Mary Todd Lincoln died today – July 16th, 1882

On this day in 1882, Mary Todd Lincoln, the widow of Abraham Lincoln, died of a stroke.

AL and MTLBorn to a wealthy Kentucky family on December 13, 1818, Mary was well educated and refined in social etiquette. During her teen years she left Kentucky for Springfield, Illinois to stay her sister. It was there that she met her future husband, a lawyer ten years her senior called Abraham Lincoln, but in the period prior to their courtship and engagement, Mary actually was being courted by Lincoln’s long-term political rival Stephen A. Douglas.

Mary_Todd_Lincoln_colloidon_1860-65Abraham Lincoln is often noted for his bouts of melancholy, but Mary also suffered most of her adult life from both physical and mental health issues. In public she tried to maintain the poise of the White House’s First Lady, but accounts report that she suffered from regular migraines and long periods of depression and mood swings. Mary’s temper could be intense, she had public outbursts, would over spend, and behave in other manners which have led modern scholars to speculate that Mary suffered from bipolar disorder.

The Lincolns had four sons, but only Robert Lincoln managed to outlive his parents. The grief of losing three sons exacerbated her depression and each time triggered increasingly erratic behavior. Edward died in 1850 and William in 1862; Thomas (Tad) almost died in 1862 of the same typhoid fever that took his brother William, but instead was killed by tuberculosis in 1871. The death of William prompted Mary to host séances in the White House, some of which were attended by the president and other high society members, in an attempt to contact her sons.

tumblr_l4t2qioQAV1qz4s6ho1_400As a widow, Mary’s continued to display another classic bipolar text book behavior, excessive shopping. She purchased things that she never used, dresses that she never wore, and is reported to have walked around the city with $56,000’s worth of government bonds sewn into her clothing. Mary was victim to compulsory spending, but it is also reported that she had an irrational fear of becoming poor

In the early 1880s and with much concern over her mental health, Mary was confined to her sister’s house and it was there on July 16, 1882, that she collapsed and fell  into a coma before dying. Mary Todd Lincoln died at age 63, and was interred alongside her husband in the Lincoln Tomb.

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