Mary Lincoln's insanity case will be retried in Chicago and
Springfield using modern attorneys
To start the
yearlong series of events, Mrs. Lincoln will be served with a
summons Monday in Chicago to defend herself in court against
insanity allegations brought by her son
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[March 26, 2012]
CHICAGO -- Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of
Abraham Lincoln and the first lady whose life was filled with
tribulation, bizarre behavior and excessive spending, will be
retried this year on allegations of insanity raised by her oldest
son, Robert Todd Lincoln. A series of events, including the
retrials, will be announced today (Monday) at 5:30 p.m. at 54 W.
Hubbard Street in Chicago, site of Mrs. Lincoln's original insanity
trial, where actress Pam Brown, portraying Mary Todd Lincoln, will
be served with a summons to appear in court later this year -- in
Chicago on Sept. 24 and in Springfield on Oct. 1. A reading of Mrs.
Lincoln's personal letters and a legal presentation on the evolution
of insanity laws in Illinois will also be featured at the
The retrials are part of a yearlong series of events marking Mrs.
Lincoln's life and emphasizing the evolution of mental health laws
in Illinois. The events are produced and sponsored by the Illinois
Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission and the Abraham
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. Funds raised
beyond the cost of the events will be used for the preservation of
historic documents owned by both organizations.
The retrials of Mary Lincoln will use modern-day lawyers and
judges in a courtroom setting to give Mary Lincoln a hearing
regarding her alleged insanity using current laws. Actors portraying
Robert Lincoln and Mary Lincoln, in period costume, will testify, as
well as an expert witness -- a mental health professional -- for
each side. The audience will serve as the jury to engage them in the
process, even though juries do not currently decide mental
Mrs. Lincoln was tried in 1875 at the instigation of her son
Robert on allegations of insanity, which ultimately led to her being
declared a "lunatic" and placed in the Bellevue Sanitarium in
Batavia. Mary Lincoln obtained an early release from Bellevue with
the assistance of her friend Myra Bradwell. One year after the
original insanity trial, another jury found her sane, restoring her
legal control over her assets.
Even today, historians disagree whether the evidence against the
first lady was "trumped up," whether the procedures used constituted
due process, and what would occur if today's modernized health laws
were applied to the same facts.
The retrials will take place at Chicago's Murphy Auditorium at 50
E. Erie on Sept. 24 and at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum
in Springfield on Oct. 1.
Another event in the series will feature a round-table discussion
on mental health issues and will feature historians, attorneys and
mental health professionals. This will be on April 16 at 5:30 p.m.
in the State Capitol Building in Springfield.
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The final in the scheduled series of events, the "culture of
clothing," will feature Mary Todd Lincoln's life and fashions as a
homemaker, first lady and a widow in mourning after the loss of
three sons and a husband. This special show will be presented on
Nov. 12 in the Driehaus Museum in Chicago, where the dresses she had
made, the jewelry she wore and the long-lasting elements of design
she created will be used to demonstrate the changing roles of women
through fashion. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in
Springfield will have a similar event on Nov. 19.
A theatrical project bringing the relationship of Mary Lincoln
and her advocate Myra Bradwell to life will be developed from their
correspondence. Springfield actresses Susan Jeffers and Aasne
Vigesaa will portray the two 19th-century women, and performance
dates in Chicago and Springfield will be announced.
Ticket information for this series of events is available at
www.wasmarylincolncrazy.com. The media reception today is free
and open to the public, but reservations must be made by calling
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is the
nation's largest and most visited presidential library complex, and
immerses visitors in Lincoln's life and times. The
Court Historic Preservation Commission assists the Supreme Court in acquiring, collecting, documenting,
preserving, and cataloging documents and artifacts important to the
history of the Illinois judicial system.
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
file received from the