Mary Lincoln’s Rivals

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Harriet Lane, bachelor President Buchanan’s niece, was a popular hostess in the late 1850s. She had been presented to Queen Victoria – a gold star on anyone’s social resume.

Thirty year old Harriet Lane enjoyed a hugely popular tenure as de facto First Lady in the late 1850s. Her social leadership was as successful as her Uncle James Buchanan’s political administration was a flop. When First Lady-to-be Mary Lincoln arrived in Washington, she had a hard act to follow.

Mary Lincoln Makes Enemies

Many people believed that Kentucky bred-Illinois wed Mary was a Southern sympathizer. Perhaps an actual spy. She wasn’t.

mary for suite

Mary Lincoln arrived in Washington in 1861, fully convinced that she was equal to the task of being the social leader of the country.

Washington society women were dismissive of her “taste” and “culture,” believing that she was as humbly born as Lincoln. She wasn’t that either.  A contingent of somewhat smarmy Congressional wives called on her prior to the inauguration to offer their “assistance” in helping her over the societal shoals, as it were. Smarmy yes, but they meant no harm. Mary Lincoln, offended at the inference that she wasn’t up to snuff, let them know it. The “advisory committee” left in a huff, and seldom if ever attended her receptions. They were content to host their own lavish salons and snipe at the First Lady.

Mary Lincoln Makes A Major Enemy

Kate Chase was the uber-snotty, cultured and sophisticated twentyish daughter of Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. She was everything Mary was not: young, tall, slender, pretty, cosmopolitan, rich and very smart.

When she met Mrs. Lincoln, shortly after the inauguration, the First Lady greeted her pleasantly and invited Kate to call again. Kate then insinuated that Mary would be welcome to call on her. Kate knew better – and so did Mary. It was the supreme gaffe. First Ladies only receive; they do not pay calls. Kate Chase immediately took first place at the top of Mrs. Lincoln’s antipathy list.

Young, tall, slim and pretty Kate Chase was willing to barter her marital happiness for an infusion of money to support her father’s political ambitions.

Salmon P. Chase, a former Governor of Ohio, had had a decade of political leadership as an ardent abolitionist. Thrice widowed to pretty women who died young, he lavished his affections and considerable wealth on Kate, who was thrilled to take an important role as his escort and hostess. Her salons were attended by the crème of society. Chase desperately wanted to be President, and even as a cabinet secretary, plotted to head the Republican ticket in 1864. Kate was determined to further that goal with every social skill she possessed. That alone was enough to antagonize Mrs. Lincoln.

In early 1862, the Lincoln’s 12-year-old son died, and Mary went into deep mourning. In addition to her intense grief, the proprieties of mourning were strict, and Mrs. Lincoln’s role as society leader was on hold for over a year. Miss Chase was delighted to pick up that slack, and the Chase mansion became the mecca of social Washington – particularly among those who were not thrilled with Lincoln.

Kate married in 1863.  The groom was William Sprague, a nasty drinker, philanderer and “political general” via being the Governor of Rhode Island. But Sprague had an immense fortune, and the Chase funds were running low. Kate willingly bartered her marital happiness (and she would be very unhappy) for the Sprague infusion of money for her father’s presidential ambitions.

Mary positively loathed Kate (the aversion was mutual), and refused to attend the wedding. Lincoln went alone, pleading the First Lady’s ubiquitous “unwellness.” Mary had her faults, but hypocrisy was not one of them. She couldn’t stand the bride, and couldn’t force the smile.

Then, of course, there was the time the Lincolns were hosting a large diplomatic dinner and Mary deliberately scratched Chase-and-daughter from the guest list. It created such a protocol furor that Lincoln personally had to override the insult and scratch their names back in.

Mary’s True Rival Waiting in the Wings

The beauteous Kate was Mary Lincoln’s chief rival for nearly four years, but in 1864 there appeared another, even more formidable. This rival, however, was nothing like Kate Chase. She was fortyish, plain as a post, rather dumpy and unfashionable, not overly smart or politically savvy, and positively clueless that she was a social contender.

Julia Grant_2

Julia Grant, the plain and dowdy wife of Ulysses S. Grant, would be given a complete makeover by the social-minded Congressional wives.

Julia Grant, mother of four like Mary, was the homey and homely wife of Ulysses S. Grant, now General of the Army, and next to Lincoln, the most important man in the Union. He was as unpolitically inclined as his wife, but they were both willing to learn.

The same society matrons who had incurred Mrs. Lincoln’s wrath in 1861 were quick to flock to Mrs. General Grant in 1864, and offer her that same assistance in navigating the socio-political waters of Washington. Julia, a genuinely nice lady, appreciated the offer and attention – and probably realized she could use the help.   She became very popular, mainly because so few (other than Mary Lincoln) saw her as a threat to anything. The Grants became the honored guests at everyone’s soirees – and they went as often as Grant was available.

