With all of the interest in Abraham Lincoln (it being Lincoln’s birthday today, plus the current Steven Spielberg film Lincoln with Daniel Day-Lewis in the titular role out in theaters), there’s a book that lives in the children’s section (Biographies) about a very interesting figure in history: Elizabeth Keckley. Not familiar with the name? The book is Mary Lincoln’s Dressmaker-Elizabeth Keckley’s Remarkable Rise From Slave to White House Confidante, by Becky Rutberg (Walker and Company, 1995.) As you can see, it is not a recent title, but it’s a buried treasure waiting to be read. And parts are hard to read: Elizabeth (also known as Lizzie) spent the first 37 years of her life in slavery, and those she lived with were not always kind. But her talent in dressmaking enabled her to buy her freedom, and that is how she became the dressmaker for President Lincoln’s wife, and later, her friend and confidante as well. (It couldn’t have been easy: Mary Todd Lincoln could be temperamental. On page 53, it said that President Lincoln paid one of the servants “an extra dollar a week to put up with Mrs. Lincoln’s demands.”)
If you are looking for an interesting read, try Mary Lincoln’s Dressmaker-Elizabeth Keckley’s Remarkable Rise From Slave to White House Confidante, by Becky Rutberg.