The Women: Eliza Rumsey Francis (1793-1893)

Eliza Francis was the sort of mother-figure who seemed to play a prominent role in Mr. Lincoln’s social cultivation in the decade leading up to his marriage in 1842. She played a critical role in reestablishing the relationship between Mary Todd and Mr. Lincoln after their engagement was broken in 1841. “She was “adept in reconciling differences, and, as I can personally vouch, the most social of all the society-loving merry dames of Springfield at that time. She was a close friend of all the best society people, and was inferior to none as a leader in all the good things among Springfield’s social affairs,” wrote attorney Henry Rankin.1

Indeed, Eliza Francis played as critical a role in Mr. Lincoln’s social life as her husband, Sangamo Journal editor Simeon Francis, played in Mr. Lincoln’s political life. “The breakup of the romance between Lincoln and Mary Todd [in 1841] worried Mrs. Francis, and she resolved to attempt a reconciliation. She was a leader in Springfield social circles and noted for her entertainments and parties. Determined that Lincoln and Mary should meet again, she invited them to her next affair,” wrote Robert S. Harper in Lincoln and the Press.2

“Here were two popular, fine young people who inspired devoted friendship in others and both were dissatisfied and lonely,” wrote Ruth Painter Randall in The Courtship of Mr. Lincoln. “It was a state of affairs that any warmhearted, motherly woman with a normal feminine instinct for matchmaking would find impossible to resist. Such a woman was Mrs. Simeon Francis, wife of the publisher of the Sangamo Journal, who was devoted to Lincoln. It is record that Dr. [Anson G.] Henry also had part in bringing the lovers together; perhaps he knew what was going to happen at the Simeon Francis home.”3

Although no one has recorded what happened at the Francis residence, that meeting led to others in the Francis parlor – away from the prying eyes of Elizabeth and Ninian Edwards, who did not approve of the match. “Mrs. Edwards asked Mary why she was concealing Lincoln’s renewed attentions, and she said she thought it best to keep her affairs to herself,” wrote Harper.4 The reconciliation occurred at the same time that Mr. Lincoln and Mary Todd were writing versions of the “Rebecca” letters in the Sangamo Journal satirizing State Auditor James Shields. In order to protect Mary’s identity as the co-author of one of the most biting letters, Mr. Lincoln acknowledged that he was the author of the series. The consequent aborted duel between Mr. Lincoln and Shields may have helped drive the couple back together.

Knowledge of Eliza Francis’s relationship to Mr. Lincoln is limited by her reticence. More than two decades after his death, she wrote “that my intimacy with Mr & Mrs Lincoln was of so sacred a nature, that on no consideration could I be induced to open to the public gaze, that which has been buried these many years. To me it would look like a breach of trust.”5 No letters are known from Mr. Lincoln to her and only one cryptic reference in a letter to her husband in an August 1860: “Make my kindest regards to Mrs. Francis; and tell her I both hope and believe she is not so unhappy as when I saw her last.” In the letter, Mr. Lincoln confided to the Simeon Francis, who had moved to Oregon: “I hesitate to say it, but it really appears now, as if the success of the Republican ticket is inevitable.”6


  1. Henry Rankin, Abraham Lincoln: The First American, p. 169.
  2. Robert S. Harper, Lincoln and the Press, p. 4.
  3. Ruth Painter Randall, The Courtship of Mr. Lincoln, p. 171.
  4. Robert S. Harper, Lincoln and the Press, p. 4.
  5. Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, editor, Herndon’s Informants, p. 624 (Letter of Mrs. Simeon Francis to William H. Herndon, August 10, 1887).
  6. Roy P. Basler, editor, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume IV, p. 90 (Letter to Simeon Francis, August 4, 1860).