The only time Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Grant actually spent time in each others’ company, Mrs. L. was on her absolutely worst behavior, accusing Mrs. G. of “waiting in the wings” and wanting to be in her place. Poor Julia didn’t know what hit her. All she did know, is that she did not wish to be in Mrs. Lincoln’s company again, a situation tragically fulfilled by Lincoln’s assassination only days later.

Mary Lincoln would have no more rivals. Her place as widow of our martyred president was singular and unenviable. No one wanted to be in her place ever again.


  • Clinton, Catherine – Lincoln: A Life, 2009, HarperCollins
  • DONALD, David Herbert – Lincoln, Simon and Schuster, 1995
  • Grant, Julia – The Personal Memoirs of Julia Dent Grant (Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant) Southern Illinois University Press, 1988
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Ike and Mamie’s First House

Mamie Doud was only nineteen when she married Second Lt. Dwight D. Eisenhower, recently graduated from West Point.

The Eisenhower Bride and Groom

Lt. Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower about the time of their marriage in 1916.

While Mama and Papa Doud adored Ike, and would consider him their “son” for the rest of their long lives, they were not thrilled at the marriage. Mamie, they believed, was much too young. She was also somewhat pampered and spoiled, and the Douds were concerned that she would not adapt well to the restrictions of army life. Mamie came from well-to-do stock, with all the luxuries that upper middle class money could buy. Second Lieutenants  do not earn fortunes.

They needn’t have worried. While Mamie was noticeably deficient in the housewife-arts, and would never master sewing, knitting or cooking, she did have some hitherto unknown gifts that would enable her to be a superb military spouse.

The Talents of Mamie

Like Ike, Mamie had a wall-to-wall smile that invited friendships from the start.  They were delighted to mingle with the other junior officers at card parties and pot-luck suppers and whatever activities were popular.  They were just as happy to take their turn as hosts, and for the next twenty-five years of their marriage, wherever they were deployed, their quarters became “Club Eisenhower.” Senior officers also took notice of the capable young lieutenant Dwight D. Eisenhower and his cute little slip-of-a-thing wife.

Another hidden talent was her ability to pack and move at practically no notice. Ditto unpack and move in within the day. Mamie Eisenhower claimed that they moved twenty times in twenty years, so she had mega-experience. She kept the crates and boxes in storage, each neatly marked for its contents. Then, when it came time to “unpack,” and the large furniture was in place, Mamie immediately hung the pictures and placed ashtrays and knick-knacks in their usual places, so when Ike came home that evening, it really was home. Clothing, kitchen goods and all the closet-and-cupboard items could wait till later.

The Great General

The quintessential General Eisenhower. No matter how many stars were on his shoulder, he always had that common touch.

All that changed with World War II, and Ike was promoted over more than a hundred officers with seniority. The “General” who planned and implemented the monumental D-Day Invasion of Europe was now the Great General with five stars on his shoulders, and his choice of future plans.

Shortly after the War, Ike wrote Crusade in Europe, about his wartime efforts, and it was a huge best-seller.  Money was no object now. They could afford a house.

In 1948, Ike “retired” from active duty, and accepted a position as President of Columbia University, in New York City. It came with a house.

But Ike and Mamie wanted their own digs. They were both past fifty and had never owned a house.

Ike & Mamie Rediscover Gettysburg

The Gettysburg farm was the first and only house that Ike and Mamie every owned.

Early in their marriage, the young Eisenhowers had been deployed in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and had loved the area, with its beautiful rolling hills, quiet seclusion and deep historic significance. They found an old farm, with dilapidated buildings, cows, chickens and 189 acres, for only $40,000 (about $400,000 today.) They bought it, even though they knew it would require a lot of work. They did not know that it would be years before they could move in and enjoy it.

In 1951, Ike was “recruited” again as the Supreme Commander of NATO, the mutual European defense organization formed after the War. It came with a house, too. The Eisenhowers’ Gettysburg farm would have to wait.

Then, despite saying “no” several times, General Eisenhower was “recruited” again – this time as Republican Candidate for President in 1952. He won easily. The new job also came with a house, and a nice one at that.

Ike and Mamie Rebuild The Farm

Ike and Mamie spent as much of their presidency as possible at their Gettysburg farm.

The responsibilities of the Presidency and the First Ladyhood did not prevent the Eisenhowers from tackling the job of making their own “farm” habitable, and suitable for the President of the United States.

