Lincoln and two non-hell cats
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- Satan's daughter
- Natural born thief
- Her Satanic Majesty
These are some of the many many unflattering things that people who knew Mary Lincoln had to say about her.
The only unalloyed positive that most people could say about Mary was that she spurred Lincoln onto the presidency because she was even more ambitious than he was.
It didn't hurt that Lincoln sometimes slept in his office and worked in his office on Sundays to get away from his wife and her rages.
I think of the Trump presidency as the answer to the question "what if Mary Lincoln had been president instead of Abe?"
I've discovered a lot about the Lincoln White House since I started researching a play I'm working on about the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Recently I happened upon a book by historian Michael Burlingame called "An American Marriage: The Untold Story of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd" and wow Burlingame spills all the tea about Mary Lincoln.
They really cleaned her up for the movie "Lincoln" - she is portrayed as merely a little arrogant and sort of snippy and she throws only one tantrum. She complains at the end of the movie that the only thing people will remember about her was that she was a crazy woman who made Lincoln miserable. Since she has been sanitized for our protection, there's a tendency to think that maybe she's been unfairly portrayed.
But she was crazy and she did make Lincoln miserable.
Many have defended her by saying, well of course she was ill-tempered and inclined to self-indulgence, she suffered so much ill-fortune, with three sons and a husband dying on her.
But did ill-fortune make her hit people - including her husband - and turn into a thief?
In 1994 the Chicago Tribune ran an article called Marygate: Lincoln's Scandal:
The diary entries include details of (Owen Hickman ) Browning's conversations with Judge David Davis, who called Mrs. Lincoln "a natural born thief." She ran up astronomical bills for a $2,000 dress, furs and 300 pairs of kid gloves, and took things from the White House when she left, according to Davis, who acted as administrator of the Lincoln estate at one point."(S)tealing was a sort of insanity with her," Davis told Browning, according to a July 29, 1861, entry, made 14 years before Mrs. Lincoln was admitted for six months to a Batavia insane asylum.
I'm inclined to believe Burlingame about Mary Lincoln, although I did not appreciate some of the pop-psychology sections in the book.
In addition to info about Mary Lincoln, the Burlingame book mentions that Lincoln loved cats, and I followed up on that and found this article,
President Abraham Lincoln “possessed extraordinary kindness of heart when his feelings could be reached,” wrote Treasury official Mansell B. Field in his memoirs. “He was fond of dumb animals, especially cats. I have seen him fondle one for an hour.
This is also mentioned in the Burlingame book:
The president doted on the cats, which he named Tabby and Dixie, so much that he once fed Tabby from the table during a formal dinner at the White House.When Lincoln’s embarrassed wife later observed that the action was “shameful in front of their guests,” the president replied, “If the gold fork was good enough for former President James Buchanan, I think it is good enough for Tabby.”
Mary - you knew this was coming - hated pets. Something else she has in common with Donald Trump.