Mary Lincoln Beckwith

Mary Lincoln (
Mary Lincoln ("Peggy") Beckwith is shown here with her dog. Taken 1905.

Time Period

1910-1940

Subject Categories

Agriculture, Arts, Everyday Life, Sports

Notable Facts

One of Vermont's first women to take up flying. Spent considerable time at Hildene, in Manchester, Vermont, focusing on ecology, agriculture and painting.

Personal Information

Date of Birth

08/22/1898

Date of Death

07/10/1975

Primary Residence

Manchester

Ethnicity

Caucasian

Historical Significance

Mary Lincoln Beckwith, known as Peggy, was the daughter of Jessie Lincoln and Warren Beckwith and great granddaughter of Abraham Lincoln. She spent her childhood mainly at Robert Todd Lincoln's Georgian Revival mansion, Hildene, in Manchester, Vermont, though she also spent time in Washington, D.C.

Sparked by the national feats of female pilots, especially Amelia Earhart, Peggy Beckwith started private flight lessons in D.C. in the late 1920's. In 1930, she was able to fly her Gypsy Moth to Manchester, Vermont, where she used to land her plane on Hildene's meadows and, eventually, had a hangar built there. From this first small plane, Beckwith advanced to a Fleet Model 1 and began to take classes at the Bowman Aviation School in Springfield, Vermont. She eventually graduated to a Travelair.

Like all of the descendants of Abraham Lincoln, Beckwith was followed closely by the press which, in her case, was not appreciated. New Yorker magazine described her as a "a squat, fair-haired, blue-eyed chain smoker who golfed and dabbled in oil painting and sculpture."

The Lincoln family was not supportive of Peggy's endeavors in the air. Legend has it that Mrs. Robert Todd Lincoln (Mary Harlan Lincoln) bribed her granddaughter with $10,000 to stop flying. Peggy eventually succumbed to the pressures of her family and gave up her wings.

Instead, she devoted herself to life at Hildene, where she learned about and applied her knowledge concerning ecology and preservation farming. She also raised cattle and continued to "dabble" in the arts. Beckwith's grandmother, Mary Harlan Lincoln, left Hildene to her daughter Mamie(Mary)and then, in succession, to Peggy Beckwith. If Beckwith did not have children, which turned out to be the case, Mary Harlane Lincoln stipulated in her will that Hildene be left to the Church of Christ, Scientist.

Occupations

  • Pilot
  • Farmer
  • Ecologist

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • "Not Afraid to Fly"

  • "Descendants of Abraham Lincoln; Generation No. 3" Link

  • "Last of the Lincolns"

  • Hildene, the Lincoln Family Home Link

  • Robert Lincoln - life and family Link

Additional Images

Jessie Lincoln Beckwith, granddaughter of Abraham Lincoln, poses with her two children, Peggy and Robert. Taken 1912.
Jessie Lincoln Beckwith, granddaughter of Abraham Lincoln, poses with her two children, Peggy and Robert. Taken 1912.
Hildene Back Gardens courtesy of Hildene
Hildene Back Gardens courtesy of Hildene
Beckwith in Plane courtesy of Hildene
Beckwith in Plane courtesy of Hildene
Beckwith in Fur Coat courtesy of Hildene
Beckwith in Fur Coat courtesy of Hildene
Mary Harlan Lincoln - Beckwith's grandmother
Mary Harlan Lincoln - Beckwith's grandmother
Mary, Abraham and Jessie Lincoln courtesy of Chicago History Museum
Mary, Abraham and Jessie Lincoln courtesy of Chicago History Museum