Buildings had to be torn down and new ones erected, to Mrs. Ike’s specification. She had become accustomed to being the General’s Wife, and could be picky. They knew that some of their houseguests would be world leaders and heads of state. Fixing up the Gettysburg farm cost Ike more than $2,000,000 (in today’s money), and it would take the better part of his first term in office.

It would not be until late 1955 that the Eisenhowers could actually use their new home – at least part time. But once it was habitable, Ike and Mamie enjoyed their farm as few other First Families did. It was a “c’mon down” place.

The POTUS and FLOTUS hosted the entire White House staff at their Gettysburg farm.

The Comfy Eisenhowers

Ike and Mamie had their own style, and it was apple pie American! Their furnishings were not elaborate. Many of their “treasures” were trinkets from old friends.  Or souvenirs and gifts from the powerful and famous leaders of the world.  After all, General Eisenhower (the title he preferred, like Washington and Grant) was probably the most famous man in the world.

The sun porch. They could play cards or read magazines or Ike could paint. Or watch TV and have supper on tray-tables.

Their special retreat was the sunroom, where they could play cards or watch television, something they both loved to do. It is said that after all the high falutin’ banquets and dinners of the grand stage, they were delighted to have soup and sandwiches on tray-tables in their sunroom, and watch the Ed Sullivan Show.

Ike willed the Gettysburg farm to the country, with the proviso that he could live there for the remainder of his life; it was amended to include the same provision for Mamie. It was her first house, and her last house. She lived there until her death in 1978.


Eisenhower, David & Eisenhower, Julie Nixon – Going Home to Glory – Simon and Schuster, 2010

Eisenhower, Susan – Mrs. Ike –  Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996

Lester, David and Lester, Irene – Ike and Mamie – G.P. Putnam, 1981

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The Taft’s Silver Anniversary Party, or Nellie’s Happy Day

Helen Herron Taft was not destined to fully enjoy her days as First Lady, but the Tafts would celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in grand style.

Nellie’s Ambition, and an Anniversary Precedent

Helen Herron (1861-1943) was an Ohioan whose parents were close friends of Rutherford and Lucy Hayes, who in 1877, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in the White House. The party was private one, for family and friends. The Herrons, including teenaged Nellie, were invited.

First Lady Helen Herron Taft was a stunning Edwardian woman when her husband became President in 1909.

She was intoxicated by the White House, perhaps most of all by the realization that the Executive Mansion was the seat of power. Nellie was convinced that she might be mistress of the White House herself. It was a dream that would never be extinguished, and which became more of a life-design rather than “dream.”

When she married Republican attorney William Howard Taft (1857-1930), she had consciously selected a man with the personal gifts and ability that could achieve her goal.   Taft’s goal was to become a justice on the Supreme Court, but Nellie had a one-track mind, and preferred a better address.

Mrs. Taft was the “politician in the family,” according to her husband – and to just about everyone else. Her ambition was never a secret. She envisioned herself as First Lady, and had a well-planned agenda for what she would accomplish in that role, socially, artistically and intellectually.

The Short-Lived Paradise

Less than three months after Taft’s inauguration as President in 1909, First Lady Helen Herron Taft collapsed from a stroke. She was only forty-eight.

While she was not paralyzed, she suffered from aphasia, and was unable to speak properly, nor read or write. Her mouth drooped, making it impossible for her to appear in public. The saddest part of all, was that while the “transmitter” part of her brain was impaired, the “receptor” part was intact. Nellie understood everything that was going on. She just could not participate.

For a depressing year and a half, she worked tirelessly to regain some of her lost abilities. Taft, who loved his wife dearly, wanted to do something nice for her; something to give her whatever pleasure he could from her White House experience.


President William Howard Taft would claim that the presidency was the only job he held that he did not enjoy.

The Silver Anniversary Party Decision

June, 1911 was the Tafts’  Silver Anniversary, and then, as now, an occasion for a party. Part of the reason for the party (aside from the Hayes’ precedent), was that it could be “private;” something Mrs. Taft could attend.

Like the Hayes example, the party began as an affair for family and close friends. Both Tafts came from large, tight-knit families, each with several siblings-with-spouses and grown nieces and nephews. Then of course, as social and political animals for a quarter century, they had acquired many friends from all parts of the country.

President and Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes inspired teenaged Helen Herron (Nellie) to determine the First Lady position as her own ambition in life.

There was, as there usually is with grand plans, an “oops moment.” Only a month before the party, Nellie suffered a relapse. While it was not as serious as her first stroke, it set her recovery back considerably, and perhaps most importantly, made her fully aware that her health must be her main focus. First Ladydom and politics would have to take a back seat.

But the party plans proceeded on schedule.

