Tags: Presidential History | first lady | abraham lincoln

Mary Lincoln: The Causes That Defined President Abraham Lincoln's First Lady

By    |   Tuesday, 09 June 2015 11:00 AM

Mary Lincoln, first lady to 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, stood for the causes that most intrigued her.

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To be sure, she had a dark side and was under constant criticism by the public eye as a result of heightened North-South tensions, according to a biographical sketch on the first lady by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.  But she also championed worthy causes as well.

Mary played a large role in her husband’s political career and frequently acted as his advisor and confidante. When he won the Oregon governorship in 1849, Lincoln reportedly exclaimed “Mary, we are elected!”

Below are some of the causes Mary held most closely during her husband’s presidency:

Commitment to the Union
In a time where the country was staunchly divided between Unionists and Confederates, Mary, like her husband, was a firm unionist who avidly showed her commitment to the cause.

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Mary hosted and tended to wounded union soldiers in the East Room of the White House during the Civil War and also refused to abandon the union’s capitol during multiple threats of invasion.

Three of Mary’s half-brothers died fighting in the Confederate army and she accordingly refused to mourn their deaths. Regardless, Unionists in the North accused her of treason while Southerners deemed her a traitor.

Abolition of Slavery
In line with her husband’s legacy of emancipating slaves, Mary was clear in her opposition of slavery.

Mary developed a friendship with Elizabeth Keckley, her African American dressmaker, which intensified her stake in the cause. Mary supported Keckley’s work in the Contraband Relief Organization, a group that worked to free slaves, and actively fundraised to help former slaves.

Mary was the first first lady to allow African Americans as guests in the White House.

Women’s Rights
Having volunteered in nursing positions during the war, Mary supported the Female Nursing Corps after the war, believing that women had a place in the medical field.

She also helped women find jobs in the Treasury Department and War Department, although her and her husband’s stance on women’s suffrage was questionable.

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Mary Lincoln, first lady to 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, stood for the causes that most intrigued her.
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Tuesday, 09 June 2015 11:00 AM
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