tv Discussion on the Life and Legacy of Mary Lincoln CSPAN April 2, 2016 1:00pm-1:53pm EDT
mcdermid is the author of "mary lincoln, southern girl, nor the woman." this took place at a theater in washington d.c. and is about 50 minutes. >> mr. president. [laughter] willard.e is bob i have been president of the abraham lincoln institute in the past. i am delighted to be at the symposium. i have attended almost all of them. it is more challenging these days after a half a century living in and around washington. my wife and i are happily in southern california. i mention that because in the past couple of weeks, the eyes of the nation were focused on the reagan presidential library just a few minutes away from our new home. as america said goodbye to first lady nancy reagan, secretary
james baker and her sun both claimed that without his reagan, there would be no president reagan -- without mrs. reagan, there would be no president reagan. as ilize that for as long can remember, i have expressed that same view regarding mary lincoln. it was underscored this morning by sidney blumenthal. i have attended lots of events like this. and i have heard many presentations on mrs. lincoln from fans -- from friends and foes. love her or hate her, there is little doubt in my mind that abraham lincoln -- that abraham and mary love each other deeply and supported each other for better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness and in health. was anry's support indispensable element of abraham's ambition. our next speaker knows more about this relationship than just about anybody. it stacy mcdermid is the author
of "mary lincoln: southern girl, nor the moment." this compact volume traces the complex and often tragic life of mary lincoln and for dose stages -- of mary lincoln and four stages. i encourage you to read the book. if you want to get an instant impression, let me draw your attention on her blog about the civil war and pop culture. she drew a portrait of mary lincoln and gave a strong thumbs up to sally field's for trail of the president's life in the movie "lincoln." but her expertise extends far beyond mary. her phd dissertation on juries in the antebellum midwest formed
the basis of her 2012 book published by ohio university press, "the jury in lincoln's america." our colleague and friend rights mcdermott's careful study, based on extensive primary source research, sheds fresh light on the legal history the 19th century america. it should come as no surprise that she is comfortable with primary material. since the early 1990's, starting as an intern and working her way to her current position as assistant director and associate editor, she has been an integral part of the papers of abraham lincoln project in illinois. this ambitious effort aims to identify, index, and make available digitally, all the works created by lincoln, as well as material received by him. i first became aware of her contributions when she was on the advisory board, dealing with successful first phase of the project, lincoln's legal career.
i would be derelict in my duty to the lincoln community if i didn't mention that the papers project was caught in the middle of a political budget dispute in the state of illinois. i draw your attention to the editorial in the "new york times" last sunday on march 13, and if you were so moved, i so urge you to exercise your right to petition the government for redress of grievances. at this time, and without public service announcement behind me, it is my personal honor to invite stacy to take her place on this historic stage and i ask you all to give her a warm welcome. [applause] ms. mcdermott: it is such a pleasure to be here today. i was so nervous giving a talk at this hallowed building, and then i saw this, they did that, i'm from the midwest, that's perfect. [laughter]
i feel right at home with this scenery. lmed minors right away. perhaps many of you dislike mary lincoln. perhaps many of you believe that she is really not so bad, but she just suffers by comparison to her mythical godlike husband. perhaps they're even some of you who actually like mary lincoln, as i do. but i am absolutely certain that everyone assembled here today is aware of the fact that mary lincoln is not a popular historical figure. and mary lincoln's legacy in this regard is going to be at the forefront of my presentation today. but i am not here to defend mary lincoln. to defend her shortcomings. i am not here to make apologies for her human faults and failings. i am not here to deny make mistakes. she sometimes acted badly. and she felt to be a perfect
wife a perfect mother, and a , perfect first lady. rather, my goal here today is to offer some reflections of my personal journey with mary lincoln, in writing my biography of her extraordinary life. to share my perceptions of how some of mary lincoln's contemporaries, and some modern historians, have unfairly judged her. and to provide some illuminating historical context for her fascinating life. hopefully, at the end of my presentation, you'll understand a little bit of what a nice girl like me is doing in this sordid mary lincoln business. [laughter] and you will maybe understand mary lincoln a little better, too. most important like him i hope that you will see mary lincoln's humanity. when i first began working at the lincoln papers, i was taken aback, frankly, by the veteran -- like the venom that many lincoln scholars spewed at mary lincoln. as a new scholar at the time, was reading every i can get my hands on, trying to get up to
