Mary Todd, the daughter of Eliza Parker and Robert Smith Todd, was born in Lexington, Kentucky on 13th December, 1818. Her father was a wealthy banker and lawyer who was an active member of the Whig Party. Her mother died when Mary was six and she did not get on with her stepmother.
In 1839 Mary went to live with her sister in Springfield, Illinois. While there she met Abraham Lincoln. Despite objections from her family, the couple were married in November, 1842. The couple had four sons: Robert Lincoln (1843-1926), Edward Lincoln (1846-50), William Lincoln (1850-62) and Thomas Lincoln (1853-1871). Three of the boys died young and only Robert lived long enough to marry and have children.
When Abraham Lincoln went to Washington to take his seat in the House of Representatives in 1847, Mary and the children went along. Lincoln felt that Mary "hindered me some in attending to business" and the following year the rest of the family returned to Springfield.
The death of Edward Lincoln on 1st February, 1850, caused Mary to have a spiritual crisis. She ceased attending Episcopal services and became a member of the Presbyterian Church.
Mary did not share her husbands progressive political views but supported him in his campaign to become president. After his victory in 1860 Mary joined him in Washington. Uncomfortable in her new surroundings, she tended to over-compensate by spending large sums of money on clothes. This resulted in her building up enormous debts.
William Lincoln died in 1862. Devastated by the loss of her second son, Mary became interested in spiritualism. Friends became concerned about her mental health when she began to claim that William's spirit came to visit her at night.
During the American Civil War Mary came under the influence of Charles Sumner. She now became an ardent abolitionist and became more radical on this issue than her husband. Her seamstress and former slave, Elizabeth Keckley, also helped to change her views on slavery.
Mary was with her husband at the Ford Theatre when he was murdered by John Wilkes Booth on 14th April, 1865. This event had a detrimental impact on her mental state and she suffered frequent bouts of deep depression.
The situation became worse in 1867 when William Herndon wrote a book claiming that Lincoln had told him that Ann Rutledge, and not Mary, had been the love of his life. She responded by commenting: "This is the return for all my husband's kindness to this miserable man! Out of pity he took him into his office, when he was almost a hopeless inebriate and he was only a drudge, in the place."
Deeply upset by Herndon's revelation, Mary and her young son, Thomas Lincoln, moved to Germany. However, the poor health of her son forced her to return to the United States. Soon afterwards, Thomas died of tuberculosis.
Mary continue to worry unnecessarily about money. Charles Sumner had persuaded Congress to grant her a $3000 a year pension. She also had received a large percentage of her husband's estate. However, her conviction that she was poor, resulting in strange and irrational behaviour. This included selling her clothes and writing letters begging money from prominent politicians. In 1875 her only surviving son, Robert Lincoln, arranged for a sanity hearing. The court judged her insane and she was committed to a sanatorium in Batavia, Illinois.
On 15th June, 1876, a second trial judged Mary sane and she went to live with her sister in Springfield. Her health continued to deteriorate and she refused to leave her bedroom. Mary Todd Lincoln died on 16th July, 1882.