Behind the Scenes
Formerly a slave, but more recently modiste, and friend to Mrs. Lincoln; or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House
A slave, friend and confidante to Mary Todd Lincoln, and a proprietor with more than twenty employees of her own tells her tale
Born into slavery, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (ca. 1824-1907) rose to a position of respect as a talented dressmaker and designer to the political elite of Washington, D.C., and a confidante of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. In this unusual memoir, Keckley offers a rare, behind-the-scenes view of the formal and informal networks that African Americans established among themselves, as well as an insider's perspective of the men who made Civil War politics and the women who influenced them.
As an enslaved young woman, Keckley was moved to the rough frontier city of St. Louis, where she began working as a modiste, or dress designer. She eventually was able to buy her freedom and went to Washington, D.C., where she established herself as modiste to some of the wives and daughters of high-level politicians and officers. Before long, she was supplying not only beautiful clothing but also a sympathetic ear to Mary Todd Lincoln.
Keckley's descriptions of the Lincolns at home reveal touching, unguarded moments of laughter, discussion, and affection. She witnessed the grief of both parents at the death of their son Willie and Mary Todd's prostration after the president's assassination. In dire financial straits, Mary Todd turned to Keckley, who spent several months in New York helping the former First Lady sell her elegant clothing.
President of the Contraband Relief Association and a friend of Frederick Douglass and other prominent African-American leaders, Keckley emerges as a remarkable, resourceful, and principled woman who helped mediate between black and white communities. Frances Smith Foster's introduction traces the book's reception history and fills in biographical gaps in the text.
To order online:
To order by phone:
(800) 621-2736 (USA/Canada)
(773) 702-7000 (International)
Sex, Science, and Delinquent Girls, 1890-1960
Michael A. Rembis
Illness in the Antebellum South
Marli F. Weiner
Defining Femininity in a Court of Law
A. Cheree Carlson
The Essential Speeches and Sermons
Lucretia Mott Edited by Christopher Densmore, Carol Faulkner, Nancy Hewitt, and Beverly Wilson Palmer
Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage
Sowande' M. Mustakeem
Nazera Sadiq Wright
vol. 3: Creating Hull-House and an International Presence, 1889-1900
Jane Addams Edited by Mary Lynn McCree Bryan, Maree de Angury, and Ellen Skerrett
Women and Wall Street from the Gilded Age to the Great Depression
Crossing the Borders of Region and Race
Wanda A. Hendricks
The Intellectual Thought of Race Women
Brittney C. Cooper