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First Lady Lincoln distressed with press

By Staff | Nov 9, 2016

CAROL SHETLER/The Luminary Living historian Meg Gefkin takes on the persona of Mary Todd Lincoln when sharing the life and times as first lady, including being at odds with the press.

TIVOLI – Former first lady, Mary Todd Lincoln, made a stop at Tivoli in an effort to set the record straight. Addressing a women’s group was perhaps the perfect platform in which to air her negative experiences with the news media.

Mrs. Lincoln said, “Our lives were continually scrutinized by news reporters. Upon our arrival in Washington and following my husband’s inauguration, I had the White House fumigated. It was dirty and not taken care of. I don’t understand why the press went wild with my words.”

“And also, for the nation’s home, I purchased new dishes believing them necessary to entertain heads of state. The press labeled them ‘crockery’ and speculated over my motives referring to me as a woman from the Illinois frontier,” said Mrs. Lincoln.

The first lady repeated the advice of her husband the president, “Now mother, let it go.” Mrs. Lincoln was so incensed she could not let it go. Time would reveal that during the ensuing five years, the press and the first lady would be at odds.

In office during the Civil War, Mrs. Lincoln quipped, “Can you believe the audacity of reporters to write that I’m cold toward the soldiers. I called their reporting ‘quackery’ for I had indeed been to the hospitals visiting the wounded, regardless of the color of their uniforms.”

The staunch woman went on to say, “Abraham suggested I take the press along on my visits. I quoted from the Bible that ‘One should not let the right hand know what the left hand is doing.’ And too, the presence of the press would add to the soldier’s sufferings. After all, I had a proper upbringing.”

Fate saw that the Civil War would plague the entire time the Lincolns were in the White House.

Also not overlooked by the press was a shopping trip Mrs. Lincoln made to New York City where she purchased 300 pairs of gloves.

The preceding is but a small portion of the life and times of Mary Todd Lincoln. Among other distressing events were the deaths of children, her husband’s assassination, and time spent in mental institutions.

These and more are chronicled by Meg Gefkin, who portrays many famed women from the past. The living historian’s list of personalities include Amelia Earhart, Queen Victoria, Eleanor Roosevelt and others.

Gefkin resides in Central, Columbia County and is sought as a presenter by organizations both near and far. Her latest presentation was a program for the Christian Women held at the Tivoli Methodist Church. Watch for future presentations.