Who Were Abraham Lincoln's Siblings?

Wikimedia // Public Domain
Wikimedia // Public Domain

Think of Abraham Lincoln's family, and Tad or Mary are likely to come to mind. So don't blame yourself if the names Sarah or Thomas Lincoln don't exactly ring a bell. But though they're much less known, both of Lincoln's siblings helped make him the man—and president—he eventually became.

Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln had three children: Sarah, Abraham, and Thomas, also known as Tommy. (Yes, Lincoln was a middle child, a fact that makes his future rise to fame even more noteworthy.) Sarah was born in 1807, two years earlier than Abraham. In 1812 (some accounts say 1813), tragedy struck the Lincolns when their third child, Tommy, died at just three days of age. It is not certain what killed Tommy, but infant mortality was high in that era, especially on the frontier. Lincoln only mentioned Tommy a single time during his public career, but his death must have deeply grieved his family.

Together, brother and sister attended what was known as a "blab" or ABC school, a kind of early primary school common in frontier states like Indiana, where the family moved in 1816. Instead of featuring age-separated classrooms or expensive books or pencils, such schools used a strictly oral curriculum. The "blab" part came from teachers who recited rote lessons to the kids, who in turn blabbed them back. That back-and-forth didn't necessarily provide a great education (and given that the school charged tuition, it probably cost the Lincolns dearly to send them there), but it was enough to instill the basics in both Lincoln kids.

But more grief was on its way for the Lincolns. Just two years after making the rough journey to Little Pigeon Creek and building a cabin there, Abraham Lincoln’s mother, Nancy, contracted "milk sickness" after drinking milk from a cow that had been poisoned by white snakeroot, and died.

Abraham and Sarah were devastated. Though she was only two years older than her brother, Sarah tried to be a mother to Abraham. She also inherited the chores expected of the woman of the house, caring for her brother, father, and a cousin who lived with them.

Just a year later, their father left brother, sister, and 18-year-old cousin at home as he hunted for another wife. When he returned with a new wife, Sarah Bush Johnston, both brother and sister were so dirty and unkempt that she scrubbed them clean. Johnston had three children of her own, and with the help of a new mother and in a house with three stepsiblings, the Lincoln children went back to a life of hard work and sporadic education.

Abraham's sister Sarah was known in her community as gentle, intelligent, and kind. She married in 1826 to Aaron Grigsby and became pregnant. But during her delivery, she died unexpectedly at age 21. Abraham Lincoln never forgave the Grigsbys, whom he apparently blamed for not calling the doctor in time to save his sister. A few years later, in response to the fact that the Grigsbys did not invite him to a family wedding, he lashed out in the form of a biting, satirical poem about the event that culminated in a raunchy verse about two men who get married, as detailed in one Abraham Lincoln biography by writer C.A. Tripp.

Sarah Lincoln Grigsby's grave. Image credit: Stomcl via Wikimedia // Public domain

 
Though Sarah is thought to have affected Abraham deeply with her intelligence and commitment, he seems to have been less impressed by his stepsiblings. In 1851, he wrote his stepbrother John Daniel Johnston a scathing letter denying him a loan of $80 and observing that "I doubt whether since I saw you, you have done a good whole day's work, in any one day."

The letter is tinged with humor amidst the bitterness, like many of Lincoln's missives, but it suggests that his non-Lincoln siblings never stole his heart the way his big sister did. Though Sarah never lived to see his accomplishments, she helped him mature into the person he eventually became—one who met life's challenges with perseverance and, when needed, a bit of sarcastic wit.

Save Up to 80 Percent on Furniture, Home Decor, and Appliances During Wayfair's Way Day 2020 Sale

Wayfair
Wayfair

From September 23 to September 24, customers can get as much as 80 percent off home decor, furniture, WFH essentials, kitchen appliances, and more during the Wayfair's Way Day 2020 sale. Additionally, when you buy a select Samsung appliance during the sale, you'll also get a $200 Wayfair gift card once the product ships. Make sure to see all that the Way Day 2020 sale has to offer. These prices won’t last long, so we've also compiled a list of the best deals for your home below.

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- Mistana Hillsby Power Loom Beige Saffron/Teal Rug $49 (save $97)

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- Union Rustic Gunter Power Loom Blue/Khaki Rug $22 (save $38)

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- Alwyn Home 14-inch Medium Gel Memory Foam King Mattress $580 (save $1420)

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- Sol 72 Outdoor 8-Piece Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $650 (save $1180)

- Langley Street Darren 68-Inch Tuxedo Arm Sofa $340 (save $1410)

- Three Posts Tyronza Coffee Table $147 (save $193)

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- Cuisinart 11-Piece Aluminum Non Stick Cookware Set $100 (save $200)

- Rachael Ray Cucina 10-Piece Non-Stick Bakeware Set $92 (save $108)

- NutriBullet Rx Smart 45-Ounce Personal Countertop Blender $124 (save $56)

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Samsung/Wayfair

- Samsung 36-Inch French Door Energy Smart Refrigerator $3600 (save $400)

- Cosmo 30-Inch Freestanding Electric Range Oven $1420 (save $1580)

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Foundery Select/Wayfair

- Techi Mobili Adjustable Laptop Cart $50 (save $20)

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- Symple Stuff Clay Mesh Task Chair $128 (save $121)

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- Lorell Hard Floor Chairmat $52 (save $39)

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Absentee Ballot vs. Mail-In Ballot: What’s the Difference?

Liliboas/iStock via Getty Images
Liliboas/iStock via Getty Images

Since you mail in an absentee ballot, it seems like mail-in ballot is just a convenient alternative for people who always forget the word absentee. And though the terms are often used interchangeably, there is technically a difference.

Up until the Civil War, American voters were generally required to vote at their local polling stations in person. But when states realized this would prevent hundreds of thousands of soldiers from voting in the 1864 presidential election, they started passing laws to let them send in their ballots instead. As The Washington Post explains, state legislatures have since broadened these laws to include other citizens who can’t make it to the polls on Election Day: people who are traveling, people who have disabilities, people attending college away from home, etc. Because these voters are all physically absent from the polls for one reason or another, their ballots are known as absentee ballots.

Some states require you to meet certain criteria in order to qualify for an absentee ballot, while others don’t ask you to give a reason at all (which is known as “no-excuse absentee voting”). Since this year’s general election is happening during a pandemic, many states have temporarily adopted a no-excuse policy to encourage everyone to vote from home. But even if you don’t need to provide an excuse, you do usually need to request an absentee ballot.

According to Dictionary.com, mail-in ballot is a more general term that can refer to any ballot you send in. It’s often used when talking about all-mail voting, when states send a ballot to every registered voter—no request necessary. Oregon and a few other states actually conduct all elections like this, and several other states have decided to do it for the upcoming presidential election. But even though you don’t have to send in an application requesting a mail-in ballot in these situations, you do still have to be registered to vote.

Because voting processes are mostly left up to the states, there’s quite a bit of variation when it comes to what officials call ballots that you don’t cast in person. You could see the term mail-in ballot—or vote-by-mail ballot, or advanced ballot, or something similar—on an application for an absentee ballot, and you could hear absentee ballot used in a conversation about all-mail voting.

No matter what you call it, you should definitely mail one in for this election—here’s how to do that in your state.