Program descriptions

A Visit with Mrs. Lincoln

Mary Lincoln comes to life as presented by Valerie Gugala.  She sets the historical record straight as she takes listeners through her life as a young woman born into a wealthy Lexington, KY family, and the transformation she made from that life to become the wife of a young man whose background was just the opposite. Mrs. Lincoln takes the audience through the Lincoln family’s life in Springfield, Abraham’s political career and election to the presidency, and their life in the White House during the Civil War. Time for questions from the audience for Mrs. Lincoln is included in this 1 ½ hour program.

For Younger audiences (K-4)

Mrs. Lincoln talks about Mr. Lincoln’s education & love of reading, her own education, and what life was like for her children in the mid 1800s. She shares some toys that the children played with and tells stories of their time in Springfield and in the White House. 30 minutes in length.


Out of Character Lectures

All lectures include a Q&A session, and have a companion power point presentation.

All lectures can be presented remotely via zoom or other platform

“Mary Lincoln as a Mother”

Mary Lincoln’s relationship with her children is explored in this program. Springfield neighbor’s recollections and Mary’s own words are used to show how she viewed marriage and motherhood, and how she dealt with her grief at the death of her sons. 45 mins, plus a Q & A session.

“Mary Lincoln and the Spiritualists”

After the death of her son Willie, Mary Lincoln held seances in the White House to try and contact him and other deceased relatives. Why did Mary (and many other bereaved families) believe in the spiritualist movement? What happened at these Seances? Did Abraham Lincoln ever attend one? This lecture will answer these questions and more. 45 mins plus a Q & A session.

“The Lincoln Family After 1865”

What happened to Mary Lincoln and her sons after Abraham’s murder? This question and many other are answered in this presentation. Mary’s travels and insanity trial are discussed, along with Robert’s law career and family life in Chicago. 1 hour, plus Q&A

“Was Mary Lincoln Insane?”

This is the question that audiences ask any time Valerie performs or speaks about Mrs. Lincoln. In this lecture and powerpoint, Valerie explains what has become known as the “insanity episode”. Who decided that Mary should be declared insane? What did her family think? Was she actually insane, or was she a misdiagnosed and over medicated victim? Hear the facts of the case and make your own decisions about this much maligned first lady. 1 hour in length, plus a Q and A session.

Here I Have Lived: A Virtual Tour through Abraham Lincoln’s Life and the Places he Called Home

A power point presentation about Lincoln’s life, focusing on the places that he lived and the people he met. Can be broken into shorter segments about the Kentucky & Indiana years, the Illinois Years, or the War years. Locations are shown as they were and as they are now in drawings and photographs.

Losing the Light: The Night Mary Lost Abraham

Power point presentation covering the events of  the night of April 14-15, 1865. How did Mary, Robert & Tad react to Abraham’s murder? Who was with them? What did they and others  later write about it? all this and more will be covered.

Who were the Lincoln Children?

A powerpoint focusing on the lives of the 4 Lincoln boys. Their early lives, schooling (or lack thereof), relationship with their parents, and more are discussed.

Lectures on other topics

Sweet Home Chicago: A tour of Chicago

Chicago is home to awe-inspiring museums, iconic architecture, and world-famous sites — and you can explore them all virtually. In this PowerPoint presentation, we will travel virtually around Chicago, and see some famous (and not so famous) sites. We will look at public art, the museum campus,  some of the beautiful architecture that the city has to offer and more. Led by a lifelong Chicago area resident, this 2 hour tour will make you feel like you are there.

The Windy City? Myths, Lies & Legends about Chicago

Did Mrs. O’Leary’s cow start the great Chicago fire? Were the Chicago Cubs cursed by a goat? Is Chicago especially windy? These questions and many more will be answered by this 2 hour PowerPoint Presentation. Hauntings, curses, fun facts and trivia make this lecture fun and sometimes funny.

The Life of Walt Disney

Walt Disney was a visionary in the entertainment world. He created amazing animated films, beloved animated characters, and a new type of vacation destination. The public saw him as the father of Mickey Mouse and his friends, and called him “Uncle Walt”. But who was the “man behind the mouse”? In this 2 hour power point presentation, we will examine Walt’s life story and learn what made him the man he was, and about all his wonderful creations.

Building the Magic: Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

In the late 1960s, Disney acquired 25,000 acres of swampland in Florida. Over the next 2 years, part of the land was transformed into the world’s leading theme park resort. It wasn’t an easy job. In this power point presentation, the secrets of the construction of the Magic Kingdom will be discussed. We will also take a virtual tour around the park as it currently stands and discuss some of the most popular rides and attractions.

Building the Magic:  EPCOT Center

In the late 1970s, Disney decided to build a new theme park in Florida. There were 2 competing themes, which one would actually be built? In this PowerPoint presentation we will examine the history of EPCOT center- what was Walt’s dream vs what was eventually built. We will also take a virtual tour of the park, and discuss the history of some of the popular attractions.

Forgotten Disney: Extinct Rides and Attractions of The Florida Parks

In the 50 years that Walt Disney World in Florida has been in operation, there have been many attractions that have been closed for one reason or another. In this PowerPoint presentation we will look at some of these attractions. Some were loved and are still missed by fans today, others may be best forgotten. Will any of them be a favorite of yours?

Spiritualism in the 19th Century

Mourning in Victorian America

Henry the Eighth and his 6 wives

President Who? Lesser Known Presidents in American History

Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Kennedy. These are familiar names to most Americans. But have you heard of Millard Filmore, Chester A. Arthur, or Benjamin Harrison? These and other lesser known Presidents will be discussed in this 2 hour PowerPoint presentation. We will discuss who these men were, how they became President, and what they did once they had achieved that office. We will also  touch on their wives and families, and their life after the Presidency.

The Monuments of Washington DC

Custom lectures

Is there a topic that you and your group are particularly interested in? With at least 2 months advance notice, Valerie can create a lecture customized for you. Call or email for more information. Fee will vary with lecture length requested.

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