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10 Things You Probably Never Knew About Mary Todd Lincoln

5) She Was a Follower of Spiritualism

Spiritualism was one of her hobbies, as it was for many women of the 19th century. This was particularly true after the death of her children and after Lincoln’s assassination when she was overcome with grief and searching for comfort. Mary sought a number of spiritualists, including Charles Colchester, an acquaintance of John Wilkes Booth.

4) Rocky Relationship

Before they were married in 1842, Lincoln briefly called off his engagement to Mary. One reading of the situation has it that he was worried he wouldn’t be able to make enough money to keep her in the manner she was accustomed to (and later evidence bears out a similar truth when they were living still in a boarding house after the birth of their first child). While another has the two entangled in a secret relationship during the time they were supposedly on the outs.

3) Inauguration Gift

After having lived in relative poverty during the first few years of their marriage, Lincoln bestowed his wife with a Tiffany seed pearl necklace and bracelet set which would have cost around $13,300 in today’s money.

2) She Petitioned for a Pension

After Lincoln’s assassination she had to petition Congress for a widow’s pension. Mary was finally granted a pension of $3,000 per year in 1870 after living in declining financial circumstances following her husband’s assassination.

1) Mary Might Have Been a Shopaholic

She spent several years in Europe towards the end of her life, after her only surviving child had her
institutionalized for several months (Mary and Abe had 4 children, only one of which survived her). A court later found her to be of sound mind, but a huge rift had already been created between the two.

Among her faults, she was understandably depressed and seemed to cope by going on shopping binges, though this could hardly be considered a sign of insanity. The china below is one of several sets she owned in the 1860s.

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