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Was Mary Todd Lincoln insane?

That was the verdict of the Cook  County Court. But was that a miscarriage of justice?

In 1875 Robert Todd Lincoln dragged his mother into court to have her declared insane, had himself named as conservator, and seized control of her assets.

Locked in an asylum, she smuggled letters to America’s most prominent reporters, politicians, jurists, and feminists, engineered her own release, and organized a trial declaring her competent. Then she took her money back and left for Europe. She never lived down the disgrace.

Drawing on newly uncovered primary documents, with unparalleled depth of scholarship and his trademark humor — and with a fresh sarcasm appropriate to the state of Lincoln Studies — best-selling historian Kevin Orlin Johnson sets the record straight about Mary Todd’s drug use, Robert’s kangaroo court, and the state of psychiatric science then and now.

464 pages

ISBN 978-0-9653660-6-9

By taking a methodological approach in Mrs. Lincoln’s Recovery, Kevin shows us the whole scope of horrors that was medicine in nineteenth-century America.  We see more than just how things went wrong:  we can see why things went wrong…  

Mrs. Lincoln was also treated differently because she was female, doctors believing females were inherently weaker and prone to hysterics.  These same discriminatory practices continue casting aside populations perceived as weaker, dumber, or poorer.  Just as outdated therapies killed millions in Mrs. Lincoln’s day, outdated beliefs continue to kill millions today…  

This methodological history challenges us to ask ourselves the questions that never even occurred to Mary Todd Lincoln’s doctors.  Why are we doing this in this way? Where do these beliefs come from and are they based in reality? Are we applying the right remedies to the people who need them most?

Maybe if we ask ourselves the questions that Kevin raises here about our past, we can gain the benefit of hindsight in advance.  

From the Foreword by Brett J. Feldman, MSPAS, PA-C, Director of Street Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, and Vice Chair, Street Medicine Institute

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“Kevin Orlin Johnson is a damn good writer.  I lost myself in it.  It’s clear, it’s detailed, and it’s logical.  He’s the Tom Clancy of this stuff.”

C. B., California
“I’m trying to search for the words for it. Spectacular … Outrageous … what her son did to that poor lady is just insane (no pun intended)! What’s even more spectacular is how she organized her defense and subsequent trial from inside an asylum! This should be made into a movie. This truth is stranger than most fiction.”

J.D., Pennsylvania

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