Changing the Face of History
When eleven-year-old Grace Bedell wrote a letter in 1860, she couldn't have known that people would be reading it more than one hundred years later. But Grace's letter was written to Abraham Lincoln, who was running for President of the United States.
Abraham Lincoln, sometimes called "Honest Abe", felt it was time to put an end to slavery. He was well liked by most, but faced several other candidates who felt differently about slavery.
Grace Bedell desperately wished she could vote for Mr. Lincoln. "If only there were something I could do to help him get elected," she thought. Grace was about to get her chance.
One evening, Grace's father returned from a fair in her hometown of Westfield, New York. He brought Grace a picture of Abraham Lincoln. She was thrilled to have a picture of him and took it to her room. As Grace looked closely at the image, she noticed how the shadows in her bedroom covered Mr. Lincoln's narrow face. The shadows gave the illusion of a beard, and Grace liked how it looked.
Perhaps there was a way Grace could help Mr. Lincoln. She transferred her thoughts onto paper and wrote to him:
My father has just home from the fair and brought home your picture and Mr. Hamlin's (Lincoln's running mate ). I am a little girl only eleven years old, but want you to be President of the United States very much. So I hope you won't think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am? If so, give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot answer this letter. I have got four brothers and part of them will vote for you any way. And if you will let your whiskers grow, I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you. You would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President. My father is going to vote for you and if I was a man I would vote for you, too. But I will try and get everyone to vote for you. When you direct your letter, direct to Grace Bedell, Westfield County, New York.
I must not write any more. Answer this letter right off. Good bye.
Grace secretly mailed her letter on a gray day in October 1860. It was addressed to The Honorable Abraham Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois. Seven days later, Grace received this reply:
My dear little Miss,
Your very agreeable letter of the 15th is received. I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughters. I have three sons - one seventeen, one nine, and one seven years of age. They, with their mother, constitute my whole family. As to the whiskers, having never worn any,do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin it now?
Your very sincere well-wisher,
Word spread quickly through Westfield that Mr.Lincoln had a correspondent there. Grace couldn't have been more pleased that Mr. Lincoln had answered her letter, until she heard the exciting announcement that came by telegraph on November 7, 1860. Mr. Lincoln had been elected to be the 16th President of the United States!
The news kept getting better. On his way to Washington D.C., the new President would be on a train that was scheduled to stop in Westfield. Grace begged to go to the station.
She stood on tiptoe behind the crowd, hoping for a glimpse of him. This surely would be a moment she would remember forever. Grace didn't know that things were going to become even more memorable. When Mr. Lincoln got off the train and greeted the crowds, he asked for Grace Bedell.
Grace saw the stares of many people. The crowd moved aside for the little girl to timidly make her way to Mr. Lincoln. It became a memorable moment for everyone present. Grace walked toward the platform and received a kiss from the fully bearded Abraham Lincoln, who had obviously taken her advice.
Today, a statue stands in Westfiefd that captures the magic of that historical day. Grace's innocent letter uncovered a side of the new President that people hadn't seen: Abraham Lincoln responded to Grace's request with kindness - and a full growth of whiskers that became as legendary as her letter. Some say she changed the face of history.