New Mary Lincoln Letter Discovered

“I have been a deeply wronged woman, by one, for whom I would have poured out, my life’s blood.”1 So wrote Mary Lincoln in 1876, eleven years after her husband’s murder and one year after her oldest son Robert had her committed to an insane asylum.

Mary Lincoln’s commitment—its buildup and aftermath—and the question of whether or not she was truly insane are issues that long have fascinated scholars and non-scholars alike. Indeed, people who know practically nothing about Mary Lincoln’s life tend to know that she was “that crazy first lady.” Of course, there is more to Mary’s life than this, and scholars have been working for decades to better understand her story.

Mary Lincoln has been commonly vilified and more often—especially lately—lionized, but rarely dispassionately studied. Part of the problem has been the paucity of primary documents about her life, some that we know both she and her son destroyed, and some of which seemed to have simply disappeared. I found a cache of her “missing” letters in a steamer trunk in an attic in 2005, which I examined and published in my book, The Madness of Mary Lincoln, in 2007. Since that publication, another new letter has surfaced that further illuminates Mary Lincoln’s life after her husband’s death.

Mary Todd Lincoln was a mercurial woman her entire life. In childhood, her cousin once said Mary was “very highly strung … having an emotional temperament much like an April day; sunning all over with laughter one moment, the next crying as though her heart would break.”[2] During her years as wife and mother in Springfield, Illinois, it was commonly said around the town that Mary was always either “in the garret or the cellar.”[3] As First Lady, Mary was criticized more than she was admired. Her charity and compassion were always balanced by her fierce temper, periods of depression, and her imperial bearing. As presidential secretary William O. Stoddard wrote, “It was not easy, at first, to understand why a lady who could be one day so kindly, so considerate, so generous, so thoughtful and so hopeful, could, upon another day, appear so unreasonable, so irritable, so despondent, so even niggardly, and so prone to see the dark, the wrong side of men and women and events.”[4]

Everyone who knew Mary believed she had emotional problems—whether these were the natural result of an unhappy childhood, the early deaths of her sons, or the stress of living in the White House during the Civil War, or whether these were the manifestations of an innate mental disorder, was a matter of opinion. More than one source stated in later years that Abraham Lincoln in fact thought his wife at least “partly” insane.[5] Whether true or not, it is true that Abraham was the perfect anodyne to his wife’s emotional troubles; knowing exactly what roles to play in her life and when to play them. As she wrote in 1869, “He was…from my eighteenth year—Always—lover—husband—father & all all to me—truly my all.”[6] He was her anchor to sanity, and when he died in 1865, many people believed —including oldest son Robert—that she fell off the precipice between sanity and insanity to which she had been clinging.

For years after the assassination, Mary’s behavior was erratic. By 1873, physician Willis Danforth was treating her for what he termed “fever and nervous derangement of the head.”[7] Mary’s symptoms are fairly well known today: hallucinations, delusions, periods of depression followed by periods of great elation, narcissism, monomania, and insomnia, to name just a few. Specifically, she said she heard and talked to voices in the walls and in the floors, she believed buildings and entire cities to be on fire or in danger of fire, she saw danger in inanimate objects, and she had a compulsive need to spend money and acquire possessions. Eventually, her symptoms devolved into threats of physical violence against other people, and at least one attempt at suicide. By 1875, Mary’s behavior was so unnerving that her oldest and only surviving son Robert—by then a thirty-one-year-old attorney in Chicago, married with two children—consulted three of his father’s old friends and seven of the best medical experts in the Midwest.[8] All agreed Mary was a danger to herself and needed medical treatment. In accordance with Illinois law, Mary was arrested on May 19, 1875, a jury was convened, and after three hours of testimony and a ten-minute deliberation, she was declared insane.[9]

