Mary Todd Lincoln is infamous for her impetuousness, ambition, and stubbornness. “Part of the explanation for her contradictory nature,” writes Betty Boyd Caroli, “no doubt lies in the particular circumstances of her childhood.” Her mother died during giving birth to her seventh child, and her father’s second wife went on to have eight children, bringing the brood to fifteen. “To distinguish herself from the rest, Mary competed in every possible way, becoming an ingenious prankster, an excellent student, a superb horsewoman, and a respectable seamstress….But behind the beauty and ingenuity, her contemporaries observed a very moody young lady, ‘much like an April day, sunning all over with laughter one moment, the next crying as though her heart would break.’”  
Facts from First Ladies: From Martha Washington to Michelle Obama by Betty Boyd Caroli. C-SPAN is exploring the influence of First Ladies in its new series
Image: Mary Todd Lincoln photographed between 1861 and 1865. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.  

Mary Todd Lincoln is infamous for her impetuousness, ambition, and stubbornness. “Part of the explanation for her contradictory nature,” writes Betty Boyd Caroli, “no doubt lies in the particular circumstances of her childhood.” Her mother died during giving birth to her seventh child, and her father’s second wife went on to have eight children, bringing the brood to fifteen. “To distinguish herself from the rest, Mary competed in every possible way, becoming an ingenious prankster, an excellent student, a superb horsewoman, and a respectable seamstress….But behind the beauty and ingenuity, her contemporaries observed a very moody young lady, ‘much like an April day, sunning all over with laughter one moment, the next crying as though her heart would break.’”  

Facts from First Ladies: From Martha Washington to Michelle Obama by Betty Boyd Caroli. C-SPAN is exploring the influence of First Ladies in its new series

Image: Mary Todd Lincoln photographed between 1861 and 1865. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.