Given the success of Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" and Jennifer Chiaverini's new novel "Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker," some may be eager to learn more about Elizabeth Keckley (1819-1907), the actual woman who purchased her freedom from slavery, worked as a seamstress in Washington D.C., and became a friend to Mary Todd Lincoln.
Elizabeth Keckley published her memoir "Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House" in 1868. The book was considered quite scandalous at the time. Keckley was called a "traitorous eavesdropper," and many of her former friends, including Mrs. Lincoln, shunned her.
Keckley shares observations on various notable people she encountered. In addition to Mary Todd Lincoln, Keckley sewed for the wives of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stephen Douglas. The book remains in print today and presents a personal and candid picture of both the time Keckley spent in slavery as well as Washington D.C. during the Civil War.
If you like to get your history from someone who was there, take a look at this fascinating memoir.
--Jennifer A., Headquarters