The Growing and Growing and Growing Guest List

It did not start out to be a mega-“do.” Just a nice afternoon garden party at the White House for family and close friends. But somehow the “private” party began to take on a life of its own, particularly as regards the guest list.

nellie after stroke

Nellie Taft was a shadow of h er former self at the time of their Silver Wedding Anniversary in 1911.

A president’s cabinet is his “official family.” They must be invited. Taft’s beloved Supreme Court justices must be invited. Congressional leadership must be invited. Perhaps all congressmen and senators. The list began to grow.

Both Tafts came from prominent Ohio families with deep roots. The entire Ohio state political hierarchy must be invited, including the Governor, past Governors and past leadership – regardless of party.   And if the Ohio Governor was invited, then all governors must be invited. It would be tacky otherwise.

Military brass and high ranking administrative executives must be invited. The diplomatic corps must be invited, from all countries.  And one cannot invite a foreign ambassador to such a gathering without inviting his monarch or head of state.   The list now included a huge number of people that the Tafts had never met, nor were likely to meet, but who must be invited anyway. The party list was growing like Topsy, with a life of its own.

All told, more than eight thousand invitations were issued, and that does not include spouses. A full five thousand (and some counts were higher) persons actually attended.

The Hall of Silver, or The Silver Haul

A Lenox tea and coffee set inlaid with silver – one of the Taft anniversary gifts, now part of the White House collection.

It is commonly accepted today for a host to request “no gifts,” or perhaps a charitable donation. The Tafts made no such requests, however. Since a 25th Anniversary is traditionally a “silver” one, gifts of silver began pouring in like the output of the Comstock Lode.

There were hundreds (literally!) of silver trays, punch bowls, tea-sets, urns, serving pieces, platters, candle sticks and candelabra of all shapes – and price tags. There was jewelry for Mrs. T.  There were pens and inkwells for President T. There were desk sets, olive forks, pickle forks, card cases, vanity sets and goblets. Many were monogrammed or specifically engraved presentation pieces. All was of the finest quality, since it was a “personal” present to the President of the United States. And because it was a “personal” present, the Tafts got to keep their silver-haul.

It was also traditional, in those days, for gifts to be displayed publicly. Rooms were put aside in the White House, with tables set to dazzle visitors and tourists who came to gape at the brightness of the stash.

It had become a very tacky situation, particularly since much was “re-gifted” at a later date. Few objects were ever used by the Tafts personally, and quite a bit was sold during World War I – for war bonds.  That’s what they said, anyway.

Even so. Tacky.


Anthony, Carl Sferrazza – Nellie Taft: First Lady of the Ragtime Age – William Morrow, 2005

Taft, Wm. Howard Mrs. – Recollections of a Full Life – Dodd, Mead – 1914



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Martha Randolph: Jefferson’s One Slender Thread

Martha Jefferson Randolph had many advantages as Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, but her life was far from happy.

Patsy: The Early Years

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was twenty-seven when he married Martha Wayles Skelton, a twenty-three year old widow with a toddler who would soon die. It was an instant attraction, and a true love-match. They would have six children together, but three died in infancy. The tragedy was that Martha Jefferson had a delicate constitution, and child bearing was difficult for her. She died at thirty-three, after a brief ten year marriage.

Purported to be Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s wife and “Patsy’s” mother.

Martha Jefferson (1772-1836), named for her mother and called Patsy from birth, was their eldest daughter, eight years old when her mother died. Her sister Maria (called Polly) was three; baby Lucy had just been born when Martha Jefferson succumbed. Thomas Jefferson was totally distraught for weeks, unable to sleep or eat. Only riding horseback for hours on end helped him to work out his grief. Little Patsy was his sole companion and comfort.

Patsy was the only witness to her father’s profound grief, and they would be close from that time forward. But it would be an odd relationship. Thomas Jefferson was inclined by disposition to give and withhold his affections in return for obedience. It would be a lesson that Patsy learned early; she would always be his obedient daughter.

Patsy: The Paris Years

In 1783, Thomas Jefferson was appointed Minister to France by the new-United States. It was an assignment that would propel him out of his mourning, and open his great mind to life on a completely different level.   He took twelve-year-old Patsy with him, having left his two younger daughters in care of relatives.

He quickly arranged for Patsy to be educated at a convent-school not far from his residence in Paris. Despite the fact that Jefferson was not favorably inclined toward brilliant women, he wanted his daughter to be well educated, “in case she winds up marrying a fool.” Convent schools were the crème of female education. Patsy lived at the school during the week, and stayed with her father on weekends. By fourteen or fifteen, she was already serving as her father’s “hostess and escort” as he entertained the best and the brightest Paris had to offer.

