I recently ran across a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln, "All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother" I was wondering what the context of this quote is. Specifically was he speaking about his birth mother or his step mother, or is it really a Lincoln quote at all?

  • 1
    The quote is found here. The phrase "[whose] qualities he inherited" would suggest it was his birth mother.
    – Steve Bird
    Apr 7, 2016 at 18:50
  • Also, "my angel-mother" may be a way of saying "my mother who is now an angel". If so, it would not be his stepmother Sarah, who was still living at the time of Lincoln's assassination.
    – mgkrebbs
    Apr 9, 2016 at 23:48

1 Answer 1


The quote was made to Abraham Lincoln's law partner William Herndon, and refers to his step mother (Sarah Bush (Johnston) Lincoln), whom Lincoln's father married when Lincoln was 10 after Lincoln's biological mother had died the year before. Lincoln often referred to his step mother as "my angel mother" in subsequent years.


Attributed to ABRAHAM LINCOLN.—Josiah G. Holland, The Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 23 (1866), and George Alfred Townsend, The Real Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 6 (1867). According to the latter, Lincoln made this remark to his law partner, William Herndon.

Lincoln’s natural mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, died when he was nine years old and his father remarried the following year. His stepmother, Sarah Bush (Johnston) Lincoln, was loved and respected by Lincoln throughout her life, as evidenced in the many biographical studies of Lincoln. Benjamin P. Thomas says in Abraham Lincoln, p. 12 (1952): “The boy Abraham adored her. Recollection of his own mother dimmed. And in later years he called this woman, who filled her place so well, ‘my angel mother.’”

The Macmillan Book of Proverbs, Maxims, and Famous Phrases, ed. Burton Stevenson, p. 1627 (1965), comments that the remark referred to Lincoln’s stepmother. But the biographers of Lincoln’s natural mother claim the remark referred to her: Caroline Hanks Hitchcock, Nancy Hanks, p. 105 (1899) and Charles Ludwig, Nancy Hanks: Mother of Lincoln, p. 84 (1965).

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