Robert had his mother placed in Bellevue Place Sanitarium, a private facility that allowed only non-violent and mostly higher-class female patients. Bellevue Place had an impressive reputation for “curing” its patients, and used the most modern techniques of “moral therapy,” which focused on rest, good diet, bathing, exercise, and activities to divert the mind, such as gardening.[10] The patient progress reports for Bellevue Place during Mary’s stay show that during her first few months residence, she seemed to improve greatly and was one of the best patients the proprietor, Dr. Richard J. Patterson, ever had.[11] This all changed in July, when Mary sent a letter to her friend Myra Bradwell and asked her to come visit to help secure her release.[12]

Myra Bradwell was an abolitionist, feminist, and almost an attorney. She passed the Illinois bar exam with high honors in 1869, but was declined her license because she was a married woman—the rationale being she was “under contract” with her husband as his spouse, and therefore could not enter into any legal contracts as an attorney. The Illinois Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court both upheld the decision to deny Bradwell her license.[13] Instead of practicing law, she founded and published the Chicago Legal News, which eventually became the most widely read legal newsletter in America. By 1875, Myra Bradwell was a well-known and influential woman in Chicago with many powerful friends.[14]

For the next two months, Mary Lincoln orchestrated a plot for freedom in which Myra Bradwell ably assisted. In September, Mary was allowed to leave the sanitarium and live with her sister, Elizabeth Edwards, in Springfield, Illinois, although she was technically still under medical observation and Robert was still her court-appointed conservator. In June 1876, a new Chicago jury declared her sane.[15] She immediately cut all ties with her son Robert, whom she believed had shut her away in order to steal her money, and fled to a self-imposed exile in Europe. She did not speak to her son for the next five years. Mary returned to America in 1881, and lived again with her sister in Springfield. She reconciled with her son that year, and resumed a normal relationship with him until her death in 1882.

Whether it is possible to diagnose Mary Lincoln today by examining her letters and first-hand accounts of her symptoms more than one hundred years ago, can be a presumptuous and elusive exercise, but some medical experts have tried. In 1932, W.A. Evans, a physician and medical school professor, declared that Mary had a “mild, emotional insanity which caused her to act as does a case of schizophrenia—living alone, apart, and letting the world take care of itself.” Yet, because she was a victim of her emotions, Evans concluded, she was not responsible for what she said or did, or for what people said about her. In his book, Mrs. Abraham Lincoln: A Study of Her Personality and Her Influence on Abraham Lincoln, Evans stated that to truly understand Mary’s life and actions one must understand her personality, which included her mentality, and even her physical health. Evans did not limit himself to the actual instances of Mary’s “insanity,” but also examined her family background, life history, life traumas, and physical health to explain what he concluded to be an emotional, but not mental, insanity.[16]

In January 1941, Lieutenant James A. Brussel, U.S. Army Medical Corps, the chief psychiatrist at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and later dubbed the “the psychiatric Sherlock Holmes” for his work as a criminologist, declared in his own case study that Mary’s case was difficult to diagnose, as it was “replete with etiological factors, running the gamut from congenital defects to adverse living conditions and complicating trauma.” Brussel, in an article published in the Psychiatric Quarterly, found psychotic symptoms of hallucinations, delusions, terror, depression, suicidal intentions, and attempts, ideas of persecution, and outbursts of irritability, rage, and overactivity. His diagnosis was that Mary was a victim of migraine, although he stated that epilepsy, “or at least an ‘epileptic equivalent,'” was possible. He ruled out psychoneurosis, manic-depressive psychosis, and schizophrenia.[17]

In 1966, psychiatrist John M. Suarez wrote in the American Journal of Psychiatry that Mary had a lifelong personality disorder that erupted in 1875 into full-blown paranoid psychosis with manic, schizophrenic, and involutional features. “There is little doubt that she would be committed by any court today,” Suarez wrote. “She was clearly a danger to herself and others.”[18] A 1999 article entitled “Mary Lincoln’s Final Illness: A Medical and Historical Reappraisal,” in the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences by Norbert Hirschhorn and Robert G. Feldman declared Mary’s symptoms to be more physical than mental. They stated that in the last decade of her life Mary Lincoln suffered intense pain from a progressive and fatal disease that was “misinterpreted as madness.” This syndrome is known as tabes dorsalis, a form of chronic spinal cord disease, which they believe would account for all of Mary’s physiological symptoms during the 1870s.[19]