At sixteen, Patsy concluded that she wanted to become a nun. The convent sisters were graceful, gentle women whose influence was not lost on their American (and non-Catholic) student. They were delighted with her aspirations, and encouraged her to write to her father announcing her desires.

Jefferson immediately showed up at the school and kindly but firmly withdrew Patsy. He commented that he “wanted her to see something of the world before she renounced it forever.” If Patsy objected or resented the interference, it was short-lived. There was definitely life to be lived in her future.

A year later, they returned to Virginia permanently.

Patsy: The Randolph Connection

Image result for martha jefferson randolph

Martha Jefferson Randolph, the only one of Thomas Jefferson’s children to survive him.

The Randolphs were one of the “First Families of Virginia,” and kin to Jefferson via his mother, Jane Randolph. Patsy, now of marriageable age, drew the attention of Thomas Mann Randolph, a cousin five years her senior. They married, with Thomas Jefferson’s blessing.

Thomas Mann Randolph, Patsy’s husband and father of her eleven children. Despite the large family, the marriage would not be a happy one.

Randolph was well placed in Virginia’s social and political hierarchy, and once the United States had its Constitution adopted, he entered Virginia state politics, became a State senator, and when his father-in-law was President, a two-term congressman. He later served as Virginia’s Governor.

While Randolph’s political resume is certainly laudable, his resume as husband and father is not. He fathered twelve children with Patsy, eleven reaching maturity. (Obviously Patsy did not inherit her mother’s limitations regarding child bearing!) But Randolph was an alcoholic, and brutal under its influence. Some historians conclude that he likely had some psychotic tendencies. Then again, Randolph was always a distant second in his wife’s affections; she devoted herself entirely to her father.

Patsy Randolph: Mistress of Monticello

Patsy Jefferson Randolph, tall, slim and red-haired, was not a woman given to whining or complaining. She bore her many children and raised them according to the confines of woman-ness of the eighteenth century. If she had troubles in her marriage, she was inclined to keep them to herself.

thomas jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was deeply devoted to his daughter and was a loving grandpa to her eleven children.

If Jefferson was aware of the troubles caused by his son-in-law it was not recorded in any of his writings. However he insisted that his daughter live close by and visit Monticello for long periods of time. After his younger daughter Polly died in childbirth at only twenty-five (Lucy had died at three), Patsy was now his only his only comfort.  He would notably comment, “my evening prospects now hang only by the slender thread of a single life.”

As her own marriage deteriorated, Patsy and the children began spending more and more time at Monticello. During Jefferson’s presidency, he encouraged her to come to Washington and serve as his de-facto hostess, and she did periodically, but the needs of her large family made it difficult. She was also happier as the quintessential mistress of Monticello, overseeing its comforts, entertaining its many guests, and making it the great home of a great man.

Patsy Randolph: Heir to Monticello


Jefferson was deeply in debt for most of his life, but he left his magnificent Monticello plantation to his daughter. She would be forced to sell it.

If Patsy kept her marital woes from her father, so her father kept his financial woes from Patsy. Both had serious woes.

By the late eighteen-teens, Randolph’s alcoholism and abusiveness had become too much for Patsy to bear, and the couple separated in essence if not in legality.   Meanwhile Jefferson’s financial obligations had so deteriorated that he even planned to auction off his beloved Monticello in a lottery. It failed

It would fall to Thomas Jefferson Randolph, Patsy’s eldest son, to try to make some sense out of the monetary muddle, rein in the expenditures, and keep the house from creditors. He did a yeoman job, hanging on by its own slender thread. When Jefferson died in his bed in 1826, with his beloved daughter at his side, he murmured “the last pang of life was parting with her.”

Patsy Jefferson Randolph inherited Monticello, but it would be a precious burden that she could not afford to keep. The house was sold for debts, and Patsy went to live periodically with her children. She survived her father by only ten years, and is buried at Monticello.


Malone, Dumas – Jefferson & His Time: The Sage of Monticello – Little Brown, 1981

Randolph, Sarah –  The Domestic Life of Thomas Jefferson – Thomas Jefferson Foundation, 1947

Scharff, Virginia – The Women Jefferson Loved – Harper Perennial, 2010

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Lady Macbeth On the Couch: Inside the Mind and Life of Lady Macbeth

A book review.

Lady Macbeth On the Couch: Inside the Mind and Life of Lady Macbeth by Alma H. Bond, PhD

Dr. Alma Bond does not suffer fools gladly. She is an insightful and hard-hitting author and demands an intelligent and discerning reader. Choosing Lady Macbeth, a semi-fictional character immortalized by Shakespeare, immediately selects her audience. Lady Macbeth, On the Couch: Inside the Mind and Life of Lady Macbeth is of course, a novel, but it is designed and treated like a psycho-biography. It is a book for Shakespeare lovers, Scottish history lovers, psychology lovers and even adventure lovers. But not for the faint-hearted.

