Abe’s Women

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September 21, 2014 by Lorene

A woman named Anne Rutledge was the love of his life during the mid 1830s when he lived in New Salem. She died of typhoid, presumably. A couple years after her death, he moved to Springfield where he was set up on some dates, but none of the women really appealed to him.

Lincoln was always awkward around women, but according to his law partner William Herdon, he could, “scarcely keep his hands off them.” Judge David Davis, Lincoln’s partner on the law circuit, said, “His conscience kept him from seduction. This saved many, many women.” Kearns Goodwin writes that he enjoyed “close relations” with young women and “almost certainly” slept with prostitutes. This was all before his marriage to Mary.

One of the dates he went on was with a woman who he thought was ok. She left Springfield and came back several years later and wanted to start seeing him again. However, she was, “want of teeth and had a weather beaten appearance.” She also had become quite large, apparently, in her years away from Springfield. Her weight was not appealing to him.

He met Mary Todd when she visited her sister, who lived in a mansion that was the center of Springfield society. Their appearances were the exact opposite of each other, but they had a lot in common like strong intelligence and politics. They both had lost their mothers at an early age.

The qualities that attracted them to each other became ‘sources of conflict.’ They were planning to get married, but Abe told Mary he did not love her and called off the engagement in the winter of 1840-41. Some think Mary wanted the break because her family did not approve of Abe, but it seems like it was really Abe’s idea to take a break because he wasn’t sure he loved Mary enough to marry her. He may have fallen in love with another woman during this time, but it could have been a “distraction from his anxiety about his impending marriage to Mary.”

He also doubted the institution of marriage itself, including his ability to support Mary how she was accustomed. Also, a wife would distract him from his goals and purpose in life.

During this period in his life, his best friend also moved to Kentucky to help his family and it affected Abe deeply. He withdrew from work and society and his friends thought he may be suicidal.

His friend stayed by his side and helped him through his depression. He told him, “If he did not rally, he would most certainly die.” Abe’s “desire to engrave his name in history carried him forward.” He gradually recovered and resumed is busy life.

He realized he did want to marry Mary.


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