First person Historical presenter & Lecturer 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 and speaking about Mrs. Lincoln for more than 25. 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 & lecture outlines.
Valerie is one of the founders of Mary Lincoln’s Coterie,a group called “Mary Lincoln’s Coterie” which is dedicated to the memory and legacy of Mary Lincoln. The group holds lectures and discussions every month via zoom, and since 2001 have hosted a symposium every summer in Springfield, IL.
Valerie has a background in theatre, as she was the co-producer for the Bartlett Park District Theatre Program for over 10 years, and has worked with The Mystery Shop, a travelling mystery theatre company since 2001. She is an avid Disney fan, and she and her family have travelled to Disney World more than 25 times since 2007. They own Disney Vacation Club & D23 Club Memberships.
Valerie has also been working with a group called SALT (Senior Adventures in Learning and Travel) based in Myrtle Beach, SC. She has been presenting lectures via zoom to their patrons, and they have been extremely well received.
Valerie resides in Bartlett, Illinois with her husband Brian, son Steven, and their cats Rajah & Jasmine.