Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hellcat or Helpmate": A Look at Mary Todd Lincoln?

The title of this post, "Hellcat or Helpmate": A Look at Mary Todd Lincoln, is the headline text used from Newsweek for the web exclusive story, Mrs. Lincoln: Examining the life of a controversial First Lady.

As it was designed to do, the choice of the webtitle drew my interest so I proceeded to read the article written by Karen Springen. It's interesting from a historical perspective that some believe she was "crazy" and others do not:

The Springfield exhibit begins dramatically, with the bed where Mary Todd Lincoln slept in 1875, when she was involuntarily committed to Bellevue Place, a private sanitarium in Batavia, Ill. Her eldest son said, and a jury agreed, that she was insane, after hotel parlor maids testified that she wandered the halls at night and sewed money into her nightgown. She spent four months at Bellevue Place before a second court restored her legal right to control her affairs. “She is misunderstood, but I also believe that she had serious, serious mental illness,” says Jason Emerson, author of “The Madness of Mary Lincoln” (Southern Illinois University Press, Oct. 2007), who argues that she suffered from bipolar disorder throughout her life. Other prominent historians disagree. “She’s neurotic and narcissistic, but I don’t go with this insanity bit,” says Baker.

I really recommend reading the article, it's lenthy but well worth the read from a historical point of view and I also recommend watching the video that is on the Newsweek site as well.

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