Of course with new evidence comes reinterpretation, and the evidence I set forth in The Madness of Mary Lincoln offered a new opportunity for further study. In the appendix to the book, psychiatrist James S. Brust agreed with my layman’s diagnosis that Mary Lincoln most likely suffered from manic-depressive illness, or what today is called bipolar disorder. “Were she alive today, Mary Lincoln would still require psychiatric hospitalization in the face of the symptoms she suffered in 1875,” Brust wrote in his article, “The Psychiatric Illness of Mary Lincoln, ” and her family would confront the same dilemma if she declined it.”[20]

Only within the past twenty years or so, historians raised questions regarding the motivations behind Mary Lincoln’s commitment, and the arguments as to whether she was sane or insane at the time. One side of the historical argument claims that Mary was the perfectly sane victim of a male chauvinist society, and that she was shut away by a cold, apathetic son who wanted to rid himself of her embarrassing presence and steal her money.[21] The other side of the argument is that Mary Lincoln truly was insane and that her son Robert did what he thought was necessary to keep her safe from herself and others. Interestingly, at the time of her commitment, the feeling around the country was nearly universal that Mary’s break with sanity was inevitable, that she deserved sympathy more than censure, and that Robert had strongly and wisely done the right thing in accordance with his duty as her son.[22]

This great disparity of opinion on Mary’s mental troubles contributed to the eager chase for her missing letters to Myra Bradwell—dubbed by historians as her “lost insanity letters.” They were written in the late 1860s and 1870s with the majority of them being from Mary’s time inside Bellevue Place Sanitarium in 1875. The great question about this correspondence was what, if anything, it could prove. Did the letters show a mad mother and loving son suffering through a traumatic experience? On the other hand, did they prove that a monstrous and greedy son had initiated a “kangaroo court” to shut his mother away and steal her money? These letters were long known to historians to exist, but could not be found. Direct efforts in the 1930s, 1950s, and 1970s all failed.[23] Their elusiveness turns out to be because, first, they were kept private in the Bradwell family until Myra Helmer Pritchard—Myra Bradwell’s granddaughter—wrote a book about them and secured a publishing contract. Then, before it was published, Robert Todd Lincoln’s widow, Mary Harlan Lincoln, was informed of the book. She quashed the publishing contract, bought the letters and the unpublished manuscript from Myra Pritchard, and suppressed everything.[24]

I found these letters after a five-month search that began in Robert Lincoln’s papers currently held at Hildene, his family home in Manchester, Vermont, now a foundation-run historic site, and ended in an attic in Maryland. Mary’s missing letters and Myra Pritchard’s unpublished manuscript were uncovered in a steamer trunk owned by the children of Robert Lincoln’s private attorney. These letters, spanning the years 1872–1879, were full of information on Mary’s mental and physical health, her feelings about her son, her plan to escape from the sanitarium, and her life in Europe in the late 1870s about which extremely little was known. The letters also reinforced the idea that Mary Lincoln did have innate mental problems and Robert Lincoln was in fact a loving son simply trying to do his filial duty.

Despite finding this cache of letters, they still were not all of Mary’s missing letters to Myra Bradwell. In her unpublished manuscript, Myra Pritchard wrote that she had thirty-two letters between her grandmother and Mary Lincoln, but only twenty-five were found in the trunk. Although Pritchard quoted most of the letters in her possession in her book, she did not include them all. The reason, she wrote, was that she felt the later letters, written after 1878, added nothing significant to the historical record. “They are sweet, chatty letters of her travels and her friends,” Pritchard wrote. “In none of them does she mention the gray days of the past and to publish them would, I think, be inexcusable prying into Mary Todd Lincoln’s intimate affairs.”[25] So what happened to the rest? Moreover, were there other letters simply unaccounted for?

