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Library of Congress
Mary Todd Lincoln TimelineMary, the wife of President Abraham Lincoln, led a controversial and tragic life. The timeline here reflects 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.
Visits Springfield relatives and witnesses a legal document.
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 at age 58 in Lexington, Kentucky.
FEBRUARY 1, 1850
Her son Edward dies at age 3 years and 11 months in Springfield.
DECEMBER 21, 1850
Gives birth to William Wallace Lincoln at home in Springfield.
JANUARY 17, 1851
Her father-in-law, Thomas Lincoln, dies at age 73 in Coles County, Illinois.
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
Presents Tad for baptism 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 half-brother, Samuel Briggs Todd, is mortally wounded at the battle of Shiloh.
JULY 2, 1863
Injured in a Washington carriage accident intended to harm President Lincoln.
AUGUST 19, 1862
Her Confederate half-brother, Alexander H. Todd, dies at the battle of Baton Rouge.
SEPTEMBER 24, 1863
Benjamin Helm, Confederate husband of her half-sister 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 at age 46 in Lexington.
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 at age 64 in Springfield.
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 at age 80 in Coles County, Illinois.
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 half-brother 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 Todd dies at age 74 in Kentucky.
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 Jessie Harlan Lincoln is born to Robert and Mary Lincoln.
Sails for Europe, where she remains until October 16, 1880.
JULY 16, 1882
Dies at age 63 at her sister's home in Springfield. Buried on July 19 at the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery.
Documents and Resources
Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (ALA)
Lincoln Collection (LOC)
Mary Lincoln Bibliography (NFLL)
Mary Lincoln Writes to Noah Brooks (JISHS)
"My dear Mr. W.": Mary Lincoln Writes to Alexander Williamson (JISHS)
Papers of Abraham Lincoln (IHPA et al)
The Mary Lincoln Letters to Mrs. Felician Slataper (JISHS)
The Photographs of Mary Todd Lincoln (JISHS)
Unpublished Mary Lincoln Letters (JALA)
Unpublished Mary Todd Lincoln (JALA)
"Your Truly Attached Friend," Mary Lincoln (JISHS)
Abraham Lincoln and Rebecca Pomeroy (JALA)
Mary Todd Lincoln and Her Husband's Memory (JALA)
Mary Todd's 1835 Visit to Springfield (JALA)
Mary Todd Lincoln: Managing Home, Husband, and Children (JALA)
Mary Todd Lincoln, Patient at Bellevue Place, Batavia (JISHS)
Mary Todd Lincoln's Research Site (Roger Norton)
Mary Todd Lincoln's Travels (JISHS)
"Solving a Lincoln Literary Mystery: 'Little Eddie'" (JALA)
The Secret Treason of Abraham Lincoln's Brother-in-Law (JALA)
The Time of the Lincolns (PBS)
Wife vs. Widow: Clashing Perspectives on Mary Lincoln's Legacy (JALA)
William H. Herndon and Mary Todd Lincoln (JALA)
Bellevue Place -- Batavia*
Lincoln Cottage -- Washington
Lincoln Home -- Springfield*
Lincoln Tomb -- Springfield*
Mary Todd Lincoln House -- Kentucky
White House -- Washington
Willard's Hotel -- Washington*
Baker, Jean H. Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography. W.W. Norton & Co., 1989.
Bayne, Julia Taft and Decradico, Mary (introduction). Tad Lincoln's Father. Bison Books, 2001.
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. Giant in the Shadows: The Life of Robert T. Lincoln. Southern Illinois University Press, 2012.
Emerson, Jason. Mary Lincoln's Insanity Case: A Documentary History. University of Illinois Press, 2012.
Emerson, Jason. The Madness of Mary Lincoln. Southern Illinois University Press, 2007.
Epstein, Daniel M. The Lincolns. Ballantine Books, 2008.
Fleischner, Jennifer. Mrs. Lincoln & Mrs. Keckly: The Remarkable Story of the Friendship Between a First Lady and a Former Slave. Broadway Books, 2003.
Keckley, Elizabeth and Foster, Frances Smith. Behind the Scenes: Thirty Years a Slave, Or, Four Years in the White House. University of Illinois Press, 2002, paperback edition.
Lachman, Charles. The Last Lincolns: The Rise and Fall of a Great American Family. Union Square Press, 2008.
McCreary, Donna. Fashionable First Lady: The Victorian Wardrobe of Mary Lincoln. Lincoln Presentations, 2007.
Neely, Mark E., Jr. and McMurtry, R. Gerald. The Insanity File: The Case of Mary Todd Lincoln. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1993.
Neely, Mark E., Jr. and Harold Holzer. The Lincoln Family Album. New York: Doubleday, 1990. Paperback Edition, Southern Illinois University Press, 2006.
Packard, Jerrold M. The Lincolns in the White House: Four Years that Shattered a Family. St. Martin's Press, 2005.
Pritchard, Myra H., and Emerson, Jason. The Dark Days of Abraham Lincoln's Widow, as Revealed by Her Own Letters. Southern Illinois University Press, 2011.
Randall, Ruth P. Lincoln's Sons. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1955.
Randall, Ruth P. Mary Lincoln: Biography of a Marriage. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1953.
Sandburg, Carl and Paul M. Angle. Mary Lincoln: Wife and Widow. Reissue edition Applewood Books, 1995.
Turner, Justin G. and Turner, Linda Levitt, eds. Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters. Reprint edition, 1987.
Williams, Frank and Burkhimer, Michael, editors. The Mary Lincoln Enigma: Historians on America's Most Controversial First Lady. Southern Illinois University Press, 2012.
Winkle, Kenneth J. Abraham and Mary Lincoln. Southern Illinois University Press, 2011.
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