I’ve always enjoyed the story of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln: two star crossed lovers who had to fight against society’s pressures (her family) and fight their own demons (mostly his) to eventually get together.
Abraham and Mary met through her cousin who was a law mentor to Abraham. They were from two different backgrounds and they were an unusual fit. He was originally from the backwoods of Kentucky and we are all familiar on his story of being born in a log cabin. His mother died when he was a young boy and he was raised by his father and beloved step-mother. His father could barely read and write and it was his stepmother who encouraged his love of reading. They were very poor living on the frontier and when Abraham was of age, he left home and sought out a new life in Springfield, Illinois. It was in Springfield that he met Mary’s cousin and his new mentor who encouraged him to study law.
Mary Todd was born into affluence in Lexington, Kentucky. Her father, Robert Todd, was a wealthy banker and they lived in a large house with servants. She always had the nicest clothes, shoes and attended the finest schools.
They met at a social and Mary described his awkwardness when he said he wanted to dance “with her in the worst way” and then described how he did indeed dance in the worst way. She was being courted by Stephen Douglas (who would eventually famously debate Lincoln) at the time and soon began to seriously be courted by Abraham Lincoln.
They had much in common with their love of books and poetry and also their shared grief of losing a mother at young age (Mary’s mother died when Mary was a young child). They didn’t have much else in common though – especially with their family backgrounds. They became engaged but the engagement was broken by Abraham due to his either inability to commit to marriage and also his fear of not being able to provide a comfortable life for his beloved and his feelings of inadequacy.
After a long separation, they were married on November 4, 1842. They were married in her sister’s Springfield Home and it was a small gathering on a cold, rainy evening. He slipped a simple wedding band on her finger that was engraved with the words “love is eternal.”
Love is eternal
(the portraits above were done in the very early years of their marriage)