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Behind the Scenes

Elizabeth Keckley

Book Overview: 

This is the autobiography of Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave who bought her freedom with the money she earned as a seamstress. She eventually worked for Mary Lincoln. It is a fascinating book, filled with many recollections of her own life and her interactions with the Lincolns and other members of the government elite.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .who have experienced the heart and soul tortures of a slave's life, can say to Mr. Jefferson Davis, "Peace! you have suffered! Go in peace."

In the winter of 1865 I was in Chicago, and one day visited the great charity fair held for the benefit of the families of those soldiers who were killed or wounded during the war. In one part of the building was a wax figure of Jefferson Davis, wearing over his other garments the dress in which it was reported that he was captured. There was always a great crowd around this figure, and I was naturally attracted towards it. I worked my way to the figure, and in examining the dress made the[Pg 33] pleasing discovery that it was one of the chintz wrappers that I had made for Mrs. Davis, a short time before she departed from Washington for the South. When it was announced that I recognized the dress as one that I had made for the wife of the late Confederate President there was great cheering and excitement, and I at once becam. . . Read More

Community Reviews

I read the Schomburg Library edition which includes a Forward by Louis Henry Gates, a note on behalf of the Schomburg Library, an Introduction by James Olney and an Appendix of letters by Mary Todd Lincoln. Elizabeth Keckley's voice shines through all these more famous and more learned people.

Kec...more

This slim book, written by Elizabeth Keckley, onetime modiste of Mary Todd Lincoln during her husband's tenure in the White House, and subsequently her confidante, is a testament to a most remarkable woman. Keckley, who was born a slave in Virginia in 1818, generally speaks very openly about her...more

That this book was saved from obscurity is a miracle in itself, and Ms. Keckley's life is another. The cover art informs the reader what writing will be revealed inside. Keckley's gaze is clear, fierce and magnificent. Her writing is the same, and I am grateful that the book is alive still. The a...more

Thought I was a bit surprised to find that Keckley's main focus is not her thirty years as a slave, but rather her time in the service of Mary Todd Lincoln, I was far more surprised at how very readable this book is. Even 100 years later, the book reads as quickly as a gossip novel should, and I...more

I bought this book when I went to the Lincoln Museum and home in Springfield, IL. I picked it up because - as you might be able to tell - I'm very interested in women's side of history.

This was written by Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave and the dressmaker and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln. It...more

I’ve had this on my list to read for a long time, as Ms. Keckley is often referenced in historical accounts and dramatizations of Lincoln’s later life, and I heard of her book a while back. But, wow, I wish I had read this sooner. It is a gripping account of one woman’s life, from slavery to the...more

This was interesting but far too much about Mary Todd Lincoln and her family struggles. I wish the beginning which dealt with Elizabeth's life in bondage had been expanded and that story fleshed out.
Much of Keckley's attitudes and feelings are bizarre to me. I don't understand why she wanted to...more

I liked this autobiography WAY more than I expected to. It had an easy pace even while tackling such a historically painful time in our nation. Very personal writing, which I always prefer. The Lincoln White House, Washington and the pre-Civil War era seen from Elizabeth Keckley's (sometimes spel...more

Testimonianza storica interessante scritta direttamente da una donna schiava nell' America delle guerre civili., una sarta che riuscì a comprarsi la libertà e andò a lavorare come modista dalla First Lady Lincoln.....
Scrittura un po lenta, piena di lettere e documenti.. ma sempre molto chiara e s...more

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