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What is a Coterie?

When Mary Lincoln was a belle in Springfield, Illinois, she and her friends enjoyed spending time together. Sometimes called the Springfield Clique, they gathered to discuss literature, poetry, town gossip, and politics.  They were young, single, and enjoyed the social life that Springfield had to offer them.  Just like young adults today, Mary and her friends liked to “hang out” together, enjoy refreshments, and talk.  Mary and her friends dubbed themselves the Coterie – which is a group of close friends with a unifying common interest or purpose.

And that is just what the Mary Lincoln Coterie is today.  We are good friends who share a common interest – that interest being Mary Lincoln.

Who we are.


Founded by three good friends who all share an interest in Mary Lincoln, the coterie began as a way to honor and pay tribute to Mary Lincoln on the anniversary of her death.

The founders of Mary Lincoln's Coterie (L to R) Donna Daniels, Valerie Gugala, and Donna McCreary

The founders of Mary Lincoln’s Coterie (L to R) Donna Daniels, Valerie Gugala, and Donna McCreary



Donna Daniels – Donna is an award winning Mary Lincoln presenter and actress, and has an extensive background in community theatre. She has been portraying Mary Todd Lincoln professionally since 1988. She is a  past Vice-President of the National Association of Lincoln Presenters and along with her husband Max, was named by the Association as the first recipients of its award for “Best Abraham and Mary Lincoln Team” in 1994. Donna  has been featured on C-Span cable Network in 1994 in the Lincoln-Douglas Debate series and on the “Someone You Should Know” program on Channel 7, WLS (ABC) Television in Chicago. Since 1995, she has performed on numerous occasions at the Lincoln Home Visitor Center in Springfield, Illinois. More about Donna Here



Valerie Gugala- Valerie is an actress, theatre producer and public speaker. She has performed in front of schools, churches, senior groups and park districts throughout the Chicago area. She has spent 40+  years researching the Lincoln family,  and has been performing as Mrs. Lincoln for more than  15. She has an extensive collection of books on the Lincoln family, with special emphasis on Mrs. Lincoln and their Springfield years. She has done primary source research at the Chicago Historical Society, the Illinois State Historical Library, and the Batavia Depot Museum, among other places & has used these family letters, court documents, and period newspapers to write performance outlines.  More about Valerie Here


Donna McCreary – Donna is an award winning presenter, actress, and author who specializes in the life of Mrs. Lincoln and her Todd family relatives. She has written two books about the Lincolns.  Fashionable First Lady takes a look at Mary’s wardrobe; Lincoln’s Table is a cornucopia of recipes for foods enjoyed by the Lincoln family.  Donna began portraying Mary in 1992.  While she sometimes shares the stage with “Mr. Lincoln,” she more often performs an original one-woman play or shares a lecture about Mary. More about Donna Here


What does the Coterie do?


Every year in July, we met in Springfield, IL for a few days closest to the anniversary of Mary Lincoln’s death.  During these days, we host a wreath laying ceremony at the Lincoln Tomb; participate in performances and lectures at The Lincoln Home; host a Memorial Luncheon; and participate in a variety of other events and programs.


Can I join the Coterie?

Yes.  The events that are held in Springfield are open to the public.  Many of them have free admission.  The luncheon requires that you make a reservation in advance, click here for the reservation form. Other events may require an admission fee.  Anyone is welcome to attend any of these events.


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