First a maid and seamstress, Mary Ann Cuthbert replaced the personal maid named Ellen who had accompanied Mrs. Lincoln from Springfield. Mrs. Cuthbert later served as chief housekeeper at the White House.
She was charged with confidential assignments for Mary Todd Lincoln. Mrs. Lincoln wired Mrs. Cuthbert from Fortress Monroe on March 24, 1865: “Send a telegram, directed to City Point, so soon as you receive this & say, if all is right at the house – Every thing is left in your charge – be careful – ” When she did not answer the telegram with 24 hours, she telegraphed the White House door keeper: “Ask Cuthbert why telegram of yesterday has not been answered.”1
On November 9, 1862, the President wrote his wife in Boston: “Mrs. Cuthbert & Aunt Mary [a nurse] want to move to the White House, because it has grown so cold at Soldiers Home. Shall they?”2 Ten months later on September 22, 1863, the President telegraphed Mrs. Lincoln at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York: “Did you receive my dispatch of yesterday? Mrs. Cuthbert did not correctly understand me I directed her to tell you to use your own pleasure whether to stay or come; and I did not say it is sickly and that you should on no account come. So far as I see or know, it was never healthier and I really wish to see you. Answer this on receipt.” Mrs. Lincoln replied that she would come home as soon as possible.3
Later, Mrs. Cuthbert indicated to Orville H. Browning that she had been cheated out of her official salary. Browning’s diary entry of April 12, 1866 reported: “Met Mrs Cuthbert, housekeeper at the White House in President Lincolns time. Met her on the steps of the Capitol. She stopped me to asked me to aid in getting her some employment. She said she was very destitute and in distress. That Congress allowed $600 per annum for Stewardess at the White House, but she never got—it was all taken and appropriated by Mrs Lincoln, and she was left pennyless.”4
- Justin G. Turner and Linda Levitt Turner, editors, Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters, p. 210 (Telegram from Mary Todd Lincoln to Mary Ann Cuthbert, March 24, 1865).
- Roy P. Basler, editor, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume V, p. 492.
- Basler, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume VI, p. 474.
- Michael Burlingame, editor, At Lincoln’s Side: John Jay’s Civil War Correspondence and Selected Writings, p. 187.