The Washington Post: Mary Lincoln wasn’t ‘crazy.’ She was a bereaved mother, new exhibit says.


Callie Hawkins had been working at President Lincoln’s Cottage museum for 10 years when she became pregnant. She and her husband were thrilled, and she joked with her co-workers about the baby’s “perfect” due date — Feb. 12 — Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

When the day arrived, Hawkins went into labor right on schedule. But when she and her husband got to the hospital, the medical team couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat. Their son Coley James Hobbie was stillborn the next day.

Three years later, Hawkins sits on a picnic bench near the cottage where Lincoln and his wife spent more than a quarter of his presidency, pressing with her thumb a pendant around her neck that says “Mama.”

“After my son died, I got really afraid that people would maybe judge me or think about me in the way that history has remembered Mary Lincoln,” she said. Which is to say, she was afraid they would think she was “crazy.” In her lifetime, the former first lady lost her husband to an assassin’s bullet and three of her four children to disease. Her lengthy, public mourning defied conventions of the day and led to criticism and questions about her sanity.

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