This bodice was worn by Mary Lincoln approximately a decade after the death of her husband. Abraham Lincoln’s assassination had plunged Mary into a deep grief from which she never truly recovered, particularly after the additional blow of losing her youngest son, Tad, in 1871. The woman who once delighted in fine, fashionable gowns wore only somber black mourning ensembles for the rest of her life.
At some point, Mary gave this bodice (and likely its matching skirt) to her niece and namesake, Mary Wallace Baker. Mary Baker had spent time with her aunt and uncle in Washington D.C. and even named her youngest son Lincoln. After Mary Lincoln was widowed, she gave her niece several of the nice dresses she no longer had the heart to wear. These garments were destroyed when Mary Baker’s house burned down in 1875. Mary Lincoln made Mary Baker another gift of clothing at the end of her life. These passed from Mary Baker to her granddaughter, Florence Patterson, who donated them to the Illinois State Museum in 1971.