speed. the mary haters were really just impossible to escape. they dominated the lincoln story of the 19th century, the lincoln historiography of the 20th century, and the symposia and historical conferences that i was attending in the 21st century. constantly, they presented on the one hand, the kind and honest and good mr. lincoln, and on the other hand, his hateful, deceitful, hellcat of a wife. this is a delicious dichotomy, i admit it. but it really doesn't do us much help in understanding abraham lincoln, his marriage, or his wife. they certainly don't help us understand mary. at the time, it appeared to me that jean baker, a phenomenal historian and really quite adept are for, she pinned a lively biography and a very balanced portrayal of mary lincoln in 1987. at that time, when i was studying lincoln and trying to
understand all of this, she seemed to me to be the only one who was interpreting married -- interpreting mary with any historical nuance at all. jean baker's mary lincoln was, to my mind, a real person with good qualities and bad qualities. with angels and with demons within her. but, it seemed like nobody was really listening to jean baker in interpreting lincoln or the lincoln marriage. now, i had read all the biographies i could get my hands on on abraham lincoln. and i had read many of the biographies that had been written about mary. and it seems pretty clear to me that baker's for trail of abraham lincoln having chosen mary, she was the mother of his four boys, and she was the first lady who was by his side. yet biographers didn't seem interested in any of the new -- in any of the nuances. i will admit, i had just finished a masters degree under tutelage of a feminist
women's historian. i probably had my own feminist backup. but it seems pretty clear to me that there was a male-dominated cadre that generally disliked mary, or cast her in a somewhat negative light. and a female cadre who mostly likes her, were even lecturer were admired her a great deal. i could not help and recognize -- i could not help but recognize this gender gap and i , spent a lot of years try to understand it. but if jean baker's book had been able to bridge that gap, i found it maybe wasn't possible. was there really an answer to this historical aggravation of mine? and if there was an answer, how might it change the lincoln story? but, i was an editor of "lincoln's papers," and i have mostly preferred my view of the lincoln story from atop the voluminous pile of documentary evidence, not rolling around in the mucky areas of historical
interpretation, at least where abraham and mary lincoln were concerned. yet, in hindsight, i started to notice that i probably was a mary lincoln biographer was probably turning within me for a while. when my phd advisor at the university of illinois encouraged me to accept an opportunity to write a biography of mary, i probably was an easy target for him. also, i pretty much do whatever he tells me. i maybe didn't have much choice. but as i started to think about , it, i realized that i had been thinking about mary for a long time. as i consider the possibility of taking on this project, wringing my hands about it all the while, i hearkened back to some of my old historical aggravations regarding the great mary divide. and i asked myself some very hard questions. would i be just another female biographer of mary lincoln who liked her?
could i write a biography cable -- my graffiti that might be capable of changing people's minds? but i write a biography that might shed new light on the lincoln marriage? was i willing to tackle a bridge that i had previously believed incapable of the sturdy construction? of course, i didn't know the answers to those questions. i'm not sure i know them now. and i certainly couldn't predict the outcome of the project in my hands. and i admit, i was scared to death. but, the parameters of the biography intrigued me so much that i was actually more excited than in fear. the editors were calling for a very short, readable biographical treatment with a chapter of lightly annotated documents at the end. i love the idea of writing a short, engaging narrative that would be accessible to general readers, and i was thrilled with the prospect of writing a sweeping biography of a really
interesting person, in a very short little volume. of course, choosing documents for the end of the volume, i was terribly excited about that. so once i signed the contract, miners were still there. and i worked really hard to think about a fresh way of approaching this project that made sense and a brief biography , but also with the an approach that would allow me to explore the really rich historical context of mary lincoln's life. and i desired to have an approach that might be useful to future biographers of her famous husband, abraham lincoln. i set the need for writing my approach to the book aside and began my research. at the very beginning, i purchased a well loved, very battered volume in a used bookstore of mary lincoln edited letters, which were published in 1972 by justin and linda turner. i sat down and really