The newest Mary Lincoln letter to be discovered, written to Myra Bradwell and dated August 2, 1867, was actually not so much lost as it was overlooked. It had, in fact, been framed (but not hung) and stored in a trunk for more than fifty years without ever being truly understood for its historical significance—other than the fame of the writer and recipient. In fact, both the owner and her brother took the framed letter to elementary school as children for show and tell!

The only provenance of the letter the current owner has was that it was found in a trunk purchased, contents unknown, at a Bekins Storage Company sale of unclaimed items. By whom, when, or where the trunk was bought remains a mystery to the family. Bekins Van Lines began operations as a moving company in 1891 in Iowa, and by 1900 had offices in Omaha, Chicago, and Los Angeles. It seems logical that the trunk was purchased from the Bekins location in Chicago, as both Mary Lincoln and Myra Bradwell lived in Chicago for many years. Whether the trunk in question had belonged to one of the two women, or to someone else who acquired the letter, is, again, unknown. The text of the letter is as follows:

Figure 1

Springfield, August 2, 1867

My dear Mrs. Bradwell,

Tomorrow morning, Fannie Wallace* & myself leave for San Francisco, to be absent, four weeks. I trust you will not start East, before our return, as I am anxious for your company, “down the bay,” about the middle of Sept. My movements are of course, entre nous. I shall not feel satisfied, if I do not see you, before my departure. You have been so dear a friend to me, as well as your husband, that my heart has gone out entirely to you. We must meet again, before long, and I do hope, you will defer your Eastern trip, until the time I mention.
Doubtless your very sweet daughter is enjoying herself in Brooklyn. Letters received, assure me of the death of one of my dearest friends Mrs. Judge Roosevelt.† I shall write her sister, Lady Ousley [sic] of England, a letter, when I reach the Continent.‡ Do not disappoint me or my expectations.
With much love, believe me, your affectionate friend,

Mary Lincoln
My dear sister sends her warmest love to you M.L.[26]

Figure 2

* Frances (Todd) Wallace, Mary’s older sister.
† Cornelia (Van Ness) Roosevelt, wife of Democrat James John Roosevelt, a justice of the New York Supreme Court and U.S. District Attorney for southern New York. Cornelia Roosevelt was a leader of society in New York and pre-war Washington, and was certainly someone Mary Lincoln would have socialized with during her frequent trips to New York City as First Lady. Mrs. Roosevelt died in 1876, however, not 1866.
‡ Marcia (Van Ness) Ouseley, wife of Lord William Gore Ouseley, a British diplomat.

This letter, while short and containing no “smoking gun” piece or pieces of information about the former First Lady, does contain, like the other cache of letters to Myra Bradwell recently found, many previously unknown facts about Mary Lincoln’s life that further illuminate the historical record. Of course, the discovery of any previously unknown letters written by Mary Lincoln are of interest by their mere existence. This new letter also is interesting because its date of August 2, 1867 is right in the middle of a two-month gap in the known record of Mary’s letters. The book-length collection of her correspondence, Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters, jumps from a July 13, 1867 letter dated Racine, Wisconsin, to September 17, 1867, dated New York City.[27] Subsequent discoveries of Mary’s letters likewise contain nothing from that period.[28] While Mary Lincoln lived in Chicago during her first few post-assassination years, she spent much time traveling to health spas across the Unites States in search of amelioration from her myriad physical ailments, particularly migraine headaches.