What made Lady M. behave as she did? Dr. Bond, a psychoanalyst of no small accomplishments (both professionally and as an author of more than a dozen books) has researched the factual evidence thoroughly, as indicated by her extensive bibliography. She is further challenged by the fact that Sigmund Freud himself could/would shed no light on Lady Macbeth’s psyche.

Eleventh century Scotland was a violent, rough, superstitious country, reminiscent of the blue-faced near-barbarians of Braveheart.   A dozen kings had already been murdered by men who a) believed they had a better claim to the throne, b) thought they could do a better job of it, or c) because they felt like it. Prior to her marriage, Lady Macbeth was born into a royal line, and raised as a queen-to-be. She was abducted twice, abused, ravaged and treated as violently as the rest of her counterparts since her claim was just as good, if not better, than anyone else’s. Her marriage to Macbeth, which according to Dr. Bond, became a love match sometime later, and following the usual murders and mayhem. Perhaps Macbeth was merely her vehicle to achieve her birthright.

If the prophesies of Shakespeare’s three weird sisters were instrumental in Macbeth’s vision of his future, then too, Lady M had her own prophesy of a sort: the reinforcement of a childhood trait. If she set her mind to something, while others would waver, she would not. She was very proud of that steadfast quality, according to Dr. Bond, and, of course, much to her later regret, she did not waver. She pushed, she prodded, she cajoled, she challenged, she humiliated and did whatever she needed to do to set Macbeth on his quest for their throne, and his bloody and murderous decline into damnation and ruin. Once she realized her role, she could not live with the consequences any more than he could.

There is no weakness in Dr. Bond’s writing style nor in her psychoanalytical abilities. She is a fluent and articulate author. If there is any weakness, it is in the believability of Lady M as written. She is described as young, beautiful, sultry, sensuous and red-headed – shades of Rita Hayworth. The blue-faced bravehearts were a scraggly, snaggle-toothed grimy lot – male and female.   It doesn’t fit. Besides, the intensity of Lady M suggests Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca rather than Gilda.

The one question of Shakespeare’s fictionalized character that is answered (although not by Dr. Bond) is why the great playwright never gave her a first name. She is always and only “Lady Macbeth.” According to Dr. Bond, who is an excellent researcher, her given name was Gruoch.  Our beloved poet-bard, was likely aware of that as well. The name “Gruoch” alone is death to young, beautiful, sultry, sensuous and red-headed.   And he who created Juliet, Ophelia and Desdemona, names that dance trippingly on the tongue, likely could not stomach a Gruoch, which comes gaggingly up the gullet. What’s in a name, indeed!

Lady Macbeth: On the Couch, nevertheless is a fascinating into-the-mind-of book for those who want a challenging and interesting psychological expose.  And if you are a Shakespeare lover, even more so!


LADY MACBETH: On the Couch: Inside the Mind and Life of Lady Macbeth

Bancroft Press, 1914

ISBN: 978-1-61088-093-0

Available Hardcover, Paperback and Kindle

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Young Herbert Hoover’s Best Career Move

The story of Herbert Hoover is a true Horatio Alger story. Poor boy makes good through his own pluck and hard work. And a little bit of help along the way.

The Making of an Engineer

Herbert Hoover was an Iowa farm boy, completely orphaned by ten and sent to live with relatives in Oregon. He received kind and affectionate treatment from them, but as strict Quakers, they also instilled the values of diligent hard work and initiative. Hoover obliged. He studied first, did his household chores second, earned extra spending money third, and finally, if there was a little time, he could play. Or go fishing.

Young Herbert Hoover, about the time he entered Stanford University.

A summer job in an engineering firm while he was in high school gave him some direction for a future career in engineering. Stanford University had just opened in Palo Alto, California, and the tuition was free – if you could pass the entrance examination. (Even then, Stanford did not take dummies!) Since there were other expenses associated with a college education besides tuition, Bert, as his friends called him, took on a variety of part-time jobs to earn his room and board and books and modest spending allowance. He did everything from working in the registrar’s office to delivering laundry. Plus, he managed the baseball team. And became Class Treasurer. Needless to say, with all those part time jobs and activities, he became very well known on campus. His dormant leadership and administrative talents began to surface.

His class work did not suffer, either. His professors liked him and were delighted to encourage the shy young man whose diligence was worn on his sleeve. They were also delighted to introduce him to many mining and engineering executives who frequently visited the newly-created University.

Herbert Hoover 1898

Herbert Hoover, not long after he graduated from Stanford.

The introductions to those well-placed engineering professionals provided young Hoover with summer employment as well as future contacts.