comfortable places in my house, drank some wine, and read very slowly, every single word of the more than 600 letters that were in that volume and about 200 or so more that have been discovered since that volume was published in 1972. much of that time, read those letters out loud to my dog. who didn't seem to mind. i took no notes, which is something i have never done before as a scholar. i took absolutely no notes. i just read all those letters aloud. i let mary's like unfold through the letters and i started with an absolute blank slate. i was completely committed to that. no negative, no positive opinions. i concentrated hard on mary's voice, i really try to get -- i really tried to get inside her head. even though couple of my friends warned me about the dangers of getting inside a crazy lady's head. [laughter]
but, i'm kind of a crazy lady, too and i didn't think it was , really all that crazy inside of mary lincoln's head, after all. i spent about three months just reading those letters. all the while, i was thinking about how personal and historical branches worshiping ife. s l about how mary viewed those experiences, and about how mary understood her familial, social, and public relationships. and about how mary was to defining the world around her. the more i read, the more realized not only did the mary butrs not understand mary, i have -- but i had not really understood mary either. where they had dismissed her as crazy and mean-spirited and defined her as a detriment to lincoln's public persona or to his personal happiness, i had assumed a feminist posturing defending her that also failed to adequately capture who she was as a person, what her life was like. reading mary's letters not only
opened up our real-life to me, but it also opened up my eyes to my own historical biases. the letters of mary lincoln's widowhood, a portion of her life that i think is maybe the most understood, ended up being the most poignant for me. in my rediscovery of this woman i thought i had known. this is the point in her chronology, finally, where i began to accept her for all of her complexities, and for all of her faults. when i hit the letters that mary wrote between 1868 in 1871, during her time in europe with her son, thad, i very clearly saw an intelligent, sensitive woman with a whole lot of what we would today call baggage. and she was navigating fairly well through life that was both a blessing and a curse. i saw a woman who had a great deal of strength, but it was very fragile at the same time. i saw a woman with a great capacity to love and to learn
and to give, but who struggled every single day to keep the past and her demons that they. -- demons at bay. i realized then that i wanted to write a biography of a 19th century woman who was doing the best she could. and i wanted to tell human stories about this very real person, from her perspective, with as much as her heart, her intellect, and her soul as i could possibly glean from the words she had written. by the time i sent to writing, it became a personal imperative to me to allow mary lincoln to tell as much of her story as was possible. that was my approach. too long had historians appropriated and misappropriated her life, and her history to their own end. or to tell the story of her husband's life. my approach to this biography was to rely very heavily on mary's own words and reflections, correcting errors and filling in gaps in providing historical context where the
in me deemed it necessary. in the end, i think i met the demands of my editors by writing a readable, accessible, very short biography of mary with a few fresh perspectives on her life. but i also think, i have written an biography that illustrates chemically quite well, the richly human qualities of historical experience through the eyes of a woman who, like all of us, was flawed. mary lincoln was the wife of abraham lincoln. and that was an extraordinarily important, personal, and historical fact of her life. but mary lincoln was also a daughter, a student, a sister, a mother, a friend, and ultimately, widow. she was a 19th century woman, doing the best she could. sometimes, her efforts exceeded even her own expectations. sometimes, they were just good enough. other times, they were devastatingly insufficient.
her story really is a human story. and i hope my biography adequately captures mary lincoln's humanity. mostly, though, in the end, i just hope that i have written a life that mary lincoln herself might recognize. now, what i would like to do is to share 10 fax -- top 10 list -- 10 facts, 10 mary lincoln facts, that i would like all of you to take out of the room today. these 10 facts are, i think, imperative to understanding mary better, to understanding her marriage to abraham lincoln and her historical legacy. in going through the list, i will correct a few popular misconceptions, share a couple of my pet peeves, always fun, and read a few brief selections from mary's correspondence. because how can we allow mary to have some say in all of this if we do not hear something of her own voice?