It is known that from mid-June to mid-August, Mary and youngest son Tad lived in Racine, Wisconsin, where Mary visited the health spas and Tad attended school. Oldest son Robert lived and worked as an attorney in Chicago. (Other sons Eddie and Willie, were both deceased, Eddie in 1850 and Willie in 1862.) In July 1867, Robert and Tad traveled to Washington so Tad could testify at the trial of Lincoln conspirator John Surratt; Mary was asked to come, but declined, citing ill health.[29] Other than her sojourn in Racine, nothing is known of Mary’s late summer activities in 1867. It is known she had planned as early as March to travel to New York City in early-to-mid September. There she intended to meet her White House seamstress, Elizabeth Keckley, in an effort to anonymously sell some of her old White House clothing and jewelry.[30] Mary did this to alleviate what she believed was a dire poverty-stricken state. This was one of her main delusions at this time, as David Davis recognized, “The selling of her clothes was an act of insanity,” he later wrote. “On my remonstrance to her, she plead that she had to do so as she was in danger of becoming a pauper. She really had the insane delusion that poverty stared her in the face.”[31] Unfortunately for Mary, her identity was uncovered and her actions—later dubbed “the Old Clothes Scandal”—were severely criticized and vilified by newspapers around the country.[32] Mary’s September 16 arrival in New York is always where biographers pick up her story after Racine.

The next striking aspect of this newly discovered letter is that it was written from Springfield, Illinois, Mary’s old hometown. It has never been known she went to Springfield at this time to visit with her sister Frances. This is interesting because Mary took great pains after 1865 to avoid Springfield, due to its painful memories. After her post-war visit to the city in December 1865 for her husband’s reburial from the public holding vault to a temporary tomb, she wrote to her friend Mary Jane Wells that it “convinced me, that the further removed, I am, the better, it will be, for my reason, from that spot.”[33] Mary, in fact, owned the Lincolns’ old home at the corner of Eighth and Jackson Streets in Springfield, but refused to live there. Mary’s only other known visit to Springfield in the ten years after her husband’s murder was in August 1866 when she and Tad went down to visit their patriarch’s tomb.[34]

The statement that Mary had planned a trip to San Francisco with her sister Frances is another interesting revelation—actually, even the fact that the two sisters were close enough to plan such a trip is revealing. Mary alienated nearly all of her family due to her imperious nature and deranged temper during the White House years. The fact that she and Frances intended to travel together shows they were not so much at odds as Mary was with other Todds. It suggests, too, that Frances was perhaps not quite so prickly and thin-skinned as her sisters, or, as one family friend recalled, perhaps she was “the saint of the Todd family.”[35] This also bolsters a brief mention in a December 1866 letter in which Mary laments her lack of opportunities for visiting with Fannie that winter.[36] That Mary planned to leave on August 3 for “about four weeks” shows she intended to keep her previous date in New York City with Elizabeth Keckley in early September, as does her request of Myra Bradwell not to leave for her eastern trip until Mary returned, presumably so they could travel together. Why Mary decided not to go to San Francisco is unknown, but it is known she did not go, as Robert Lincoln wrote in a letter on August 13 that his mother would be arriving in Chicago “tomorrow.”[37] Perhaps the Todd sisters had a falling out, which was common between Mary and her family, or perhaps Mary’s health turned bad and she decided not to go, or perhaps she decided she needed more time to prepare for her trip to New York.

This letter further fills in information about how long Mary Lincoln knew her friend Myra Bradwell. This is important because it was a very close and influential relationship during Mary’s later years. She relied on Myra Bradwell as one of her last true friends left after the White House years, and she viewed Myra’s daughter, Bessie Bradwell (Helmer) as a surrogate child, the daughter she never had. Myra’s husband, James Bradwell, also acted as Mary’s attorney for many years. One cannot understand the denouement of Mary’s time in Bellevue Place Sanitarium, in fact, without an understanding of her relationship with the Bradwells. Of this couple, Mary once allegedly stated, “When all others, among them my husband’s supposed friends, failed me in the most bitter hours of my life, these loyal hearts, Myra and James Bradwell, came to my assistance and rescued me under great difficulty from confinement in an insane asylum.”[38]

Unfortunately, it is uncertain when or how they met. Some historians claim the earliest known contact was around 1867, when the families became Chicago neighbors and James Bradwell examined the lease of Mary’s house. Other historians begin the relationship around 1872, when James Bradwell drew up Mary’s will.[39] Eleanor Gridley, a longtime friend of the Bradwells and later biographer of Abraham Lincoln, stated that the Bradwells knew the Lincolns before Abraham became president.[40] The overall tone of this new letter, as well as the statement that “you have been so dear a friend to me,” suggests it was not a new friendship between Mary and Myra in 1867. This letter also is the earliest piece of correspondence between the two women currently known, five years earlier than any in the 2005 discovery.

