School

McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Whitmer-Taylor Ph.D.

Submission Type

Paper

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Mary Todd Lincoln: Duty and Depression

First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln was perceived by Victorian America as materialistic and unbalanced. Behind the closed doors of the Executive Mansion, however, lie a grief-stricken mother struggling to manage an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness. Her fragile condition was exacerbated with each death of her beloved family. Yet, this First Lady played an integral role in the White House, acting as hostess, advisor to the President, and activist in her own right. She was not a passive bystander as her husband worked tirelessly to preserve the Union, but an active participant in the war effort. Following Abraham Lincoln’s premature demise, Mary Lincoln’s internal battle amplified tenfold. The devastated widow’s mental well-being continued to rapidly decline until her death. Despite her handicap, Mary became the sole custodian of the Lincoln legacy and worked determinedly to honor his memory and wishes. After her time as First Lady came to an abrupt end, Mary continued to lobby for the lavish lifestyle she believed the wife of Lincoln deserved. She became an advocate of widow’s rights, especially when it came to bereavement pensions. While battling her inner demons Mary Lincoln battled the Democrats, Confederates, Radical Republicans, her own family, and the American people. Despite her external traumas and internal turmoil, Mary Todd Lincoln was an active and trendsetting First Lady both during and after her tenure at the White House.

 

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