American presidents have shaped the course of global affairs for generations. But as the saying goes, behind every great man there's a great woman. While the first ladies often remain overshadowed by their husbands, some have carved unique niches in their time and left their own lasting legacy. Dolley Madison helped establish the role of the first lady in the early 1800s. Eleanor Roosevelt gave voice to policy issues in a way that made her a forerunner of first ladies like Hillary Clinton. And Jackie Kennedy created glamorous trends that made her more popular than her husband. In Charles River Editors' First Ladies series, listeners can get caught up on the lives and legacies of America's most famous First Ladies in the time it takes to finish a commute. And they can do so while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
It's possible that the world would have remembered Mary Todd Lincoln (1818-1882) if only because she was the wife of one of America's greatest presidents, and was present for his shocking assassination. But Mary was one of the most unique women to ever be first lady, and she was in the White House during the country's most trying time. Yet history hasn't exactly been kind.
Mary was dealt a tough hand that might have made it impossible for her to ever be popular. The Civil War erupted a month after President Lincoln took office, and Mary was a native southerner who had relatives fighting for the confederacy. To make matters worse, Mary seemed out of touch with the times. She organized lavish balls at a time when the country was literally coming apart at the seams.