First person historical portrayal of America's most misunderstood First Lady.
What makes me different, and why should you choose my presentations?
I have 15+ years of experience presenting my programs all across Chicagoland and beyond. I have performed at The Lincoln Home National Historic Site (one of only 4 women who have done so) and I have spoken to the volunteers of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Plus I have been studying the Lincoln Family for over 40 years. You will not find a more knowledgeable solo Mary Lincoln presenter!
What to Expect
A Visit with Mrs. Lincoln
Mary Lincoln comes to life as presented by Valerie Gugala. She sets the historical record straight as she takes listeners through her life as a young woman born into a wealthy Lexington, KY family, and the transformation she made from that life to become the wife of a young man whose background was just the opposite. Mrs. Lincoln takes the audience through the Lincoln family’s life in Springfield, Abraham’s political career and election to the presidency, and their life in the White House during the Civil War. Time for questions from the audience for Mrs. Lincoln is included in this 1 ½ hour program.
Divided: Mary Lincoln & Emilie Todd Helm
It is December 1863. The Civil War rages on without an end in sight. At the White House. Mrs. Lincoln’s younger half sister Emilie is visiting. Emilie and Mary discuss their lives leading up to the war, and reminisce about happier times in Lexington, KY and Springfield, IL. They discuss the war years and the tradegies that have befallen their family. The war has torn their family apart, will it tear the sister apart as well? This 1 hour program can include a question and answer session with Mrs Lincoln & Mrs. Helm.
Lectures (no period attire)
“Was Mary Lincoln Insane?”
This is the question that audiences ask any time Valerie performs or speaks about Mrs. Lincoln. In this lecture, Valerie explains what has become known as the “insanity episode”. Who decided that Mary should be declared insane? What did her family think? Was she actually insane, or was she a misdiagnosed and over medicated victim? Hear the facts of the case and make your own decisions about this much maligned first lady. 1 hour in length, plus a Q and A session.
“Mary Lincoln as a Mother”
Mary Lincoln’s relationship with her children is explored in this program. Springfield neighbor’s recollections and Mary’s own words are used to show how she viewed marriage and motherhood, and how she dealt with her grief at the death of her sons. 45 mins, plus a Q & A session.
“Mary Lincoln and the Spiritualists”
After the death of her son Willie, Mary Lincoln held seances in the White House to try and contact him and other deceased relatives. Why did Mary (and many other bereaved families) believe in the spiritualist movement? What happened at these Seances? Did Abraham Lincoln ever attend one? This lecture will answer these questions and more. 45 mins plus a Q & A session.
Is there a topic about the Lincoln family that you and your group are particularly interested in? With at least 2 months advance notice, Valerie can create a lecture customized for you. Call or email for more information. Fee will vary with lecture length requested.
First person Historical presenter Valerie Gugala has been studying Abraham and Mary Lincoln for as long as she can remember. When she was a small child, she could recite The Gettysburg Address from memory. She made essential corrections to the film “The Trails of Lincoln” after listening to an audiotape of the soundtrack. Her parents took her on a visit to Springfield, Illinois and the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, and on that trip bought her a Lincoln biography that has become the centerpiece of a large Lincoln collection, including books, audio & video tapes, statues, nick-knacks, and even a portrait made out of a maple leaf.
As a teen and young adult, Valerie continued her interest in the Lincolns, focusing on Abraham. It wasn’t until she read the book “Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters” by Linda & Justin Turner that she became more interested in Mary. She began to study her in earnest, & realized that something had to be done to set the historical record straight.
During a visit to New Salem State Park in the mid 1990’s, Valerie and her family had a chance encounter with a man who traveled the country portraying Abraham Lincoln. He encouraged Valerie join the Association of Lincoln Presenters as a Mary Lincoln presenter, which she did. She has been portraying Mary ever since.
Valerie 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 her performance outlines.
As one of the founders of Mary Lincoln’s Coterie, a group devoted to the memory of Mary Lincoln, she has helped to organize weekends of events in Springfield to commemorate the anniversary of Mary Lincoln’s death. During the 2009, 2010, and 2011 weekends Valerie was honored to deliver the eulogy during the memorial and wreath laying at the Lincoln Tomb. From 2012 to the present she has served as the memorial ceremony planner and host.
In 2009, Valerie was invited to speak to the volunteers of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum on the subject “Mary Lincoln as a Mother”, and in 2011 & 2013 she was honored to present her program “Divided: Mary Lincoln and Emilie Todd Helm” at the Lincoln Home National Park Visitors Center. Valerie is a member of the Association of Lincoln Presenters, and she was nominated by them as the “Best Mary Lincoln Presenter” in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2009, 2010 and 2011, she was nominated for the “Best Lincoln Team” award along side her acting partner.
Valerie resides in Bartlett, Illinois with her husband Brian, children Melanie & Steven, and their cat Dexter. Besides her work as Mary Lincoln, she appears on stage throughout the Chicago area as part of the acting troupe of “The Mystery Shop” a traveling interactive murder mystery theatre company. Valerie also serves as The Mystery Shop’s Social Media Director.
I will need a private, secure place to change into period attire and leave my modern clothes. A restroom is not appropriate. A small room, storage room, or even a large closet will work. In the performing area, I would like to have a table and a chair, if