Elizabeth Keckley, Mary Lincoln's Talented Turncoat

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JPK Huson 1863

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Puzzled by Elizabeth Keckley, famously portrayed through time as Mary Lincoln's only friend in Washington. I've just finished her book, or nearly so. There's a part at the end I ditched, a kind of invented bit where Elizabeth gets into Mary's life before she met her- filled with what Mary said, did, intended and aspired to in Mary's words with quotations. Found this not believable since we never heard from Mary or her husband or any of the other players in history what the conversations were which Keckley claims to record word for word. Those conversations help draw a word picture of Mary Lincoln which is not flattering, especially when you consider people like Herndon were out there gleefully gathering material for the hatefest which would consume his life and bank account- people would tend to lend credence to them coming from a friend. When reading negative ' press' on Mary you can still catch a whiff of Herndon's ridiculous fractured fairytales at work. Some of that damaging nonsense he manufactured from the whole cloth lent him by Mary Lincoln's talented modist, African American Elizabeth Keckley. But why?

Elizabeth had an awful, awful life before literally working herself to freedom. Talk about a self-made woman, gee whiz! She seems to have been composed of steel, talent, perservence, intelligence and did I say talent?

" Elizabeth's life as a slave included harsh, arbitrary beatings "to subdue her stubborn pride," frequent moves to work for often poor family members, and being "persecuted for four years" by Alexander Kirkland, a white man, by whom she had a son. "
http://www.anb.org/articles/20/20-00530.html

She describes this as a rape- something the online bios seem to refuse to do, no idea why. Women know when this has occurred.

I can't find an online bio which describes her life with a family she lived with, the Garlands, but she worked literally for them, keeping them alive and solvent with her dressmaking talents. The husband and father was terrible at earning a living, from Elizabeth's account, did not have to - she provided all of them with the means to eat and a roof over their heads. Slaves did that. Mr. Garland died, his will stated she was worth $ 1200. " Lizzie " had asked for years to be free- to buy her freedom, her white clients pooled money sufficient for her to do so. Another long story short, she ended up in Washington.

keckley.jpg




Elizabeth's talent and her incredible drive- not a lot you can do with talent if there's no purpose behind it- put her inside the home of future Confederate President Jefferson Davis, on the eve of the Rebellion. Varina wished her to ' go South ' with the family, so helpful had she become. A huge, huge proposition to put before a free black woman in 1860. Various wives of politicians appeared at functions in her designs and she freely stated her wish to design for the resident wife of the White House. It was not ego, Keckley was simply that good. Varina genuinely believed Elizabeth would fare much better in Virginia with the Davis family. Elizabeth found a way to gracefulyl decline. Her little business had become established, her clients really were counting on her.

Mary and Elizabeth's famous friendship began with a single visit, blossomed quickly through the years as Keckley became much more than a designer to this lonely, demanding, frequently kind woman. In her book, Keckley describes instances of Mary Lincoln's kindness to her, personal acts of friendship like taking her on long trips, ensuring she received invitations to some glittering social events, fulfilling requests asked of her. In the instance where Mary fills in Elizabeth of the massive debt she owes, neglects to mention some of that money is owed to her- while at the same time ' tsk-tsk's ' disapprovingly, how could Mrs. Lincoln keep such a secret from her husband? Seems a little not-nice, writing of these acts of friendship then throwing Mary under the bus over her debts. The debts have a nasty habit of popping up later in the book, too, like TB.

k1.jpg

Elizabeth's only son, Kirkland's, was killed in the war. The black armband would either be from his death or maybe this is after the assassination.

Elizabeth speaks admiringly of her one moment, saying she'd heard she was vulgar and was pleased to see she was anything but- then will go on in the next chapter to describe what a jealous shrew she was, and somehow remember a verbatim conversation between husband and wife concerning the subject. She actually write how she never came across such an ornery specimen of a female ( paraphrasing ), Mary was so peculiar! Gosh. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure if one was on intimate terms of friendship with Mary Lincoln, it was full of drama, emotion and tears but to tell the general public you, her acknowledge friend, find her to be such an ugly personality is beyond ' mean girl'. Elizabeth had been with her through Willie and her husband's deaths, knew how dreadfully these had affected her. She also writes of the many enemies Mary had which she seemingly did not deserve, hers for simply being from the South.