While all of the new information that can be gleaned from this letter may seem minor on its face, its multiple revelations—Mary’s presence in Springfield, Illinois, the unknown trip to San Francisco, her relationship with her sister Frances Wallace, her friendship with Myra Bradwell, her friendship with Cornelia Roosevelt (previously unknown)—in reality add new depth to the story of Mary Lincoln’s life. When traveling in search of history, every piece of the historical puzzle helps. Mary Lincoln’s life after her husband’s death is still not completely known and is in need of deeper examination, while the disagreements over her mental health and commitment continue to be debated. Every new letter found adds another layer of understanding and calls for a reconsideration of the assumed truth. For as long as questions about history remain, historians will continue to look for missing pieces and continue to find them, often in unexpected places. Who knows from what attic, suitcase, or picture frame the next great discovery will come?


1 Mary Lincoln to Myra Bradwell, Springfield, Ill., 18 June 1876, Robert Todd Lincoln Family Papers, Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress; see also transcription in Jason Emerson, The Madness of Mary Lincoln (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2007), 169.

2 Katherine Helm, The True Story of Mary, Wife of Lincoln (1928; repr., Manchester, Vt.: Friends of Hildene, Inc., 2005), 32.

3 Orville Hickman Browning, interview with John G. Nicolay, Springfield, 17 June 1875, Michael Burlingame, An Oral History of Abraham Lincoln: John G. Nicolay’s Interviews and Essays (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1996), 1.

4 William O. Stoddard, Inside the White House in War Times, ed. Michael Burlingame (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2000), 33.

5 William Herndon, Lincoln’s law partner, stated in 1882 that “Mr. Lincoln held his wife partly insane for years, and this shows his toleration of her nature—his great forbearance of her outlandish acts, otherwise not understood by the great world.” William P. Wood, superintendent of the Old Capitol Prison, said in 1887 that Lincoln confided in him during the war that his wife’s caprices, “I am satisfied, are the result of partial insanity.” William Herndon to Jesse Weik, Springfield, Illinois, 2 January 1882, group 4, microfilm reel 9, frame 1753–1754, Herndon-Weik Collection, Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress; Washington Sunday Gazette, 16 January 1887, clipping in Folder “Barbee File, et al,” Box 71, Randall Family Papers, Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress.

6 Mary Lincoln to Sally Orne, 12 December 1869, Justin G. Turner and Linda Levitt Turner, Mary Todd Lincoln: Life and Letters (N.Y.: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972), 534.

7 Testimony of Willis Danforth, “Clouded Reason: Trial of Mrs. Abraham Lincoln for Insanity,” Chicago Tribune, 20 May 1875, 1; “Mrs. Lincoln: The Widow of the Martyred President Adjudged Insane in County Court,” Chicago Inter Ocean, 20 May 1875, 1.

8 Robert consulted family friend David Davis, Leonard Swett, and John Todd Stuart, and physicians Ralph N. Isham, Willis Danforth, Richard J. Patterson, Hosmer Allen Johnson, Charles Gilman Smith, Nathan Smith Davis, and James Stewart Jewell.

9 For newspaper coverage of the trial, see “Clouded Reason: Trial of Mrs. Abraham Lincoln for Insanity,”Chicago Tribune, 20 May 1875, 1; “Mrs. Lincoln: The Widow of the Martyred President Adjudged Insane in County Court,” Chicago Inter Ocean, 20 May 1875, 1.