so fact number one. , there was no such person named mary todd lincoln. until her sister anne was born, she was marianne, and after that, she was just plain mary. when she arrived in illinois, she was miss todd, mary todd, or molly. when she married abraham lincoln on november 4, 1842, she became mary lincoln. she called herself mary lincoln mrs. lincoln, mrs. abraham , lincoln. she signed all of her correspondence mary lincoln, mrs. lincoln, mrs. abraham lincoln, or ml. as was typical of 19 century women, she took the lincoln name, and she never gave it another thought. she was mary lincoln until she died. i suppose that feminist historians started this mary todd lincoln thing in an effort, i guess, to rescue her from
domestic obscurity, or something. but it is historically inaccurate, and it drives me bananas every time i hear it. so please, just call her mary lincoln, or mrs. lincoln. that's what she would have wanted. and you and i will get along so much better if you do. [laughter] >> fact number two, the lincoln marriage was a companionable one. mary todd and abraham lincoln recorded in the parlor of mary's sister's house in springfield, in the context of an emerging new ideal in 19 century marriage -- companionship. mary and abraham were looking to a spouse that was share -- spouse that was share interests with them and have similar perspectives as they did. both mary and abraham loved poetry, they loved reading and books. they love to children and beloved partisan politics. and they had a very large circle of political friends in common. they were both smart, quick
witted, and absolutely obsessed with whig politics and the bow of their party. the 1840 presidential contest, provided a significant romantic backdrop for the couple, and other couples in springville as well. and they were likely in love and talking about marriage by december of 1840. unlike their parents, mary and abraham saw marriage as something beyond an economic union. they aspired to find love and friendship as well. marital expectations were greatly heightened for the generation of americans. and there was much more handwringing as a result. this is a very important context in which they suffered their famous lovers break up in january 1841. but, it was also their shared interest their enthusiasm for , politics that reunited the
the summer of 1842. like most marriages, the lincoln marriage had its ups and downs. but throughout their more than 22 years together, they enjoyed each other's company, it is absolutely clear. they shared a great love of their boys, and they continue to bond over literature, poetry, the theater, and politics. there can be no doubt here that abraham lincoln chose mary lincoln because he loved her and enjoyed her company. he chose her because he believed she was an appropriate companionable mate. i think she was just that. fact number 3 -- lincoln did not travel the circuit as a lawyer to get away from mary. [laughter] stacy: lincoln started writing the circuit as soon as he began his law career in 1937. -- in 1837.
he was traveling the circuit when he married in november of 1842. at that time, it was common for lawyers and judges to travel legal circuits. it offered a perfect way for young attorney especially to learn the law, build a client base, establish a reputation, and make a pretty good living. not only was it a good career move for lincoln the lawyer, it also offered multiple venues in which to practice politics. and he utterly enjoyed it fraternity of the traveling bar. lincoln was not the only lawyer, nor was he the only professional in this era who lived an itinerant professional lifestyle. during this era, doctors, teachers, businessmen others , covered large geographic areas and spent time away from their homes and families. it was not strange that we can continue to travel the circuit after his marriage. mary understood the reality, her own father had traveled a great deal for politics and for business. lincoln had been traveling the circuit for five years when he
got married, and it was providing a good living and working very well for him. and he and his wife continued to allow it to work well for them and their family until he was elected to the presidency in 1860. fact number 4 -- mary's interest in politics was extreme, but it was rooted in the context of 19 century gender roles. mary's kentucky family remembered her as a fiery little whig as a very young girl and , she earned a reputation for not only understanding politics of the day, but for being willing to share her opinions about her hero, senator clay, who apparently she said she would one day marry. and casting appropriate aspersions on democratic president, andrew jackson. growing up in a hotbed of whig politics with a father who encouraged her enthusiasm for politics, fueled mary's interests in this regard. when she arrived in springfield, she was ready to immerse
herself in the 1840 presidential contest she did so with much , gusto. however, she admitted to a friend, this fall i became quite a politician, rather than an unladylike profession. like no other time in american history, women were becoming interested and involved in politics in the 1840's. they attended barbecues and rallies and speeches, and they read and literature. they were constrained to, because they had no vote or political power, and mary was ok with it. while there was a social role for her another women to play, in the end, mary believed it was really a sphere for males. it is no accident, however, that mary only considered political men, and certainly, she encouraged and often times really encouraged the political
ambitions of her husband, who was, she saw very early on, a rising star in illinois. but mostly, mary lincoln viewed her role as the wife of a politician, albeit, a very smart and opinionated one, and she directed her ambitions towards her husband, and within the context of her own marriage. she was never, for example, interested in engaging in the women's rights movement of the late 1840's. fact number 5 -- mary lincoln's education was extraordinary. extraordinary! at a time when most women never attended school, and all, and -- attended school, at all, and actually lucretia clay, henry , clay's wife, was allegedly illiterate, women who did go to school maybe went 2, 3, or maybe four, or five years. that was it. mary lincoln spent 10 years in a forward thinking academies in lexington, kentucky. a particularly vibrant and
