Select Page

One day in April, 1837, a tall, sad-looking man, dressed in a too-short, shabby suit, rode into Springfield, Illinois. Springfield was a new town on the frontier and the newly-selected state capital of Illinois. When the snow melted in the spring or after a rainstorm, the streets of Springfield turned into mud thick enough to suck your shoes off.

The man sat on a borrowed horse, and he had all his earthly possessions in two saddlebags. A lawyer and a member of the Illinois State Legislature, Abraham Lincoln arrived in Springfield to be the junior law partner of John Todd Stuart, a prominent citizen and Mary Todd’s cousin.

Born on February 12, 1809, he grew up in the backwoods of Kentucky and in rural Indiana. His father, Thomas, was a poor farmer and carpenter. His mother, Nancy, died when he was nine. Abraham and his sister Sarah were raised by their kind stepmother, Sarah.

The time he spent in school, where he learned “readin’, writin’, and cipherin’” amounted to less than a year. He studied on his own because he wanted to learn and better himself. He worked hard to help support his family.

The shy, awkward backwoodsman became well-known in Springfield. The men enjoyed his humor and storytelling. The fashionable ladies scorned his lack of manners and social skills. Although untidy in appearance and habits, he had an organized and logical mind and a reputation for honesty and fairness. And he could laugh at himself. Once, when accused of being two-faced (dishonest), he said, “I leave it to my audience. If I had another face, do you think I’d wear this one?”  A homely man, his smile made him almost handsome. He enjoyed being with people, and they listened when he spoke. However, he often became moody, lost in thought, and forgetful.

He did not like being called Abe. He usually referred to himself as Lincoln or A. Lincoln.

In December 1839, A. Lincoln met Mary Ann Todd.

Outside of marriage, home, and family, there were few opportunities for the proper young Victorian woman. Mary’s father, Robert Todd, encouraged her interest in politics and book learning. Because politics and education belonged to a man’s world in 19th Century America, society frowned on Mary’s involvement.

Mary arrived in Springfield in the fall of 1839, where she lived with her sister and brother-in-law, Elizabeth and Ninian Edwards. The Edwards’ home was a center of social activity, and Mary had several beaus, including Lincoln’s political opponent Stephen Douglas. When Abraham met Mary at a dance party, he told Mary he wanted to dance with her “in the worst way.” And he did, according to Mary.

With a common interest in politics, a love for poetry, literature, and children, and a common view that slavery should be eliminated from the United States, this pretty, young woman captivated Lincoln. Mary admired Lincoln’s fine mind. They fell in love and became engaged.

Lincoln could hardly believe that a pretty, educated woman like “Molly” would be interested in him. Mary’s family tried to prevent the marriage. They did not see, as Mary evidently did, that this homely backwoodsman would one day become the President of the United States.

Love won out. On November 4, 1842, in the parlor of the Edwards’ home in Springfield, Abraham Lincoln married Mary Ann Todd.

Bibliography

Baker, Jean H. Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1987.

Donald, David Herbert. Lincoln. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.

Freedman, Russell. LINCOLN: A Photobiography. New York: Clarion Books, 1987.

Oates, Stephen B. With Malice Toward None: The life of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Harper &

Row Publishers, 1977.

Plowden, David, ed. Lincoln and His America 1809-1865. New York: Viking Press, 1970.

Randall, Ruth Painter. Mary Lincoln: Biography of a Marriage. Boston: Little, Brown, and

Company, 1963.