Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) is one of the most famous Americans in history and one of the country's most revered presidents. Schoolchildren can recite the life story of Lincoln, the "Westerner" who educated himself and became a self-made man, rising from lawyer to leader of the new Republican Party before becoming the 16th President of the United States. Lincoln successfully navigated the Union through the Civil War, but didn't live to witness his crowning achievement, becoming the first president assassinated when he was shot at Ford's Theater by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865.
It's possible that the world would have remembered Mary Todd Lincoln (1818-1882) if only because she was the wife of one of America's greatest presidents and present for his shocking assassination, but Mary was one of the most unique women to ever be First Lady, and she was in the White House during the country's most trying time. But history hasn't exactly been kind.
Mary was dealt a tough hand that might have made it impossible for her to ever be popular. The Civil War erupted a month after President Lincoln took office, and Mary was a native Southerner who had relatives fighting for the Confederacy. Making matters worse, Mary seemed out of touch with the times, organizing lavish balls at a time when the country was literally coming apart at the seams. As if the external pressure wasn't trying enough, young Willie Lincoln died in the White House in 1862, sending Mary into such fits of grief that she might have never fully recovered from even before her husband's assassination and the death of Tad in 1881.
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