I finished reading Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker. It was a fascinating and emotional account of Elizabeth Keckley, the former slave who purchased her freedom, became a respected professional dressmaker in Washington, DC, and served as Mary Todd Lincoln’s modiste during her husband’s Presidency. The book is based on historical fact, but the author did fill in certain gaps in the record, with her perception of what might have happened.
The stories of Mrs. Lincoln’s instability are well known. This book supplied details and perspective. The life of Mrs. Keckley was tragic and inspiring. Stories about how she grew up a slave were interwoven throughout the book. Her son was in college when the story began, but he soon joined the military to fight for the Union. Before the war began, one of Mrs. Keckley’s clients was Mrs. Jefferson Davis, the eventual First Lady of the Confederacy. Particularly compelling and poignant was Mrs. Keckley’s journey to visit the family who had owned her as a slave.
I love Jennifer Chiaverini’s writing style. It is relaxed and inspiring. I’ve enjoyed her Elm Creek series, but I hope this won’t be the last time she departs from that series to write a historical novel. This book left me wanting to know a lot more about Elizabeth Keckley.
I pasted two images below of Mrs. Keckley, plus a video about her quilt which according to legend, was made from Mrs. Lincoln’s dress scraps. But that is where I’ll stop with the links and images. The book itself will compel you to do your own searches to learn more about Mrs. Keckley, and see the dresses she made.