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Library of Congress
Mary Todd Lincoln TimelineMary, the wife of President Abraham Lincoln, led a controversial and tragic life. The highlights below reflect only part of the turmoil she suffered over 63 years. Like many others of her time, she experienced the death of loved ones early and often. She outlived three of her four sons, as well as her husband, who was murdered at her side.
Her contemporaries called her witty, pleasant, cultured, and insightful, but also high-strung, devious, petulant, and sharp-tongued. The pressures of being First Lady stoked the extremes of her temperament: a White House staffer dubbed her the "Hellcat," while thousands of visitors enjoyed her hospitable receptions.
She was born into a wealthy, Southern slave-holding family, which was fractured after her mother's death. Her stepmother bore nine children, most of whom later rebelled against the government headed by Mary's husband. Following the president's assassination, she lived a nomadic, sorrowful, and sometimes bizarre life, mostly abroad.
December 13, 1818
Born in Lexington, Kentucky, the fourth child of Robert and Eliza Parker Todd.
July 5, 1825
Her mother dies following childbirth in Lexington.
November 1, 1826
Her father marries Elizabeth Humphreys in Frankfort, Kentucky; nine children are born to this union.
February 18, 1832
Her sister Elizabeth marries Ninian Edwards in Lexington and in 1834 moves to Springfield, Illinois.
May 21, 1839
Her sister Frances marries Dr. William S. Wallace at the Ninian Edwards home.
Moves to her sister Elizabeth's home in Springfield.
November 4, 1842
Marries Abraham Lincoln at her sister Elizabeth's home.
August 1, 1843
Gives birth to Robert Todd Lincoln in Springfield.
March 10, 1846
Gives birth to Edward Baker Lincoln at home in Springfield.
July 17, 1849
Her father dies in Lexington, Kentucky, at age 58.
February 1, 1850
Her son Edward dies at home in Springfield at age 3 years and 11 months.
December 21, 1850
Gives birth to William Wallace Lincoln at home in Springfield.
January 17, 1851
Her father-in-law, Thomas Lincoln, dies in Coles County, Illinois, at age 73.
April 13, 1852
Joins the First Presbyterian Church in Springfield.
April 4, 1853
Gives birth to Thomas (Tad) Lincoln at home in Springfield.
April 4, 1855
Tad is baptized at the First Presbyterian Church.
October 15, 1858
Watches the last formal debate between her husband and Stephen A. Douglas in Alton, Illinois.
May 18, 1860
Her husband receives the Republican nomination for president; the next day they greet members of the notification committee in their home.
February 6, 1861
She and her husband hold a farewell reception; they depart for Washington on February 11.
March 4, 1861
Attends her husband's first inauguration and inaugural ball in Washington.
February 20, 1862
Her 11-year-old son William dies in the White House; she does not attend his East Room funeral.
April 7, 1862
Her Confederate stepbrother, Samuel B. Todd, is killed at the battle of Shiloh.
July 2, 1863
Injured in a Washington carriage accident intended to harm President Lincoln.
August 19, 1862
Her Confederate stepbrother, Alexander H. Todd, dies at the battle of Baton Rouge.
September 24, 1863
Benjamin Helm, Confederate husband of her stepsister Emilie, is killed at the battle of Chickamauga.
July 11-12, 1864
Visits Ft. Stevens with her husband and witnesses sniper fire in a Confederate raid on Washington.
July 18, 1864
Her brother Levi Oldham Todd dies in Lexington at age 46.
March 4, 1865
Attends her husband's second inauguration in Washington, and the inaugural ball on March 6.
March 23-April 2; April 5-9, 1865
Travels to/from City Point and Richmond, Virginia at the war's end.
April 15, 1865
Her 56-year-old husband dies of an assassin's bullet in Washington; she does not attend his White House funeral on April 19.
May 4, 1865
The bodies of her husband and son Willie are placed in the receiving vault in Springfield; she remains in Washington.
May 22, 1865
Leaves Washington with sons Robert and Tad to live in Chicago, Illinois.
December 21, 1865
Visits Springfield with Robert when the bodies of her husband and two sons are moved to a temporary cemetery vault.
May 23, 1867
Her brother-in-law, William S. Wallace, dies in Springfield at age 64.
November 13, 1867
Inherits $36,991.54 at the settlement of her husband's estate.
September 24, 1868
Attends the wedding of her son Robert to Mary Eunice Harlan in Washington, DC.
October 1, 1868
Sails from Baltimore with her son Tad enroute Europe.
April 12, 1869
Sarah Johnston Lincoln, her husband's stepmother, dies in Coles County, Illinois, at age 80.
October 15, 1869
Becomes a grandmother when Mary (Mamie) Lincoln is born to Robert and Mary Lincoln.
July 14, 1870
Is voted an annual $3,000 pension by Congress.
May 11, 1871
Returns to the U.S. through New York City with her son Tad.
July 15, 1871
Tad dies at age 18 in Chicago; she does not attend his Springfield funeral on July 17.
July 30, 1871
Her notorious Confederate stepbrother David dies at age 39.
August 14, 1873
Becomes a grandmother again when Abraham Lincoln II is born to Robert and Mary Lincoln.
February 16, 1874
Her Confederate stepmother Elizabeth Humphreys dies in Kentucky at age 74.
May 20, 1875
Forced to enter a mental institution in Batavia, Illinois, where she stays about four months; enters her sister's home in Springfield following her confinement.
June 15, 1876
Allowed by the Cook County Court to regain control over her affairs.
November 6, 1875
Becomes a grandmother again when Jesse Harlan Lincoln is born to Robert and Mary Lincoln.
Sails for Europe, where she remains until October 16, 1880.
July 16, 1882
Dies at her sister's home in Springfield at age 63. Buried on July 19 in the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery.
Baker, Jean H. Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography. W.W. Norton & Co., 1989.
Berry, Stephen. House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds, A Family Divided by War. Houghton Mifflin, 2007.
Clinton, Catherine. Mrs. Lincoln: A Life. Harper, 2009.
Emerson, Jason. The Madness of Mary Lincoln. Southern Illinois University Press, 2007.
Hirschhorn, Norbert and Feldman, Robert G. "Mary Lincoln's Final Illness: A Medical and Historical Reappraisal." Journal of the History of Medicine, October 1999.
Neely, Mark E., Jr. and McMurtry, R. Gerald. The Insanity File: The Case of Mary Todd Lincoln. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1993.
Ross, Rodney A. "Mary Todd Lincoln, Patient at Bellevue Place, Batavia." Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Spring 1970.
Turner, Justin G. and Turner, Linda Levitt, eds. Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1972.
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