By Carra Higgins
The wife of one of the most famous United States presidents came to life Sunday afternoon at Beckley’s Wildwood House Museum to give visitors a glimpse of the woman whom history has not necessarily painted in the best light, and has even altered her name.
Mary Lincoln, not Mary Todd Lincoln, portrayed by JoAnn Peterson, a researcher from Kingwood, explained to guests on the back lawn of Wildwood House her perspective on the Civil War, slavery and her much-loved husband, Abraham Lincoln.
Before the presentation, Peterson explained to media that if not for Mary, Abraham Lincoln might not have ever become president. Peterson said that Mary Lincoln received a significant amount of “bad press” and she was known to be deeply emotional with extreme mood swings, but before becoming president Abraham Lincoln turned to her for advice. However, Washington, D.C.’s political society did not appreciate Mary Lincoln’s influence on her husband’s career so he stopped seeking her advice after becoming president, Peterson added.
In her 1860s-style dress and Lexington, Ky., accent, Mary Lincoln said she certainly empathizes with the newly formed state of West Virginia. Her own family has been divided by the Civil War — brothers fighting for the Confederacy, and she herself opposed to slavery and loyal to the Union — and the heartache that it has caused. Mary Lincoln explained that the southern states thought her to be a traitor and the Union perceived her as a spy, in the White House, for the Confederacy.
Through it all, though, Mary Lincoln was a kind, generous and well-educated woman, who was also a “wonderful” hostess, Peterson said.
The “History Alive with Mary Todd Lincoln” was presented at Wildwood House and Museum by the West Virginia Humanities Council.