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Mrs. Lincoln

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Mrs. Lincoln by Catherine Clinton
Harper Collins
January 2009

 

A major new biography of the fascinating and controversial First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln.

 

Abraham Lincoln is the most revered president in American history, but historians have often ignored or dismissed the woman at the center of his life, Mary Todd Lincoln. Although there is a wealth of information and scholarship about the man who symbolized so much of our country's greatness, the woman who devoted herself to him-and to whom he remained attached up until the very last moments of his life-remains a figure who is largely unknown. In MRS. LINCOLN, Catherine Clinton draws on fresh historical research to illuminate Mary Lincoln's mysterious life, while also offering a profound new look at nineteenth-century America.

Mary Lincoln's story is inextricably tied with the story of the nation and with her husband's presidency, yet her life is a remarkable chronicle on its own. Born into an aristocratic Kentucky family, she was an educated southern daughter with impeccable connections, and when she married a Springfield lawyer she became a northern wife-a combination mirrored in the experience of thousands of her countrywomen. Mary and Abe endured many personal setbacks-including the death of a child-and many professional disappointments. Clinton delves deeply into their marriage and addresses the question of Abe Lincoln's sexuality.

As First Lady she endured scorching press attacks, but she always remained faithful to the federal government and her husband, spurning her Confederate kin. She was one of the first American women in the White House to capture the public imagination and to maintain a historical reputation into the present. It was Mrs. Lincoln who was first labeled "First Lady," and it was by this role that she gained her lasting fame.  The loss of her husband in such a tragic and traumatizing manner haunted her for the rest of her life. One of the most tragic and enigmatic of nineteenth-century figures, wrapped in perpetual mourning, Mary Lincoln symbolized the pain and loss of Civil War America.

 

Advance Praise for Mrs. Lincoln

"Our most controversial first lady, Mary Lincoln was reviled by her critics and few historians have treated her kindly. In this new, and often moving, biography, Catherine Clinton shows that she was also an affectionate wife and mother and a political helpmeet to Abraham Lincoln. Lively and entertaining, Mrs. Lincoln will cause readers to rethink the stereotypes about Mary-and perhaps to question some of their beliefs about her husband as well."   - David Herbert Donald, author of Lincoln

"As wife and widow of America's greatest president, Mary Lincoln was the focus of cruel controversies in her lifetime and among historians ever since. Her Confederate relatives, free-spending shopping habits, mercurial personality, and fragile mental stability have provoked powerful crosscurrents of censure and defense. Catherine Clinton navigates these dangerous biographical waters with a firm hand on the tiller. With sensitivity and empathy, she brings us the real Mary Lincoln-a tragic yet compelling figure."   - James McPherson

"We can never get enough of Lincoln, and we can never get enough of his family. Catherine Clinton's fascinating book feeds that hunger."  - Ken Burns

"In this remarkable book, Catherine Clinton displays an emotional depth in her understanding of Mary Lincoln that has rarely been revealed in the Lincoln literature. This engaging, wonderfully written narrative provides fresh insight into this complex woman whose intelligence and loving capacities were continually beset by insecurities. It is a triumph."  - Doris Kearns Goodwin

"Mary Todd Lincoln was controversial in her own day, and the controversies have continued to rattle through the ages and the pages of the history books ever since. Clinton's portrait is distinctive for its abiding sanity, its deft and in-depth handling of the White House years, and for the consistent quality of its prose."  - Joseph Ellis