Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

Idgie Says:
This is a wonderfully detailed book about the Civil War, from not only a woman's point of view, but a black freewoman.  It's not set in the South on the Confederate side, but right smack in D.C. where Elizabeth works as a seamstress for all of the politicians wives, and her star client, Mrs. Lincoln. 

She is smart, successful, genteel and should fit right in with those woman, but of course she doesn't since she's black.  That is never forgotten by anyone.

This is a great glimpse of history via a different angle. Based on facts, but written like a gripping novel.  There are none of those tedious historical diatribes that sometime occur in a fact telling book.

I recommend it.  

I also recommend you go grab a copy of the real life Lizzie Keckley's book, Behind the Scenes: Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House.  


Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker
Publisher: Plume
Publication Date: September 24, 2013 
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, moving style.