by Ann Ricker

The decline of Mary Lincoln’s mental condition is a major theme of her life during the period from 1866 until her commitment for insanity in 1875. The elusive question of the exact nature of her illness includes a topic that is perhaps easier to grasp—the amount of social isolation that she experienced, or conversely, of her associations and friendships. In these years, Mary often visited Chicago. In her letters from 1874 that are owned by the Illinois State Historical Library, which will be described more fully later, she mentions her friendship with prominent Chicago minister David Swing, my great-great-grandfather.

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