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.
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 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, historian, and author who specializes in the life of Mrs. Lincoln and her Todd family relatives. She has written three 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. The Kentucky Todds in Lexington Cemetery offers short biographical information of each of Mary Lincoln’s relatives buried in the cemetery. She also contributed an essay to the book The Mary Lincoln Enigma. Donna portrayed Mary on stage from 1992 until 2012. She continues to research the family and share her insights with audiences through lectures and personal appearances.
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.
Since the advent of Covid-19, the Coterie has become very active on social media and zoom. We host book discussion and lectures every month, and also virtual lunch meetups. Search for us on facebook as the group “Mary Lincoln’s Coterie”
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.