interesting educational environment. she studied math and history and science and religion, and of course, french. at her first school, she participated in public recitations, which most schools of the day deemed as an activity solely for boys. after graduating, mary then went off to a finishing school, where she mastered the french language and was exposed to a european perspective that opened up her imagination to new ideas, brave new ideas in some respects, and to a world far beyond her kentucky home. she had grown up in a household that encourage the education of women, her father's mother and sisters were educated, and so was mary's own mother and stepmother. mary herself received an education at schools that valued a woman's boys. these educational experiences were very important as part of who mary was, and how she lived her life great they emboldened her confidence in her spirit,
and they made her really very unique. when ms. mary todd arrived in springfield in 1839, she was the most educated and likely the most sophisticated, and probably the most intelligent lady in the entire town. after those qualities, mary's deep understanding and passionate for whig politics , her grace her bright blue , eyes, all of those pretty dresses, and it is a really any wonder that the gangly and awkward abraham lincoln was smitten? fact number 6 -- mary lincoln suffered, and her suffering was very real. by the time she was in her mid to late 20's, mary was suffering with regular headaches or migraines probably migraines. , and they plagued her throughout her entire life. she was also, by nature, and
-- and emotional woman. personally, i don't give a lot of credence to this history, but i do think it's very likely that if mary lived today, she would've probably been treated with medications for a mental health issue of some sort, and she likely would have suffered far less than it appears she did. added to the headaches and the periodic mental health difficulties, the birth of her fourth son, thad, lester with an -- left her with an injury that also remained a problem throughout her life. but despite these physical and mental difficulties, she mostly functioned pretty well. she rarely let for physical health keep her from attending to the children, running a household, which were mostly did herself in springfield, or being involved with charitable works like her sewing circles in springfield. in her later years, mary lincoln suffered from diabetes. she had serious back problems, and she was, in the end, readily -- in the end, gradually losing
her eyesight. as she aged in her body began to feel hurt, keeping the sorrow from swallowing her up was a very difficult struggle for her. mary buried one child in springfield, lost the second one in the white house, and watch hl war claim family members, close friends and her own husband. some historians criticize married for her protracted reef following the death of her husband, arguing that everyone suffered during the war. the civil war was a horrendous tragedy. a human tragedy. yes, a lot of women, hundreds of thousands of women lost sons and husbands. yet, most of them did not necessarily witnessed the death of her husband as mary did come us again next to lincoln right here on that fateful night. finally, starting to adjust to life as a widow, mary had to
suffer in 1871 a death of a third son, ted who was just young man. into a his companionship and her early widowhood had been critical. she loved and adored this child. that was theinion hardest sorrow of all heard wrote out instructions for your, shown it to be married with mr. lincoln on the inside and tad on the other. seven, she was a modern kind of hit mom. many of you might be aware, ensure you were aware, mr. lincoln's indulgent parenting style, as many lincoln biographies discuss this fact with wonderful stories to go along with it. but mary was also indulgent, showering the boys with affection and attention,
spoiling them rotten with material objects and pets, even throwing birthday parties for them. at one party in springfield, for willy, there were 60 kids in attendance. mary made out handwritten invitations that you sent out to all the children, they provided food and games, and she delighted -- she and lincoln both delighted in hosting the very noisy affair that spilled out into the yard and into the street. it was not common to have
birthday parties for little kids in that era, like it is today. this over-the-top party also occurred in december 1860, at a time when the lincoln family had way more important things to do. yet, they took time to indulge their child. of course, this treatment of the kids continued in washington. the boys were allowed to ron and play in the private and public areas of the white house. their wild child behavior annoyed lincoln's secretaries and annoyed many visitors, but it delighted to lincoln's. mary hosted and fed their friends, again, they were allowed to have pet, and the lincolns cater to their every whim. mary really was ahead of the childhood as a lifestage movement for sure. and while we might now understand that spoiling children is probably not the best parenting strategy, and probably had a role to play intense delay developments, but i can't help but see mary lincoln's approach to her children as an illustration of a great deal of love and devotion that many scholars have simply refused to recognize in her. when story of mary lincoln's motherhood is particularly revealing. in may, 18 60, mark delahaye was one of a number of men from the republican convention in chicago who arrived in springfield to
convey the nomination to lincoln. apparently, he arrived at the lincoln home with two campaign flags and promised one of the flags to one of the lincoln boys. probably thad. but when he left to return home, he carried both of the flags away. on may 25, mary wrote to delahaye this letter, it's one of my favorite mary letters. she wrote one of my boys appears to claim prior possession of the smallest flag. is inconsolable for its absence. as i believe it is too small to do you any service, and he is so urgent to have it, i will ask you to send it to us at the first opportunity you may have. especially, as he claims it, and i feel it is as necessary to keep one's word with the child as with a grown person. hoping you reached home safely, i remain yours respectfully, mary lincoln.
