The Final Struggles: September 1864 to April 1865

To Make Men Free

How accurate is the portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln in Lincoln?

Sally Field, an actress with many credits over a long career, won high praise for her portrayal of the difficult first lady. About the only criticism that can be offered is that she, and the movie scriptwriters, did not go far enough.

Lincoln’s marriage was difficult all the way, but after the tragic death of his son Willie in 1862, Mary Todd Lincoln began to fall apart. Her grief was real, not feigned, but she used it to tyrannize her husband and many other people. Perhaps the most accurate, and painful, moment in Lincoln is when the president shouts at his wife: “Your grief, your grief, always your grief!” In one of the final scenes of the film, Lincoln and his wife talk of going away, of traveling to see Jerusalem when the war, and his presidency, are over. This vision, or hope, was a real one. Lincoln also spoke of moving to California when he left the White House.


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