None of the dresses are certain, even the purple with the white piping- there's no certain proof, but this one is another ' Probably made by Elizabeth Keckley "

k4.jpg



You do tend to want to believe the many, many conversations Elizabeth transcribes which have Lincoln speaking, exchanging thoughts with his wife and sometimes Elizabeth. The thing is, they are so numerous and so specific, makes you wonder how did anyone remember so many, so well? Maybe she did, we do not know. I can't remember what I said to my son yesterday, much less entire conversations from 20 years previously. Maybe of he were President, might shake loose some memories?

Keckley may have also rubbed me the wrong way by presupposing Mary's intentions and beliefs. Keckely stated herself quite early in her career that she certainly wished to be the modist for the White House. Not a thing wrong with that- everything right about it, especially for a talent like hers. She does go on to invent Mary's open intention, however through conversations she supposedly had with Douglas, another pretender for Mary's hand, during their courtship. She has Mary telling Douglas that she will not marry him because she wants to live in the White House so she has to marry someone who will make it there. Keckely then writes Douglas's part in the conversation ( because she was there ) saying Mary was making a mistake and of course he would live there.

Rooftop Elizabeth-keckley.jpg


I don't wish to throw Elizabeth under the bus entirely. I wasn’t expecting quite this when it came to her book “ Behind the Scenes in the Lincoln White House “. I’d heard there was a backlash, hope Mary Lincoln felt somewhat vindicated, people did feel Keckley had violated Mary’s privacy. Mary never spoke to her old friend again. As I read, I kept thinking well, what would be the unforgivable IT ? Tough call. There’s kind of a lot- possibly the indirect charge that Mary did not marry her husband for love, which is one of Herndon’s biggest pieces of nonsense too. Elizabeth later wrote many letters of apologies, begging to be allowed back into Mary’s life but it was too late. We know Mary really did die fairly alone, and lonely- just like she was when she first came to Washington, before she met Elizabeth Keckley.

Keckley's quilt made from Mary Lincoln's dresses
quilt.jpg


k2.jpg

Really, a regal woman
 

18thVirginia

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Thank you for the synopsis, Annie. Does it sound like the book was partially ghost written? Because one wonders if some of the conversations that seem unusual to repeat were inserted to please an editor/publisher. At this point in her life, Elizabeth Keckley really needed the money from a book, didn't she?

Other conversations, like that about Stephen Douglas may have been retold gossip from Washington, or perhaps a repeated version of what she'd heard Douglas say. I say that because I remember a quote from a pre-LBJ boyfriend of LadyBird's, who said he didn't think he was ambitious enough for her.

One also gets the sense of how great a tragedy the assassination was for these two women. Not just in the loss of a husband and boss, but the loss of the brilliance in things political. Both Keckley and Todd Lincoln had to understand in ways that no one else would have, the loss to the nation at Abe Lincoln's death.

Think of it, Keckley is an obviously brilliant seamstress, that's obvious from photos. She's at the height of her career, her employer has been re-elected, her future secure for another 4 years and then, it's all gone.

The same with Mary Todd, she'd been a part of building the career of Abraham Lincoln as politician, the trying war years are past, she has four years in which she knows where they'll be to pay off the debts, and suddenly, that's all gone, in addition to her husband of many years.

Washington, D. C. is about the meanest place you can imagine, filled up with people all jostling to be as close to power as possible. When you've lost that connection to the powerful, you're no longer useful to the rest of them. That happened in an instant to both Elizabeth Keckley and Mary Todd Lincoln.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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Jimmy Price has the background on Elizabeth Keckley's son, here.
So interesting- which is a silly word. That's the 4 a.m. word, when all the lights are still coming on. I don't know. Super, super article, thank you. Think it sheds an awful lot of light on why she keeps her son close to the chest and does not share him, it's a guess. There are an awful lot of unstated moments in time she does not brag of- " The dress was finished ", and you know she worked 48 hours straight, but that's small. She literally supported herself, her mother and son and an entire family who ' owned ' her through one, tiny sewing needle- you can read some contempt between the lines. The Garlands had been on the verge of hiring out Keckley's very elderly mother to support them, which she thought beneath contempt- they'd given her time to come up with another plan. ( hang on, this has to do with her son, promise ) Her plan was to take on all the burden herself. That a man allowed himself to be supported by a woman was revolting to her, that the same man refuse to allow her o purchase her freedom was maddening. Her well-wishers ( she had an awful lot of them ) ensured she was able to buy her freedom, and that of her son. BOY did she shake the dust of all association from the hem of her skirt.