no other purpose for this letter than to get that flag back for thad. fax number eight -- fact number eight, mrs. lincoln overspent on clothing and she overspent on white house remodeling when she was first lady. but, there's so much more to the story of her time in washington. mary lincoln made a home for boys, and her husband, in that dusty old mansion. and she did her best to let those kids be kids in the midst of chaos, danger, and the persistent candidate for. she worked hard to carveout private time with the boys, and with her husband. and when it was possible, stealing family time at the white house, at the theater, or out in soldiers homes, where the lincoln family periodically escaped the chaos of the city. not only was this a comfortable yourself, it also was a welcome comfort and necessary distraction for husband as well. it was mary, not her husband, who understood that in maintaining an appropriate and functioning white house in the midst of war, hosting state dinners and holding public
receptions, for example, in a stately unsophisticated environments sent a message of a functioning government to the nation, and to the world. on a regular basis, for example, the lincolns opened the white house to the public, and mary stood in receiving lines for hours, going through several pairs of white, clean gloves, no doubt, greeting the public with grace, respect, and kindness. when mary lincoln was in washington, she made frequent visits to the sick and injured soldiers, writing letters for them, bring them gifts of fresh fruit, and even liquor. and she raise money for hospitals caring for them. she also raised money for freed slaves, and helps her black dress maker, who was a close female friend, make contact in new york, and philadelphia to raise money as well. i do get interesting that mary counted among her best friends in washington the abolitionist
senator charles sumner, and there can be no doubt that mary lincoln cared deeply for the northern war effort. she also believed that the abolition of slavery was a positive result of the war, and would be the single most important legacy for her husband and her children. as well, mary lincoln suffered no confederates, of course, she didn't suffer most people, certainly didn't suffer fools, but even those who happened to be members of her own kentucky family. number nine. mary lincoln is the reason that abraham lincoln is buried in oak ridge cemetery in springfield. mary lincoln wanted her husband buried in a quiet, green spot, a peaceful, pastoral setting. she chose the newly established oak ridge cemetery in springfield, illinois. there were hard pressures to bear the president in washington. and then, to mary's horror, a monument association springfield consisting of a contingent of old lincoln friends developed plans to build a two and monument in downtown spring
field. mary was furious, and her son robert was also furious. mary was intent on exercising her right as lakin's widow. in june of 1865, she wrote illinois governor richard oglesby, this is what she wrote to the government illinois. i feel that it is due to candor and fairness that i should notify your monument association that unless i receive within 10 days an official assurance that the monument will be erected over the tomb in oak ridge cemetery, in accordance with my often expressed wishes, i will use my consent to the request of a national monument association in washington, d.c., and have the sacred remains deposited in the vault prepared for president washington, under the dome of the national capital as early a period as is practical. not exactly the helpless, grieving widow. she put her poker face on and dared the association to call her bluff. in order to convince her to change her mind, a delegation
from springfield travel to chicago, where mary had settled with her son. mary refused to see them, even though they were out the door. she refused to change her mind, she was resolute. in the end, she won the battle. and think goodness. because oak ridge cemetery really is a perfect and pastoral setting for all of us to commune with lincoln's spirit. number 10. very lincoln lived for seven years as an ex-pat in europe. in october 1868, marion thad went to europe to escape public pressures and close public scrutiny. they experience following the death of a brand lincoln. it was a burden to be the family of a martyred president. as well, where is usually the 19th century press was pretty respectful of women, many papers really took off the gloves where mary was concerned. some historians have argued that with mary's actions as first lady, particularly her overspending at the white house, she had invited the vicious assault on her character and her femininity. that she had brought it on herself.