10 Descriptions based on Bellevue Place Sanitarium Advertising Brochures, n.d., 2 pages, and 1895, 15 pages, Batavia Historical Society, Batavia, Illinois; Rodney A. Ross, “Mary Todd Lincoln: Patient at Bellevue Place, Batavia,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 63(1) (1970): 10.

11 For all patient progress report entries concerning Mary Lincoln, see Ross, “Mary Todd Lincoln,”5–34.

12 See Emerson, The Madness of Mary Lincoln, 79.

13 Myra Bradwell v. State of Illinois, 83 U.S. 130 (1872); Nancy T. Gilliam, “A Professional Pioneer: Myra Bradwell’s Fight to Practice Law,” Law and History Review, 5:1 (Spring 1987): 105–13.

14 For the only book-length biography of Myra Bradwell, see Jane M. Friedman, America’s First Woman Lawyer: The Biography of Myra Bradwell (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1993).

15 “A Happy Denouement: Mrs. Abraham Lincoln Restored to Her Reason and Freedom,” Chicago Times, 16 June 1876, 3; “Mrs. President Lincoln: Her Restoration to Reason and Property,” Chicago Tribune, 16 June 1876, 8.

16 W.A. Evans, Mrs. Abraham Lincoln: A Study of Her Personality (N.Y.: Alfred A. Knopf, 1932), 230.

17 James A. Brussel, “Mary Todd Lincoln: A Psychiatric Study,” Psychiatric Quarterly 15, supp. 1 (January 1941): 7, 25.

18 John M. Suarez, “Mary Todd Lincoln: A Case Study,” American Journal of Psychiatry 122(7) (January 1966): 819.

19 Norbert Hirschhorn and Robert G. Feldman, “Mary Lincoln’s Final Illness: A Medical and Historical Reappraisal,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 54(4) (1999): 512, 524–5.

20 James S. Brust, “The Psychiatric Illness of Mary Lincoln,” in Emerson, The Madness of Mary Lincoln, 190.

21 The first and foremost proponent of this belief is Jean H. Baker, Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography (N.Y.: W.W. Norton, 1987). See specifically, 315–50.

22 “Nothing but an imperative sense of duty and of filial devotion could have compelled the institution of the inquiry,” the Chicago Tribune editorialized the day after Mary’s trial. “It has been generally known in the circle of the lady’s acquaintances and personal friends that something of this kind would eventually be necessary. As will be seen from the evidence, Mrs. Lincoln’s mind has been for ten years prey to growing madness, and this fact, now made public, will cast a new light on many of her past actions, which were harshly criticized by those who did not know her, and which, while understood by her personal friends, could not be explained by them, since to have done so would have been to have exposed her mental condition, which it was then hoped might improve.” Untitled editorial, Chicago Tribune, 20 May 1875, 4.

23 In the 1930s, W.A. Evans, author of the excellent book, Mrs. Abraham Lincoln: A Study of Her Personality and Her Influence on Abraham Lincoln, declared that there was nothing left of the letters “except the tradition.” In the 1950s, Mary biographer Ruth Painter Randall declared the letters had “vanished.” In the 1970s, Justin and Linda Levitt Turner, compilers of Mary Lincoln’s life and letters, wrote that Robert must have destroyed the Bradwell correspondence because it was so “damning” to him. Evans, Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, 27; Ruth Painter Randall, Mary Lincoln: Biography of a Marriage (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1953), 434; Turner and Turner, Mary Todd Lincoln, 612.

24 For the full story of this event, see Emerson, The Madness of Mary Lincoln, 140–150.

25 Quoted in Emerson, The Madness of Mary Lincoln, 159. Pritchard’s manuscript, “The Dark Days of Abraham Lincoln’s Widow, As Revealed by Her Own Letters,” will be edited by Emerson and published by Southern Illinois University Press in the near future.

