Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Mother of a President

One week from today, America will pay homage to Abraham Lincoln on the occasion of his 200th birthday.

But few people realize that today is the 225th birthday of Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln. A week after her 25th birthday, she gave birth to the future president. And, nine years later, she died of what was called "milk sickness," a disease that was contracted from drinking the milk from a cow that had eaten poisonous white snakeroot. Apparently, several people from the small town in Indiana where the Lincolns were living died of that illness in the same year.

History books tell us that Lincoln's father remarried shortly after the death of Lincoln's mother — and, unlike some relationships between children and their stepparents, Lincoln and his stepmother seem to have had a close bond. In fact, Lincoln called his stepmother "Mother" the rest of his life. Lincoln appears to have had a somewhat strained relationship with his father, however.

An interesting note about Lincoln's biological mother — she is distantly related to actor Tom Hanks.

I don't believe Hanks has appeared in any films in which President Lincoln was portrayed, but he has certainly been in films with American history themes — "Forrest Gump," "Apollo 13," "Saving Private Ryan" and "Charlie Wilson's War."

I suppose you could stretch the point to include "A League of Their Own," which dealt with the true-life women's professional baseball league from the 1940s, although it is a fictionalized account. Hanks' character was fictional, but it was loosely based on a real Hall of Famer, Jimmie Foxx.

Tom Hanks' contribution to historical films hasn't been confined to his on-screen appearances. He was the executive producer of "From the Earth to the Moon," a miniseries about America's space program, even serving as screenwriter for several episodes and directing one.

Space is a theme Hanks can't seem to resist. In 2005, he co-wrote and co-produced "Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D" for IMAX.

He served as a writer, director and producer in the production of "Band of Brothers," a 2001 TV miniseries about World War II.

He was also executive producer of a miniseries about America's second president, "John Adams," from 2008.

And, reportedly, Hanks joined forces with Steven Spielberg to produce another World War II miniseries for sometime this year, "The Pacific."

Hanks has said that, since appearing in "A League of Their Own," a film project "has to get me going somehow" before he will commit to it. Perhaps, before his career is over, Hanks will take on a project about Lincoln.