Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography

Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography

4.4 15
by Jean H. Baker
     
 

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A privileged daughter of the proud clan that founded Lexington, Kentucky, Mary Todd (1818-1882) was raised in a world of frontier violence. Subjected to her first abandonment at age six when her mother died, Mary later fled a hostile stepmother for Springfield, where she met and, after a stormy romance, married the raw Illinois attorney, Abraham Lincoln. For…  See more details below

Overview

A privileged daughter of the proud clan that founded Lexington, Kentucky, Mary Todd (1818-1882) was raised in a world of frontier violence. Subjected to her first abandonment at age six when her mother died, Mary later fled a hostile stepmother for Springfield, where she met and, after a stormy romance, married the raw Illinois attorney, Abraham Lincoln. For twenty-five years the Lincolns forged opposing temperaments into a tolerant, loving marriage. Mary was at her husband's side on the night of his assassination, and never recovered from that greatest in a series of grievous abandonments. The desperate measures she took to win the acknowledgment she sought all her life led finally to the shock of a public insanity hearing instigated by her eldest son. In this elegant biography, Jean Baker uses previously untapped letters and documents to portray a woman whose will carried her across the recognized boundaries of female behavior.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A revisionist's view of the maligned Mary Todd Lincoln, usually portrayed as a shrew of doubtful sanity, is offered by Goucher College history professor Baker (Affairs of Party, etc.) in this richly documented and sympathetic study. Mary, an orphaned, well-educated, but socially unpopular, Lexington, Ky., aristocrat, was vulnerable to the suit of the outwardly uncouth Lincoln. During their Springfield years she bore him four sons and, despite their opposite natures, appears to have provided a comfortable home life and support for his political ambitions. As first lady, she was much criticized for her alleged extravagances on clothes, entertaining and redecoration of the shabby White House. A dedicated spiritualist, Mary made mourning for her dead husband and two sons a permanent condition, causing some to conclude that excessive grief had deranged her mind. Several months of her last tormented years were spent in an asylum to which her son Robert had her committed, unjustly, according to the author, followed by four years of voluntary exile abroad, from which she returned shortly before her death in 1882 in Springfield. Photos not seen by PW. BOMC, History Book Club and QPBC alternates. (August 17pditto?
Library Journal
In the thriving cottage industry of Lin coln studies Baker's readable and sympathetic biography is easily the definitive account of the troubled former First Lady. Baker's principal contribution is in recognizing Mary Todd Lincoln on her own terms. Although we can never separate her from Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln's importance derives less from her marriage than from her personal suffering as a woman. Politics, tragedy, and poverty denied her the family comfort and identity she craved. Baker's chapters on her last years of alleged insanity and real loneliness reveal a jealous and proud 19th-century American woman trapped by the conventions of Victorian domesticity. Recommended for major libraries and universities. Randall M. Miller, History Dept., St. Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393305869
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
04/28/1989
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
369
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.38(h) x 1.11(d)
Lexile:
1420L (what's this?)

Meet the Author

Jean Harvey Baker is the author of many books on nineteenth-century American history. She is a professor of history at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland.

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Mary Todd Lincoln 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a fantastic account on the life of Mary Todd Lincoln. While at times I rolled my eyes at her antics, most of the book made me feel very, very sorry for her. She was called insane by her only surviving child and much of the country after she was forced to watch 3 of her 4 beloved children die horrible deaths, and witnessing her husband, whom she idolized, being shot in the head. She suffered alone for many years, called a "crazy lady" by acquaintences for believing in spiritualism as a way to contact her long lost loved ones, and suffered from many ailments. Although she was sometimes pushy and self-absorbed, she handled her losses with a strength that I don't think I could muster. The only problem I had with the book was the abrupt ending. Mrs. Lincoln died literally right at the end of the book, and I was left thinking surely there must be more...it was like falling off of a cliff. A must read, though, for those interested not only in Mary and Abraham Lincoln, but also for what life was like in the 19th century United States.
Lizzielu More than 1 year ago
Mary Todd Lincoln comes to life in Jean Harvey Baker's biography of her. Ms. Baker's research is impeccable. She writes in a style that brings the reader into the world of Mrs. Lincoln. As a history major, I never had a true understanding of Mary Todd Lincoln. Ms. Baker's book gives scholarly insight into a most complex woman. Mary Lincoln played a pivotal part in the history of the United States and in my opinion, she is the most formidable of First Ladies. After reading this account of her life, I understand her persona. Ms. Baker validates Mary Lincoln's life.
JeffryG More than 1 year ago
Once I started reading, I had a hard time putting it down. There are literally hundreds of references throughout this book. After reading it, you will have a better understanding of this "First Lady," thanks to the diligent effort of the author to offer you factual evidence of her behavior. The first few chapters deal with her childhood and continues until her death. I would recommend it anyone interested in learning more about Mary Todd Lincoln and the Todd family in general.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am so tired of the endless 'Mary bashing' it was refresing to read an insightful biography that shows a balanced look at this complicated and tragic figure in American history. If you want the full story behind Mary Todd Lincoln, read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A telling example of how lost much of women's history has been. Books like this can rewrite history. Amazing reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I learned much that I didn't know about Mary Lincoln. I grew up hearing adults talk about Robert Lincoln's treatment of his mother so this book really interested me. So much has been made clear.
saxmanOH More than 1 year ago
The truth about Mary Todd Lincoln...little known facts about this courageous woman who endured so much in her 68 year life. I highly reccommend this book to you.
Arizona1 More than 1 year ago
Exceptional book. Especially enjoyable after reading the historical novel "Mary" first, which used Baker's factual biography as a source.
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What a sad story we know so little abpur the wifee