First Lady: Mary Todd Lincoln
Mary Todd Lincoln was born in Lexington, Kentucky. Her family was relatively wealthy and she was well educated. Unfortunately, she was also mentally unstable and her condition caused a great deal of stress for Abraham Lincoln.
SCANDALS & GOSSIP
Many detractors claimed that Mary was a Southern sympathizer — four of her siblings did fight for the South during the Civil War. There was even some talk of her being a spy. Of course, this did not help her emotional stability.
Mary Todd Lincoln also suffered from migraines that impacted her ability to function effectively as first lady. Her time as first lady was further hampered by her jealousy of those around her husband. These actions did not endear her to others and made her an unpopular figure in the White House.
The Lincolns had three sons, but only one lived past the age of eighteen. During Lincoln's time as president, his second son, William “Willie” Wallace Lincoln, died of a fever. He was the only president's child to die in the White House. His death caused Mary to sink further into her mental illness. In 1871, their youngest son, Thomas “Tad” Lincoln, died at the age of eighteen.
Lincoln was very permissive with Tad, allowing him to interrupt important meetings as necessary. In 1863, a turkey had been sent to the White House for Christmas dinner. Tad adopted the bird and nicknamed it Jack. One day as Christmas neared, Tad burst into one of his father's cabinet meetings in tears. After hearing the boy's case for the bird, Lincoln ordered a reprieve to save the turkey's life.
From that point on, Mary Todd began having hallucinations. She was committed to a mental institution in 1875 where she stayed for three months before moving in with her sister. After her death in 1882, an autopsy revealed that she had “cerebral disease.”