The Insanity File

After the assassination, Mary plummeted into a grief so deep that she took no part in the funeral ceremonies and did not leave the White House until over a month after her husband's death. As time passed, she became more and more difficult for Robert. He was continually embarrassed by her many letters begging money from President Lincoln's friends and completely mortified by her attempt to sell her old clothes in 1867. Robert found it "very hard to deal with one who is sane on all subjects but one," money. His mother bought gaudy jewelry, which she never wore because she always dressed in black mourning, took expensive jewelry on approval and neither paid for it or returned it, carried large amounts of securities on her person for fear that people would steal it from her, and had a fear of fire that might have led her to leap from a building. By 1875 Robert feared "probable tragedy" in his mother's bizarre behavior and instigated an insanity hearing, at which he gave emotional testimony, and during which he broke down in tears. The court judged her insane and committed her to a private sanitarium called Belleview in Batavia, Illinois. The night after the trial she tried to commit suicide. Robert gained control of her finances and returned some of the jewelry for which she had not paid.

After less than four months at Belleview, Mary was released to the custody of her sister and brother-in-law, Elizabeth and Ninian Edwards. On June 15, 1876, a second trial was held and she was judged sane.

Source:The Lincoln Encyclopedia by Mark E. Neely, Jr., 1982.

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