but i don't agree with them, and in fact, i think the press was pretty unfair, albeit mostly a partisan press. i will offer one example. in your publication published a story and cartoon that absolutely lampooned mary's efforts to sell her dresses at a new york store to raise money for retirement to illinois. the paper attacked mary, accusing her of being a common peddler and lacking grace and self-respect. they viewed the sordid affair as an affront to victorian respect ability. however, they keep to the venom on mary alone, and admitted the names of those prominent ladies and gentlemen of new york city her turned out to view the sale. the court into the paper, they would have been disrespectful to those prominent ladies and those prominent gentlemen to drag their good names into the fray.
but whether or not you believe mary lincoln deserved all she got, it really doesn't matter. what matters here is that mary found it unbearable to live under all that public scrutiny. and she decided to take action and make it go away as best as she could. lucky for her, she had the luxury of traveling abroad. something she had always come her entire life, wanted to do. marion thad set off to europe to escape america, to see the world, to visit the best medical spas and very forward thinking medical spas for mary's health, and to enroll thad in a fine european school. they settled in germany, they made friends, they kept in touch with family members and friends in america. and they did an incredible amount of sightseeing that mary enjoyed almost more than anything she had ever done before. some of these letters are wonderful, she talks about her visit in foreign places. mary was and continues to be devastated that she did not have lincoln by her side to enjoy these trips with her.
she frequently struggled to keep sorrows in check. but she did delight in tennant company, and i think these were some of her happiest years. when she went back to europe for a second time living abroad, she went for many of the same reason she had gone in 1868. after her insanity hearing, her incarceration in a mental institution in batavia, illinois, and are successful efforts to regain control of her own finances, mary lincoln made plans for a permanent exile in france. her sister, elizabeth, had offered a permanent home in springfield, and encouraged her to settle closer, at least closer to home. yet mary believed it that she could not live a peaceful life branded as a lunatic in the press, in a country where everyone knew who she was, and so many people disapproved of her. as she told her sister, i love you, but i cannot stay. she settled in france in october, 18 76, and she lived there until october 1880.
when she became too debilitated by health problems to stay any longer. from the french pyrenees in france, where mary lived most of her time during the second residence abroad, she wrote numerous -- hundreds -- of letters to family and friends. she reported on her travels, commented on political matters in europe and the united states, and still showing emotional details of her grief that continue to play her. she also penned, among those letters, about 100 letters to jakob dunn, a springfield merchant an old friend of her husband's, with whom she had left her personal finances in the states. on december 12, 1876, she wrote a letter to him that i think is pretty typical of these business type letters, and i think it also demonstrates mary's remarkably clear mind at a time when her son robert and many others believe that she was severely mentally unstable. i like this letter because it illustrates mary's mental health and intellect, and it reveals her care and concern for family members back home and demonstrates that even in her
twilight years, in a location far removed from home, she retained her passion and interest in american politics. in that letter, she wrote my dear sir, the tension paper become an environment with instructions has been received. i returned the paper to you signed by the proper authorities, mr. musgrave graze the consul, connected with the american consulate, lebaron to banneker is one of the high authorities here and one of the government officers. i observe by my daily paper of paris, which receives constant news of america, that gold on the eighth of december was 107 and a quarter. quite a decline, making it however, so much better if it continues for the number of my friends.
