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Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography, Jean H Baker, W W Norton, 1987, 369 pp
I read this for one of my reading groups. I was looking forward to reading it but it is written in a scholarly tone, which made it difficult to get through even 40 pages in a day.
I did learn more than I knew before about Abraham Lincoln's wife but my attachment to this much maligned First Lady was born when I read the historical novel Love Is Eternal by Irving Stone, the #3 bestseller of 1954. That novel brought her alive.
Baker applied psychology as it was understood in the 1980s and attempted to explain Mary's emotional states and obsessions by calling her a narcissist. I did not totally buy that. Life was violent in early 1860s Kentucky where she was raised. She lost her mother at a young age and later lost three of her four children to illnesses for which there was not workable medicine. Then she lost Abe. That makes a grieving woman, not a narcissist.
She single handedly created the role of First Lady as we see it to this day. She was a victim of some dastardly patriarchal males, simply because she was outgoing and got stuff done. So what if she liked to go shopping? She turned the White House into the showplace it needed to be for a President and world leader. She was the original shopaholic and would be showered with acclaim in today's world. Her remaining son had her committed to an insane asylum on the grounds that she could not handle her finances, even though she made do despite being denied the pension she should have had for the widow of the man who preserved the Union. Good God!
(Mary Todd Lincoln is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)