26 Mary Lincoln to Myra Bradwell, Springfield, Ill., 2 August 1867, in private collection.

27 Mary Lincoln to Elizabeth Emerson Atwater, Racine, 13 July 1867, and to Elizabeth Keckley, N.Y., 17 September 1867, Turner and Turner, Mary Todd Lincoln, 428–34.

28 See Thomas F. Schwartz, “‘My stay on Earth, is growing very short,’ Mary Todd Lincoln’s Letters to Willis Danforth and Elizabeth Swing,” Journal of Illinois History 6 (summer 2003): 125–36; Thomas F. Schwartz and Kim M. Bauer, “Unpublished Mary Todd Lincoln,” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 17(2) (Summer 1996): accessible at; Thomas F. Schwartz and Anne V. Shaughnessy, “Unpublished Mary Lincoln Letters,” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 11 (1990): 34–50.

29 Mary Lincoln to David Davis, Racine, 30 June 1867, and to Elizabeth Emerson Atwater, Racine, 30 June 1867, Turner and Turner, Mary Todd Lincoln, 424–5; “The Surratt Trial,” Chicago Tribune, 6 July 1867, 1. For the full court transcripts see Trial of John H. Surratt in the Criminal Court for the District of Columbia, 2 vols. (Washington: French and Richardson, 1867). Tad was called to testify about a man he had seen—John Surratt, according to the prosecution—trying to gain access to the president on the River Queen in March 1865. For Tad’s testimony see Trial of John H. Surratt, 1:525–6

30 Elizabeth Keckley, Behind the Scenes Or, 30 Years a Slave and 4 Years in the White House (1868; repr. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 267–8.

31 Davis to Miss Addie Burr, 19 July 1882, Adeline Ellery (Burr) Davis Green Papers, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

32 For example, see “Mrs. Lincoln’s Wardrobe,” Chicago Tribune, 8 October 1867, 2; Keckley, Behind the Scenes, 267–331.

33 Mary Lincoln to Mary Jane Welles, Chicago, 29 December 1865, Turner and Turner, Mary Todd Lincoln, 315.

34 Mary Lincoln to David Davis, Chicago, 12 August 1866, and to Alexander Williamson, Chicago, 19 Aug. 1866, and to William Herndon, Chicago, 28 August 1866, Ibid, 381–4.

35 Eugenia Jones Hunt, “My Personal Recollections of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln,” Abraham Lincoln Quarterly 3, no. 5 (March 1945): 236.

36 Mary Lincoln to James Smith, Chicago, 17 December 1866, Turner and Turner, Mary Todd Lincoln, 400.

37 Robert Lincoln to David Davis, Chicago, 13 August 1867, Folder A-109, Box 7, David Davis Family Papers, Manuscripts Division, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.

38 Eleanor Gridley, “Presentation of Bronze Bust of Mrs. Myra Bradwell, First Woman Lawyer of Illinois,” Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society, Publication No. 38:6, (May 1931): 6.

39 Baker, Mary Todd Lincoln, 339; Friedman, America’s First Woman Lawyer, 51; Mark E. Neely and R. Gerald McMurtry, The Insanity File: The Case of Mary Todd Lincoln (Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1986), 59; Randall, Biography if a Marriage, 433; Turner and Turner, Life and Letters, 623–4. Prior to the 2005 discovery of Mary’s letters to Myra Bradwell, only six letters written by Mary Lincoln gave primary proof of their acquaintance: Mary Lincoln to Jacob Bunn, Pau, France, 31 January 1877, in Turner and Turner, Life and Letters, 623–4; and Mary Lincoln to James Bradwell, 10 October 1872 and 17 January 1874 and 18 January 1874 and 11 November 1875 and 1 December 1875, Folder 2, Box 1, Mary Lincoln Insanity File, Lincoln Museum, Fort Wayne, Ind.

40 Affidavit of Eleanor Gridley, 8 March 1929, Robert Todd Lincoln Family Papers, Library of Congress; Gridley, “Presentation of Bronze Bust of Mrs. Myra Bradwell,” 6.