Mary Lincoln took her position as female representative of the nation very seriously. The crisis of the Civil War made it particularly vital that the Lincoln administration present a competent and unifying public face. Even before the new President took office, southern states had seceded from the union to set up the Confederate States of America. The Lincolns needed to impress influential leaders from the border states as well as ambassadors from France and England, then being courted by the Confederacy. Many people felt Mary Lincoln played the role of First Lady extremely well; writers in the press sometimes portrayed her as "the republican queen," elegant and admirable at public occasions. Others disliked the extravagant press coverage of the First Lady and criticized her for conspicuous consumption in time of war and sacrifice for the nation.
Anton Hohenstein, Abraham Lincoln's Last Reception. (Philadelphia: John Smith, 1865). lithograph, hand-colored, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.