Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Gentle Readers,

She was the fourth of seven children. When she was seven-years-old, her mother died in childbirth.

So she lost her mother.

Her father remarried and had nine children with his new wife.

So, in essence, she lost her father.

As a popular and witty young woman who had learned to talk politics, she left her home and much-hated stepmother in Lexington, Kentucky, and moved to Springfield, Illinois, to live with her sister, Elizabeth Edwards. She became engaged to a lawyer, who then changed his mind.

So, she lost her first opportunity to marry the man she loved.

She waited. One and one-half years later the young lawyer changed his mind again and married her. She said he would be President of the United States, and she worked hard to make that happen. When her husband was elected to Congress, she and their young child moved to Washington, D.C., with him--something politician's wives normally did not do--and lived in rented rooms. But she was in the way. She took too much time and attention away from his work. Mother and child returned to Springfield.

So she began to lose her husband to the political life she had helped him attain.

Three of her four sons died - Eddie at home in Springfield, Willie in the White House, and Tad, the youngest and the last person able to comfort her, as they moved from hotel to hotel, never having a real home.

So, she lost her children.

Her husband was elected President as she predicted. He presided over a nation divided by war and had very little time for his wife and her never-ending worries and headaches.

So she lost her husband, almost completely, to government service.

Because she was from the South, her many siblings were Confederates. She staunchly supported her husband and the Union.

So she lost her siblings. Some even died fighting for the South.

Finally, the North won the war. She and her husband went to the theater for an evening of relaxation, and he was assassinated as they sat close together, she clinging to him as they enjoyed the play.

So she lost her husband and her identity because a woman's identity came from what her husband did and he had made her First Lady of the Land.

Her remaining son, Robert, eventually had her declared insane and placed in a sanitarium. He took control of her money.

So she lost her only living son and her freedom.

But she didn't give up. She retained the services of one of the few female lawyers in the country. She managed to engineer her release from the sanitarium and returned to Springfield to live with her sister Elizabeth.

She's remembered as quite the shopaholic. Apparently, she tried to replace her many losses with Things. It didn't work. She bought fine draperies when she had no home in which to hang them. She bought dresses she would never wear because she wore only mourning black. While in the White House, she bought 300 pairs of gloves over a period of a few weeks. Purchases remained in their wrappings, never to be opened.

She shopped out of desperation. Perhaps she was even a hoarder.

What she's not remembered for, because she did not allow reporters to accompany her, are her many charitable acts. She visited sick and wounded soldiers with gifts of fruit and wrote home for them. She and her closest friend and confidante, Elizabeth Keckley--- a former slave--purchased blankets to give to the contraband, who were runaway slaves living in camps near the White House.

Finally, she died, and she rests with her husband and children in their tomb in Springfield, Illinois.

So, she lost the things that never brought the comfort she sought.

But, oh, what she gained.


Dumped First Wife

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