Background: Born in December of 1818, Mary Todd– as she was thenknown– had a long and difficult life ahead of her. She was awell-educated woman, and after marriage, more commonly known as Mary ToddLincoln. She served as the First Lady of the United States from 1861-1865beside President Abraham Lincoln.
Previous to her title of First Lady, sheserved as a US congresswoman in Washington and also supported her husband’spolitical career, actively helping him seek out a position that supported hisdesired path (Regula, 1994). What seemed to be a well adjusted life was actuallyquite dark for Mrs. Lincoln. Some describe her as being mad, with a dark pastand a sad journey. Characteristics: It has been debated in the past as to whether or notLincoln was mentally ill. Some believe that Lincoln may have been sufferingfrom a version of Bipolar Disorder because of her extreme levels of happiness,sadness, and intense anger.
If Lincoln did in fact suffer from Bipolar Disorder, shewould need to have a manic episode, followed by either a hypomanic episode (amore mild form of a manic episode), or a major depressive episode (DSM-5,2013). Some examples of a manic episode are as follows:1. Increased energy or activity (DSM-5, 2013).2. Decreased need for sleep (DSM-5, 2013).
3. Flight of ideas (DSM-5, 2013). 4. Involvement in activities that could causesevere consequences, such as buying sprees, unnecessary investments, etc.(DSM-5, 2013). 5.
Possible need for hospitalization, or presentpsychotic features (DSM-5).Someexamples of a major depressive episode are as follows:1. Depressed mood for most of the day, almost everyday (DSM-5, 2013).2.
Loss of interest in activities (DSM-5, 2013). 3. Psychomotor agitation, whether observed by theself or others (DSM-5, 2013).
4. Thoughts of death, and possible suicide attempt(DSM-5, 2013). 5. Causes impairment in functioning (DSM-5, 2013). Some of the symptoms for Mania can be seen in Lincoln’sbehavior prior to her time as the First Lady, one specifically being that shefrequently over-spent money.
Before living in the White House, she once addedan entire floor to their home without consulting her husband about itbeforehand (Dick, et al., 2010). Likewise, it could be assumed that thesymptoms for a major depressive episode can be seen when Lincoln attempted totake her own life, after her son charged her with insanity (Dick, et al.,2010).
Moving onto the Big-5, created by Norman, et al. MaryTodd Lincoln would probably fit well into two of the different personalitydimensions. First, I believe that she would fit into the conscientiousnessdimension. This dimension focuses on people who are dutiful, disciplined, andachievement oriented (John, et al. 1999).
Given Lincoln’s outstandingeducational background (especially for women of this time), her desire to helpher husband’s political movements, as well as her role in congress, I believethis shows the traits of conscientiousness well. However, Lincoln could verywell fit into the neuroticism dimension. This dimension focuses on individualswho are depressed, impulsive, and angry (John, et al. 1999). This is evidentdue to her demeanor after multiple deaths in her family, as well as theassassination of her husband in 1865, which as stated above, lead to a veryunforgiving relationship with her only living immediate family member; her sonRobert (Frost, 2001).
Explanatory Framework: Lincoln had many unfortunate events that could have leadto her rather bizarre behavior, most of them involving deaths of people closeto her. When she was only six years old, her mother died from an infectionafter childbirth, and once her father remarried, she felt alone, which is whyshe concentrated so much on her schooling (Frost, 2001). Making her schoolworkher priority growing up likely paved the way to her substantial role for awoman of her time period; keep in mind this was in the early 1800’s when womenwere expected to stay home, cook, clean, and care for children. Lincoln and her husband raised four male childrentogether, but time after time, she was struck with many tragedies as sheoutlived all but one of them. She lost one to tuberculosis, one to a fever, andone to lung disease (Frost, 2001). Just when it didn’t seem like things couldget any worse, she was sitting next to her husband, Abraham Lincoln, when hewas assassinated at Ford’s Theater in 1865. People began calling her a”professional widow,” and she remained in black clothing for the 17 yearspreceding her own death (Frost, 2001).
Her only remaining son, Robert, thoughtthat she was a “lunatic,” and knew that her spending habits would quicklyinterfere with his inheritance. Using her seemingly odd habits as an excuse, hetried her for insanity, where an all-male jury found her guilty and forced herinto an insane asylum for four months until her lawyer was able to declare heras “restored to reason,” (Frost, 2011). She then traveled Europe, onlyreturning home for two years before her death in 1882 (Frost, 2011). Given the many unfortunate experiences with death thatLincoln had, it is not difficult to see why she was prone to depression andanger. Knowing the instances of odd behavior as well as the criteria forcertain dimensions of the Big-5 and Bipolar Disorder, placing her in thesecategories seems to fit well.