Lincoln, Mary. Hemstitched Linen Handkerchief, Monogrammed “M.L.”, framed with lithograph
A Linen Handkerchief Belonging to Mary Lincoln
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Mary Lincoln handkerchief, monogrammed “M.L.”
This sweet linen handkerchief belonged to Mary Lincoln.
An affidavit of 16 August 1977 from Mary’s great-grandson, Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, is included.
Lincoln, Mary Todd. Plain Hemstitched Linen Handkerchief monogrammed “M.L.” at a corner. 7-1/2” square; framed with a beautiful color lithograph of “Mrs. President Lincoln” Wearing perhaps the dress she wore at the the first inaugural; a print based on photograph O-9. Overall 13-3/4” x 26-3/4”.
Kentucky-born Mary Todd received her education in prestigious all-girls schools where she excelled in cultural studies and the arts. Her father socialized with the politically influential and, as a result, she acquired a keen interest in politics. Mary was ready to settle down when she met Abraham Lincoln in 1840. Marriage brought out her resilience, especially in the difficult early years when she lived in boarding houses, nursed her sons and gave her husband encouragement and support.
When Lincoln was elected president in 1861, she became an energetic Washingtonian who set out to renovate the White House, open it to both grand and popular entertainment, and reign as a woman of fashion and culture. Instead she would become infamous. As First Lady, she was suspected of being a Confederate spy, ridiculed for attending séances and criticized for extravagant shopping, decorating and entertaining.
She outlived her husband by 17 years, but she was excluded from the national spotlight and the Washington society she had briefly conquered. Adopting the dramatic style of mourning of the widowed Queen Victoria, whom she admired and physically resembled, Mary shut herself up in the White House for a month (to the annoyance of President Andrew Johnson), finally moving to Chicago with 50 trunks.
For the next decade, she traveled restlessly from place to place, visiting health spas from Florida to Nice, but nothing assuaged her loneliness, grief and anxieties about money.
In the spring of 1874, living in a Chicago hotel, stockpiling dozens of gloves and heaps of handkerchiefs and bonnets, and suffering from migraines, back pain, insomnia, and fears of being pursued or robbed, Mary reached a crisis. Her only surviving son, Robert, arranged a court hearing that found her mentally unbalanced, and he committed her to the Bellevue Place sanatorium in Batavia, Ill. It was a luxurious establishment, but she felt deeply humiliated and betrayed. After three months, friends, Including the first woman to attempt be be admitted to the Illinois bar, Myra Bradwell, arranged for her release.
By 1876, Mary was declared competent to manage her own affairs. However, the earlier committal proceedings had resulted in Mary being profoundly estranged from her son Robert, and they did not see each other again until shortly before her death.
Mrs. Lincoln spent the next four years traveling throughout Europe and took up residence in Pau, France. Declining health marked her final years.
In 1881, Mary returned to America to lobby for an increased pension, after the assassination of President Garfield raised the issue of provisions for his family. She faced a difficult battle, due to negative press over her spending habits and rumors about her handling of her personal finances, including $56,000 in government bonds left to her by her husband. Congress eventually granted the increase, and an additional monetary gift. Shortly afterwards, she returned to Springfield and her health deteriorated until she died a few months later.