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The House of Lincoln Bets On...

The House of Lincoln

June 2023

THE HOUSE OF LINCOLN is Nancy Horan’s first book since 2014. Having grown up in Springfield, Illinois, Nancy was quite familiar with Abraham Lincoln’s influence on the country, especially on that part of the state. The more she read and explored, the more she wanted to bring to life not just the man, but also the time in which he lived --- a time that was fraught with racial divide.

Nancy chooses to tell the story through the eyes of Ana Ferreira, whose family arrived in Springfield in 1849, fleeing the religious persecution that they were under in Madeira, Portugal. That alone for me was a revelation, as I was not aware that immigration was taking place from there at that time. Ana gets a job in the Lincoln household, first as a “Saturday girl,” who does the housework and helps look after the children. We see a very different side of Mary Lincoln here. She is trying to run a home while her husband is constantly on the move, often tucking notes into his stovepipe hat.

Ana also finds friendship with Cal, a young Black woman, and becomes acutely aware of the racial tensions that are present even in the free state of Illinois. These tensions are ramping up as the Fugitive Slave Act has fines and jail time at the ready for anyone caught helping to move slaves. The Underground Railroad is beating a path through Springfield. Ana watches this from afar and sees its ramifications on those who are fighting hard to bring people to freedom.

The story does not end with Lincoln’s death. Instead, Horan brings us into the early 1900s and the Springfield race riot of 1908. She notes that racial strife and prejudice does not end with the making of laws. We are reminded that it will come when we see ourselves as equals. It’s a good book for discussion, especially for those groups who already have looked at other works about Lincoln. 

The House of Lincoln
by Nancy Horan