September 12, 2003

Presidential Fun Fact of the Day

Mary Todd Lincoln.

Mary is quite possibly the most maligned and misunderstood First Lady in history. The venom and vigor of the press's attacks on her were unprecedented in her time. Many of the lies and rumors about her persevere to this day.

One of the most vindictive enemies Mary had was William Herndon. Herndon was Abe Lincoln's law partner in Springfield, Illinois. He and Mary never got along, and following Abe's assassination he began preparing a Lincoln biography that was unflattering to Mary.

On November 16, 1866, Herndon lectured in Springfield about Ann Rutledge and her relationship with Abe Lincoln. Herndon spun a tale about Rutledge being Abe's first and only real love. When Rutledge died at age nineteen, Abe was destroyed and never loved again. Over the years, Herndon added to the story. He claimed Abe married Mary Todd only to further his own ambitions. He even said the couple had planned to wed in early 1841, but Abe left Mary at the altar. The couple reconciled and married in 1842, but Mary made Abe's life miserable.

None of Herndon's assertions are based in fact. Historians have found no reliable sources to confirm a romantic attachment between Ann Rutledge and Abe Lincoln. The supposed 1841 wedding was pure fiction. And evidence points to a happy marriage between Mary and Abe. Mary's older sister Francis wrote, "He was devoted to his home...they certainly did live happily together--as much so as any man and woman I have ever known."

Posted by Jennifer at September 12, 2003 03:02 AM