Herbert Hoover: Graduation Choices

Herbert Hoover was well aware of his “aloneness” in the world when he graduated from Stanford. While his relationship with his Oregon family would always be cordial, he knew that they had done their best for him, and would/could do no more. His own natural brother and sister would be dear to him for the rest of his long life, but they could do little to guide his future. At twenty-one, he needed to chart his own course.


Wedding day

Lou Henry, at the time she married Herbert Hoover. She had an adventuresome soul, and would be a perfect companion.

Then there was another slight “concern.” He had become pleasantly acquainted with a fellow geology student, a Miss Lou Henry. Born in the same year as he, and also in Iowa, Miss Henry had already graduated from a Normal School (Teacher’s College) prior to attending Stanford. They were the same age, but she was a freshman while Bert was a senior.

Lou Henry Hoover was a “western” woman, who loved the outdoors, and was eager for the new, novel and adventurous life.

The two of them had bonded easily, despite her outgoing middle-class upbringing, and his introverted hard-working shyness. The two parted when Hoover graduated, but they agreed to correspond. It seems that Miss Henry’s interest in the bashful Bert had been apparent from the start.

And despite the introductions to some of the leading mining executives, there was no offer of a job for Herbert Hoover.

The Job Finally Appears

The only opportunity that seemed to present itself to the newly graduated Hoover was a bottom-level position in a gold mine in Nevada City, California: pushing a heavy tram cart loaded with ore for ten hours a day, at the sumptuous salary of $2 a day. Grueling work – especially for a Stanford University graduate.

One biographer would claim that taking that menial job was the best career move Hoover ever made.

Many of those Nevada City miners were from Cornwall in western England, near the Welsh border, where mining had been the family occupation for generations. There was nothing about mines and mining that these Cornish men did not know.

Young Mr. Hoover, not long after he embarked on a life that would make him a multi-millionaire by the time he was thirty.

They took a liking to the young college fellow with the moon-face. He was hard working and not snobbish, qualities they admired. He was also eager to learn. They were just as eager to share their decades of empirical knowledge with him: the kind of knowledge that cannot be learned in a classroom.

It would be said later of Mining Engineer Herbert Hoover, that he could “smell” a mine and intuitively determine  if it would be productive. He would always credit those Cornish miners for helping him develop those intangible instincts.

Herbert Hoover: Upward Mobility

Bert Hoover did not stay very long at the bottom of the mine, both literally and figuratively.   A few months was all that was needed.  The young “trainee” with the college degree was ready to move up.

From a $2-per-day job in 1895, his next position paid $2,000 per year, considered a sizable sum: nearly $50 per week. This was at a time that the average man made $20 or $25 a week, and could support a family.

Herbert Hoover was a hands-on mining executive. Many of his skills and “intuitions” were the results of working with Cornish miners at the start of his career.

Bert impressed his employers with his diligence and desire to get ahead. He was sent to remote regions of Australia for his next opportunity in a position considered far above his age and experience level. He did not disappoint. All the while, he maintained a correspondence with Miss Henry.

Finally, in 1899, after Lou Henry graduated with her own degree in geology, Bert Hoover sent her a long telegram telling her about a new position he had been offered. In China. He would be earning $40,000 a year, and he was only twenty-five years old. (The President of the United States only earned $75,000 a year!) Then he asked her to marry him.

Her reply was short.  She said “Yes.”


Caroli, Betty Boyd – First Ladies – Oxford University Press, 1995

Mayer, Dale M. – Lou Henry Hoover, A Prototype for First Ladies – Nova History Publications, 2004

Smioth, Richard Norton – An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover – Simon and Schuster, 1984



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Chasing Grover Cleveland in 1886

History would come to regard Grover Cleveland as one of our most tight-lipped Presidents. The secrecy surrounding his nuptials would rank high on that list.

President Cleveland: Affianced for a Year

When Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) was inaugurated in 1885, he was a 49-year-old bachelor and looked the part: rotund (nearly three hundred pounds), scowly-faced, mustachioed, cigar smoking and obviously meaning business all the way. Naturally every Washington matron sought to introduce him to a potential bride, via their maiden aunts or widowed sisters or otherwise eligible ladies in their circles.

Frances Folsom was twenty-one years old when she became Mrs. Grover Cleveland – and First Lady of the land.

He did not rise to the bait. No one knew it at the time, but President Cleveland was already engaged to be married. The object of his affection was 21-year-old Frances Folsom, recently graduated from Wells College in Aurora, New York, and currently traveling in Europe with her widowed mother. For months there was no inkling that this marriage was in the offing, but shortly before the Folsom women were about to return, newspaper reporters in Washington began to suspect something was afoot.

