The Insanity File: The Case of Mary Todd Lincoln

The Insanity File The Case of Mary Todd Lincoln In Robert Todd Lincoln caused his mother Mary Todd Lincoln to be committed to an insane asylum Based on newly discovered manuscript materials this book seeks to explain how and why In these do

  • Title: The Insanity File: The Case of Mary Todd Lincoln
  • Author: Mark E. Neely Jr. R. Gerald McMurtry
  • ISBN: 9780809318957
  • Page: 157
  • Format: Paperback
  • In 1875 Robert Todd Lincoln caused his mother, Mary Todd Lincoln, to be committed to an insane asylum Based on newly discovered manuscript materials, this book seeks to explain how and why.In these documents marked by Robert Todd Lincoln as the MTL Insanity File exists the only definitive record of the tragic story of Mary Todd Lincoln s insanity trial The book that reIn 1875 Robert Todd Lincoln caused his mother, Mary Todd Lincoln, to be committed to an insane asylum Based on newly discovered manuscript materials, this book seeks to explain how and why.In these documents marked by Robert Todd Lincoln as the MTL Insanity File exists the only definitive record of the tragic story of Mary Todd Lincoln s insanity trial The book that results from these letters and documents addresses several areas of controversy in the life of the widow of Abraham Lincoln the extent of her illness, the fairness of her trial, and the motives of those who had her committed for treatment Related issues include the status of women under the law as well as the legal and medical treatment of insanity.Speculating on the reasons for her mental condition, the authors note that Mrs Lincoln suffered an extraordinary amount of tragedy in a relatively few years Three of her four sons died very young, and Abraham Lincoln was assassinated After the death of her son Willie she maintained a darkly rigorous mourning for nearly three years, prompting the president to warn her that excessive woe might force him to send her to that large white house on the hill yonder, the government hospital for the insane.Mrs Lincoln also suffered anxiety about money, charting an exceptionally erratic financial course She had spent lavishly during her husband s presidency and at his death found herself deeply in debt She had purchased trunkfuls of drapes to hang over phantom windows 84 pairs of kid gloves in less than a month, and 3,200 worth of jewelry in the three months preceding Lincoln s assassination She followed the same erratic course for the rest of her life, creating in herself a tremendous anxiety She occasionally feared that people were trying to kill her, and in 1873 she told her doctor that an Indian spirit was removing wires from her eyes and bones from her cheeks.Her son assembled an army of lawyers and medical experts who would swear in court that Mrs Lincoln was insane The jury found her insane and in need of treatment in an asylum Whether the verdict was correct or not, the trial made Mary Lincoln desperate Within hours of the verdict she would attempt suicide In a few months she would contemplate murder Since then every aspect of the trial has been criticized from the defense attorney to the laws in force at the time Neely and McMurtry deal with the trial, the commitment of Mary Todd Lincoln, her release, and her second trial An appendix features letters and fragments by Mrs Lincoln from the Insanity File The book is illustrated by 25 photographs.

    One thought on “The Insanity File: The Case of Mary Todd Lincoln”

    1. Mary Todd Lincoln is known for two things: being the wife of Abraham Lincoln and for her speculated insanity later in life. Sadly, Mary’s incarceration in an insane asylum was heightened by her only surviving son, Robert; forever marring their relationship. Uncovering private documents from Robert’s own files; Mark E. Neely, Jr. and R. Gerald McMurtry illuminate this dark period of Lincoln history in, “The Insanity File: The Case of Mary Todd Lincoln”. Encompassing research from Robert [...]

    2. Fantastic. Well-researched. Clearly fills in the gaps which other researchers have left in regards to medical jurisprudence and Robert Todd Lincoln's reasons for committing his mother.

    3. I am not sure what I think about this book. I knew there was controversy about Robert Lincoln's treatment of his mother, but I was not sure of the specifics. And after reading this I am still not sure of the specifics.Neely approaches this book from a legal perspective. He appears to be making the case that Robert acted entirely humanely when having his mother declared insane and committed to a place for such persons. As a "Robert apologist" Neely tries to make us understand that Robert had no c [...]

