Wednesday, January 25, 2017

February Book, Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, by Jennifer Chiaverini, is based on the true story of Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave who became a  professional dressmaker and personal friend to Mary Todd Lincoln.

The story of their childhoods could not have been more different, yet both grew up to be ambitious young women. Elizabeth was determined to earn enough money to buy her freedom; Mary sought a husband who would respect her intelligence. When each arrived in Washington DC, it was a crucial time in her life. Mary was to be the First Lady and Elizabeth had developed a client list that included the top of Washington society. Their friendship would endure the death of children, the assassination of the President and a nationwide scandal.

Keckley published a memoir, “Behind the Scenes,” in 1868. The public did not react positively. Chiaverini writes, “She had always prided herself on her integrity and dignity, and to suddenly be dismissed as a lowly servant telling tales was quite a shock.”

Self-taught, self-made and utterly self-reliant, Elizabeth Keckley represents an important but forgotten piece of history.

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