It has never been completely documented as to what exactly tipped them off, but it may well have been the fact that Grover Cleveland, who had never owned a house before, had just closed on a large home in Georgetown. Real estate sales and purchases are public record. This was big news. Speculation was that the President was set to marry Emma Folsom, Frances’ mother, the long time widow of Cleveland’s former law partner and close friend. Nope.

By the time the Folsom women docked in New York, the cat was out of the bag. As the popular song  from the hit Gilbert & Sullivan operetta The Mikado went, “He’s Going to Marry Yum-Yum.” Frances was not only young, but she was pretty, had a nice trim figure, a peaches-and-cream complexion – and dimples!

The Wedding Behind Closed Curtains

The American public was delighted at the President’s marriage – and doubly delighted at his lovely choice.

The White House wedding between the President and the young Miss Folsom took place a week after she arrived. The mother-of-the-bride had absolutely nothing to do with planning the wedding. Neither did the bride. Their only “assignment” was procuring the wedding gown. The President did everything else. He hand-wrote the invitations – less than fifty of them. He arranged for the minister and the honeymoon. His sister, Rose Elizabeth, who had been serving as his hostess for a year, planned the menu and the floral arrangements. John Philip Sousa and the Marine Band had been summoned.

It has been suggested that the reason Grover Cleveland wanted the wedding in the White House was that he could keep it completely under his control. If it had been elsewhere, it would be difficult to arrange the privacy he demanded. As it was, the press, which by the mid-1880s had become increasingly intrusive, was specifically barred from attending.   The President refused all interviews, and insisted that Miss Folsom and her mother do the same. Ditto the White House staff.

Only a handful of people actually saw the ceremony of President Cleveland and Miss Frances Folsom. Newspaper artists made sketches from general information and imagination.

To make sure that the President’s wedding would remain private, he blackened the windows and had all draperies closed so no one could even peek in.  There were guards to keep spectators at a safe distance. The only small concession that was made, was sending a signal when the “I Do’s” had been said, so all the church bells in town could ring out the happy news.

Once the ceremony had been completed, the dinner served and the guests greeted and thanked, the President and the new Mrs. Cleveland changed into their traveling clothes, and slipped of the White House via a side entrance where a carriage was waiting to take them to their honeymoon train.

The Chase Begins

Newspaper artists had a field day producing romantic likenesses of the President and his bride.

Reporters are usually credited with having a “nose for news.” A special sense-of-imminent-activity. The reporters in 1886 were no different than they are today. The smelled an “escape” plot and were hot on the trail.

The President had not only arranged for a head start, but had further arranged that their train would not be in the station, but would be waiting for them a mile down the tracks, giving the new couple an added advantage.

A bunch of intrepid reporters with the deep expense-account pockets of their publishers chartered a private train for a “follow that train!” pursuit. They proceeded to chase the Clevelands to the Deer Park Lodge in the Catoctin Mountains in Maryland, about an hour from Washington, where they had settled in for a five day honeymoon.

The Honeymoon Watch

The proprietors of the resort were naturally thrilled to be hosting the honeymoon of the President of the United States, and had agreed to whatever terms he had demanded regarding his “privacy.” His cottage was in a secluded area, away from the main building, and far from the main road where he and his bride could enjoy a few days alone-together. So he thought.

The main house of the Deer Park Lodge Resort. The President and Mrs. Cleveland had a private cottage on the premises.

As promised, the “ghouls of the press,” as Cleveland would refer to them, were given no co-operation from the resort’s proprietor. That did not deter them in the slightest.

Some determined newsmen, armed with binoculars, shinnied up trees to get a better view of the comings and goings of the President and his bride. They bribed waiters carrying meals to the honeymoon cottage to lift the service covers so they could report “what was for dinner.”

When Cleveland took his new missus out for an afternoon in the nearby trout stream, banner headlines reported “Mrs. Cleveland Fishes.”

When it was reported that Mrs. Cleveland played the piano for the President, piano manufacturers around the country offered to “donate” a piano to the White House for the First Lady’s pleasure. All they wanted was the opportunity to publicize the “donation.” The President’s perpetual scowl was now etched.

The President was no longer a political figure. He was now becoming a celebrity and he did not like it one bit! But the new Mrs. Cleveland was as sweet as pie about it. Definitely yum-yum!


        Boller, Paul Jr. – Presidential Anecdotes, Oxford University Press, 1981

       Brodsky Alyn – Grover Cleveland: A Study in Character. NY, St. Martin’s Press, 2000

       Carpenter, Frank G. – Carp’s Washington – McGraw Hill, 1960

            Foster, Feather – The First Ladies, Sourcebooks 2011

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