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Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly : the…
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Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly : the remarkable story of the friendship… (edition 2003)

by Jennifer Fleischner

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136288,280 (4.03)25
Member:aerobama
Title:Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly : the remarkable story of the friendship between a first lady and a former slave
Authors:Jennifer Fleischner
Info:New York : Broadway Books, 2003.
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:rbcl, Abraham Lincoln, slavery, United States history, 19th century, Civil War, friendship, Mary Todd Lincoln, Elizabeth Keckley, African-Americans, dressmakers, First Ladies, women, Elizabeth Keckly

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Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly: The Remarkable Story of the Friendship Between a First Lady and a Former Slave by Jennifer Fleischner

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Two babies were born in 1818 not far from each other but under very different circumstances. Mary Todd was a member of the southern aristocracy in Lexington, KY, while Elizabeth (Lizzy) Hobbs was born into slavery near Petersburg, VA. Despite their polar opposite social standings, they both could be considered victims of their times because they lacked the freedom to do what they wanted. The author goes into great detail about the contrasting backgrounds of the two women who didn't meet until the day before Abraham Lincoln's inauguration in 1861. It was at this point, well into the second half of the book, that the story launched for me.

It was in Washington that Lizzy Keckly thrived after she bought her own freedom from slavery. She became sought after as a skilled dressmaker and worked for the wives of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. It was only natural that her reputation assured her of the position as dress designer for the new First Lady. Mrs. Lincoln became increasingly unpopular as southern states seceded and a civil war broke out. She came under attack for her spendthrift ways while the Union was scrambling to finance the war. She depended upon Lizzy as a confidante and, when they both lost sons (Lizzy to the war, Mary to disease), their bond was strengthened into friendship.

It was fascinating to go behind the scenes at the White House through the eyes of Lizzy Keckly. President Lincoln called her 'Madame' and appreciated her calming presence on his eccentric wife. While the book began slowly, the last third was completely absorbing. I learned a great deal about women's issues before and during the Civil War through the lives of thse two memorable women. ( )
8 vote Donna828 | May 23, 2011 |
Felt academic. I wasn't in academic mood. ( )
  cannonsr | Aug 3, 2009 |
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To my parents, Ruth and Irwin Fleischner
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Book description
Describes the lives of Mary Todd Lincoln and sought-after dressmaker Elizabeth Keckly, a freed slave, and examines the role Elizabeth played in Mary's turbulent life before and after the president's assassination.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0767902599, Paperback)

A vibrant social history set against the backdrop of the Antebellum south and the Civil War that recreates the lives and friendship of two exceptional women: First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and her mulatto dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckly.

“I consider you my best living friend,” Mary Lincoln wrote to Elizabeth Keckly in 1867, and indeed theirs was a close, if tumultuous, relationship. Born into slavery, mulatto Elizabeth Keckly was Mary Lincoln’s dressmaker, confidante, and mainstay during the difficult years that the Lincolns occupied the White House and the early years of Mary’s widowhood. But she was a fascinating woman in her own right, independent and already well-established as the dressmaker to the Washington elite when she was first hired by Mary Lincoln upon her arrival in the nation’s capital. Lizzy had bought her freedom in 1855 and come to Washington determined to make a life for herself as a free black, and she soon had Washington correspondents reporting that “stately carriages stand before her door, whose haughty owners sit before Lizzy docile as lambs while she tells them what to wear.” Mary Lincoln had hired Lizzy in part because she was considered a “high society” seamstress and Mary, an outsider in Washington’s social circles, was desperate for social cachet. With her husband struggling to keep the nation together, Mary turned increasingly to her seamstress for companionship, support, and advice—and over the course of those trying years, Lizzy Keckly became her confidante and closest friend.

With Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly, pioneering historian Jennifer Fleischner allows us to glimpse the intimate dynamics of this unusual friendship for the first time, and traces the pivotal events that enabled these two women—one born to be a mistress, the other to be a slave—to forge such an unlikely bond at a time when relations between blacks and whites were tearing the nation apart. Beginning with their respective childhoods in the slaveholding states of Virginia and Kentucky, their story takes us through the years of tragic Civil War, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and the early Reconstruction period. An author in her own right, Keckly wrote one of the most detailed biographies of Mary Lincoln ever published, and though it led to a bitter feud between the friends, it is one of the many rich resources that have enhanced Fleischner’s trove of original findings.

A remarkable, riveting work of scholarship that reveals the legacy of slavery and sheds new light on the Lincoln White House, Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly brings to life a mesmerizing, intimate aspect of Civil War history, and underscores the inseparability of black and white in our nation’s heritage.


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:46:52 -0400)

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A historical portrait set against the backdrop of the antebellum South and the Civil War explores the remarkable friendship between First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and her dressmaker and confidante, Elizabeth Keckly, a former slave.

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