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Dancing in Exeter

by Barbara Rimkunas

This "Historically Speaking" column appeared in the Exeter News-Letter on Friday, September 15, 2017.

In 1839, a young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln waited patiently in a receiving line to meet the pretty and eligible Mary Todd. “Miss Todd,” he blurted out, “I want to dance with you in the worst way.” Mary would later reflect that he then did just that. Coming from a poor and somewhat neglected childhood, Lincoln had never cultivated the ability to dance. Mary, on the other hand, was well schooled in the art. Social dancing was considered a necessary skill.

Mary Todd Lincoln hailed from the South. But what of New England – were we dancers in the early years of our town’s history? In a region settled largely by Puritans, a group that forbid wedding rings as a form of vanity, it might be surprising to learn that they were somewhat tolerant of dancing. The Puritans believed that love of God superseded love of any other thing, be it people or activities…

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