You won't recognize her name, but you know her son. She is a mere footnote in the pages of history. He is quoted, celebrated, memorialized, and revered. We know little about her. At least 15,000 books have been written about him.
- She lived in poverty.
- She married an uneducated man who could barely scribble his own name.
- She was a farmer's wife used to eking out a living from little patches of soil.
- She died when her son was only nine.
How does one weave a legacy from such few and unattractive strands?
You will have to ask Nancy Hanks Lincoln. This "quiet, intelligent young woman of uncertain ancestry," "superior to her husband in every way," invested her everyday brilliance on her young child. She read him the Bible. She taught him to read and spell. She tutored him sweetness and benevolence. Her impact was enormous. Her son's words say it all:
Thomas Lincoln remarried shorty after Nancy died. Abraham's step-mother, Sarah Bush Lincoln, would also play a pivotal role in the life of our 16th President. In Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin, summarizes the influence of Sarah.
Early on, Sarah Bush Lincoln recognized that Abraham was "a Boy of uncommon natural Talents." Though uneducated herself, she did all she could to encourage him to read, learn, and grow. "His mind & mine--what little I had seemed to run together--move in the same channel."
Moms, step-moms, and surrogate moms. You are a powerful lot. God honors you. We do too!
Note: Lincoln's quote about his mother as well as the historical data about her come from Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team Of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Simon & Schuster. 2006. Page 47. Goodwin provides the source data in her notes.