    4. I learned of this book on a recent tour of Hildene, the one - time home of Mary Todd and Abe Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln. When Hildene became a museum in the 1970's, papers were found in Robert Todd's safe that proved his attempts to have his mother committed were, rather than cruel, acts of a deeply caring and desperate son. An interesting story, but told in a dry, academic manner. Best for the history buff. NOt exactly easy reading.

    5. I picked this up while visiting Hildene, Robert Todd Lincoln's estate in Manchester, Vermont. Lincoln, the eldest and only surviving son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, became quite prosperous in business as President of the Pullman rail car company. When his estate was turned over to a foundation in the 1970's a file of papers labeled MTL Insanity Papers was discovered in a safe in his study. Lincoln had preserved letters and legal documents about his mother being declared insane in 1875 and [...]

    6. PowerfulI enjoyed this new look into Mary Todd Lincoln’s life. After visiting Hildene and learning of the history of Robert and his mother I had to read more. This book was well written and engaging enough to keep you turning the pages. The conclusion was a little too lengthy but it did add some interesting facts.

    7. Very scholarly work about a fascinating and complex woman in history. Mary Todd Lincoln's insanity trial is one of continued mystery and intrigue,and this book sheds new light on it from a legal, cultural, and personal perspective. Robert Todd Lincoln's grandson allowed historians to go into his grandfather's summer home in Vermont, and they found a whole file of documents pertaining to MTL and the trial. Much of the court record was destroyed at some point, so this is a fantastic find.I read th [...]

    8. Very interesting read. In the past I thought Mary Todd Lincoln had been unfairly committed to a mental health facilty in Batavia. This book using original documents show this not to be the case. Mary Todd Lincoln was clearly mentally ill -- most likely she was biopolar. She received a full trial with legal representation before being committed. I was plesantly suprised to learn that Illinois had very progresive laws with respect to protecting the rights of the mentally ill. Then as know it remai [...]

    9. This book reads like a PhD dissertation. It is well sited and has a thorough discussion of the norms of the times well as the newly discovered "file" components. However, it was a little dry. I guess I was looking for more of the personal stories of Mary Todd and Robert in this journey. There was a bit of intrigue surrounding Mary's cunning in getting control of her finances back after the insanity verdict. To give credit, it is well thought out and written and does not stray into the author's p [...]

    10. I discovered this book at Robert Todd Lincoln's summer house, Hildene, where he had apparently stored the complete file of his mother's insanity trial in a safe until his death. As the preface points out, it's surprising that there even was a trail for Mary Todd Lincoln. But the documentation of it is one of the strangest historical records that I've ever encountered. It's short, vivid, and cries out for a modern interpretation. "Mary went crazy" is just a thin slice of the story.

    11. A detailed (and pretty dry) account of the file Robert Todd Lincoln compiled, concerning the commitment of his mother to, and eventual release from, insane asylum. The file includes correspondence among family members and court documents. RTL's grandson passed it along to the authors shortly before his death in the 1980s.

    12. If you want a very detailed history of the legal proceedings of putting Mary Todd Lincoln in an asylum and all the political maneuvering she was involved in, this book is for you. There are insights to be gained into the Lincoln family and historical perspectives regarding "insanity". The story itself is fascinating. Too much detail for my taste.

    13. Interesting presentation from a painful period in MTL's life. The letters reprinted here offer some insights into her understandably precarious state of mind during a most difficult period. Of course her son Robert burned many of the letters, but at least these survived the fire.

    14. This book is written from sources that have fairly recently come to light. The author debunks the common misconception that Mary Todd Lincoln's insanity trial was a travesty of justice, proving instead that it was among the most forward thinking policies of its kind.

    15. Some factual interest, but I would have liked more speculation about the nature of Mary Todd Lincoln's illness. I did find it interesting that Illinois had more protection for the insane than many other states but this book is rather dry and remote from the events it describes.

    16. Perhaps 3.5 would be better. The book does a great job explaining why Robert Lincoln resorted to an insanity file which resulted in Mary Todd Lincoln's short stay in Batavia. I was much more sympathetic to him after reading the book.

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