New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini
illuminates the extraordinary friendship between Mary Todd Lincoln and
Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, a former slave who won her freedom by the skill
of her needle, and the friendship of the First Lady by her devotion.
In Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker,
novelist Jennifer Chiaverini presents a stunning account of the
friendship that blossomed between Mary Todd Lincoln and her seamstress,
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Keckley, a former slave who gained her professional
reputation in Washington, D.C. by outfitting the city’s elite. Keckley
made history by sewing for First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln within the White
House, a trusted witness to many private moments between the President
and his wife, two of the most compelling figures in American history.
In March 1861, Mrs. Lincoln chose Keckley from among a number of
applicants to be her personal “modiste,” responsible not only for
creating the First Lady’s gowns, but also for dressing Mrs. Lincoln in
the beautiful attire Keckley had fashioned. The relationship between the
two women quickly evolved, as Keckley was drawn into the intimate life
of the Lincoln family, supporting Mary Todd Lincoln in the loss of first
her son, and then her husband to the assassination that stunned the
nation and the world.
Keckley saved scraps from the dozens of
gowns she made for Mrs. Lincoln, eventually piecing together a tribute
known as the Mary Todd Lincoln Quilt. She also saved memories, which she
fashioned into a book, Behind the Scenes: Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House.
Upon its publication, Keckley’s memoir created a scandal that compelled
Mary Todd Lincoln to sever all ties with her, but in the decades since,
Keckley’s story has languished in the archives. In this impeccably
researched, engrossing novel, Chiaverini brings history to life in rich,