Mary Lincoln for the Ages

In this sweeping analytical bibliography, Jason Emerson goes beyond the few sources usually employed to contextualize Mary Lincoln’s life and thoroughly reexamines nearly every word ever written about her. In doing so, this book becomes the prime authority on Mary Lincoln, points researchers to key underused sources, reveals how views about her have evolved over the years, and sets the stage for new questions and debates about the themes and controversies that have defined her legacy.

Mary Lincoln for the Ages first articulates how reliance on limited sources has greatly restricted our understanding of the subject, evaluating their flaws and benefits and pointing out the shallowness of using the same texts to study her life. Emerson then presents more than four hundred bibliographical entries of nonfiction books and pamphlets, scholarly and popular articles, journalism, literature, and juvenalia. More than just listings of titles and publication dates, each entry includes Emerson’s deft analysis of these additional works on Mary Lincoln that should be used—but rarely have been—to better understand who she was during her life and why we see her as we do. The volume also includes rarely used illustrations, including some that have never before appeared in print.

A roadmap for a firmer, more complete grasp of Mary Lincoln’s place in the historical record, this is the first and only extensive, analytical bibliography of the subject. In highlighting hundreds of overlooked sources, Emerson changes the paradigm of Mary Lincoln’s legacy.


This extraordinarily helpful book will quickly become the go-to source for scholars and general writers researching Mary Lincoln. Emerson’s sure guide through the tangled thickets of shifting historiography will help all of us to write more informed works about Mary Lincoln. A superb reference work.

Richard W. Etulain, author of Lincoln and Oregon Country Politics in the Civil War Era

What marks an individual for either greatness or opprobrium? In Mary Lincoln for the Ages, Jason Emerson provides an indispensable guide to understanding how contemporary, scholarly, and popular representations of the controversial first lady have affected what we think we know about her. By placing the popular accounts of Mrs. Lincoln within the larger compendium of work on her life, Emerson challenges readers to discover the sixteenth president’s wife from a multitude of angles.

Natalie Sweet, Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum and Lincoln Memorial University

Anyone attempting to write a balanced, thorough study of the Lincolns’ marriage should begin by consulting Jason Emerson’s invaluable bibliography, full of references to little-known sources as well as insightful commentary on familiar ones.

Michael Burlingame, editor of Sixteenth President-in-Waiting: Abraham Lincoln and the Springfield Dispatches of Henry Villard, 1860–1861