living abroad has really changed since the war between france and germany, and this is a very expensive place. mary continues doubtless the agitations caused by the difficulty of deciding who is to be our next president overshadows everything in our beloved country. we can only pray that no civil war worker -- war will occur to blight our lustrous plans. she's commenting on the american president election of 1876 that resulted in the copper are miserly 277 and the withdrawal of federal troops -- the compromise of 1877 and the withdrawal of federal troops. in conclusion, mary roach, my sister, mrs. edwards will be on the 20th of november regarding the critical condition of mr. deploys, therefore i was not a prepared to receive the sad and painful intelligence of his death. with many kind remembrances to your family, believe me, respectfully, this is abraham lincoln. more and more towards land end for life, mary signed your letters mrs. abraham lincoln.
rarely using her own first name. her later letters offer much evidence that her mind was frequently taken back to her happy life with her husband in springfield. before the war, and before the time when grief and sorrow overshadowed her life. i think it is a sad and sweet evidence that she was retreating into the role in life that she had most enjoyed, her role as the wife of abraham link in. as her physical and emotional health, her body and ultimately, her eyesight failing her, she welcomes death, because she believed in death she would be reunited with the man she loves, the children she had lost, and the domestic life she had lived with her beloved family. to conclude, i will just say that i find mary lincoln's life compelling. she was a complicated woman who lived in interesting life in a fascinating period of american history.
more importantly, i think the reason that mary lincoln is so compelling is because she was a complex individual. she was smart, intellectually curious, and social. yet she was insecure, petty, and reclusive. she loved with all of her heart and her soul, and she hated with all of her heart and her soul. evaluating her upbringing, education, and her life experiences, i think makes her even more compelling. because we can understand something of how she became the woman she was. we can better see why a man like abraham lincoln chose her. she was a woman with a great big personality at a time when society expected women of her social status to sit quietly in the wings to be charming and pretty and graceful, but not too charming or two pretty or to graceful. and i wholeheartedly believe
that she did ok navigating that. i like her. i also think that if you are willing to see mary lincoln's humanity, and recognize the nuances of her person, in the context of her life, you might even learn to like her too. [laughter] [applause] ms. mcdermott: we'll have time for one question. make it a good one. >> i just wanted to say, i like your presentation, i heartily concur with your conclusion. i think it's wonderful what you have done. i wanted to say that my wife's great-grandmother was a cousin of mary todd lincoln, and i have
lived -- i've been married for some 60 years, living with a todd descendent. ms. mcdermott: r todd still the way our -- the way they are then? >> my mother-in-law was a good example. i knew she was senile when she was 95 years old and she started treating the right. i think what you are saying about mary todd lincoln and the different parts of her personality all of this is very much on target. ms. mcdermott: thank you. no question, i got off easy. [applause] >> will not take a 20 minute break. this weekend, the c-span city tour will take you to long
beach, california to explore the history edit literary culture of the city, located south of los angeles. on book tv, learn about women's contributions to the world war ii effort. when the united states army was looking for a place to build aircraft, produce they picked long beach. beach becauseng we had a wonderful airport founded in 1923. it was only first airports to have a takeoff and landing in different directions, which the army loved. they could use military planes there. is that thepened government went into full production mode. they were turning out planes 24/7. then, you knew that a lot of people to work here. the mental enough to work. the women went out of the house and into the workforce, douglas
is employing 45,000 people a day in the long beach area. and 48% of those people were women. american history tv, we visit long beach to discover the important of the nation's second busiest port. >> it was established as a formal harbor in 1911. we are a little over 104 years old, through that time, the port actually started off at a lumber terminal, and used to come up from the northwest. it used to bring in lumber for the growing city of lumber in the region. in 1940, we had the u.s. navy. and, the long beach naval shipyard was the complex. they were here until the early 1990's. unfortunately, through the base , the navalcess
conflicts shut down. andad the federal facility come at that time, we turn it into one of the modern container terminals. more we are today can hundred and four years later is that we're cigna on the most modern sustainable marine container terminal in the world. once the c-span city tour today at noon eastern on c-span's to book tv. the c-span city's tour, working with our favorite affiliates and visiting cities across the country's. >> next, we look at the history of the chicago movement. mask or call spoke about activists in texas that developed from the 1930's through the 60's which brought mexican-americans, african-americans, labor leaders and others together. his remarks are 20 minutes. our nex