Elizabeth held a lot of white people in contempt- and a lot of blacks. She was extremely proud, boy, had sure earned the right. Her role outside of Mary Lincoln's ' friend was rock-star status in the African American world. Very, very elite. Keckely started and ran the major charity for the relief of ex-slaves, rubbed elbows with the crème de le crème of both worlds. She resented having to feel her entre in society was solely through the goodwill of a woman she felt had not had to earn her way- and was ostracized by her world in a way Elizabeth was not in hers. Anyway- her son? A sterling young man, we'll never know their relationship but bet she was fiercely proud, if he was accepted in the world she'd had to buy and work his way into, he'd worked just as hard. Bet she was not for a hot second going to share him in the same sentence with Mary Lincoln's world- she knew her Washington, knew he'd be the object of conjecture and ill-will. Like I said, just a guess.

Very, very telling little rant on her part, and a true one. Made me think of her son- so double thanks for the link. She writes of post-assignation, Tad being taught by Mary. His education had been neglected and you can read Keckley's contempt and shock over the scene. How Mary thought it a little cute, that Tad thought the word A P E was ' monkey ', because a picture of same was next to the word, Tad insisted the word had to be ' monkey'. Keckley points out ( in a very rare moment of bitterness ) that had this been a little black boy, the censorious world would have been quick to assume he was merely dim witted due to his race, not poorly educated.

Anyway, I just got a far different impression as to why she did not mention her son in her book- not out of lack of feeling for him, out of a wish to keep his memory all to herself. Some of this stuff- darned if she did, darned if she didn't.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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Thank you for the synopsis, Annie. Does it sound like the book was partially ghost written? Because one wonders if some of the conversations that seem unusual to repeat were inserted to please an editor/publisher. At this point in her life, Elizabeth Keckley really needed the money from a book, didn't she?

Other conversations, like that about Stephen Douglas may have been retold gossip from Washington, or perhaps a repeated version of what she'd heard Douglas say. I say that because I remember a quote from a pre-LBJ boyfriend of LadyBird's, who said he didn't think he was ambitious enough for her.

One also gets the sense of how great a tragedy the assassination was for these two women. Not just in the loss of a husband and boss, but the loss of the brilliance in things political. Both Keckley and Todd Lincoln had to understand in ways that no one else would have, the loss to the nation at Abe Lincoln's death.

Think of it, Keckley is an obviously brilliant seamstress, that's obvious from photos. She's at the height of her career, her employer has been re-elected, her future secure for another 4 years and then, it's all gone.

The same with Mary Todd, she'd been a part of building the career of Abraham Lincoln as politician, the trying war years are past, she has four years in which she knows where they'll be to pay off the debts, and suddenly, that's all gone, in addition to her husband of many years.

Washington, D. C. is about the meanest place you can imagine, filled up with people all jostling to be as close to power as possible. When you've lost that connection to the powerful, you're no longer useful to the rest of them. That happened in an instant to both Elizabeth Keckley and Mary Todd Lincoln.
Several excellent points, thanks very much! I'd last 20 minutes in Washington on that level before fleeing.

You know, Mrs Douglas was one of Keckley's customers, and a huge well wisher- just thought of that. Cannot have been happy to have been portrayed in a back handed fashion either, gee whiz! Yes, that's possible, on the gossip. The thing is, ' Lizzie ' seems to have been privy to an awful lot of private, private conversations between people. Perhaps it was solely for the purpose of selling books and earning money that she inserted so many of these in this ' bio' . If we doubt the verbatim conversations 150 -plus years later, have to guess at the time there was the same reaction among Douglas's contemporaries.

Hee- one part, she does stand on her dignity with the Johnsons. At first she said she would never work for them, then changed her mind. Mr. Johnson apparently never once sent his condolences to Mary, although he and his family shared the White House residence for some time. Elizabeth found this more than tacky so resolved to have no dealings with them. She made one dress eventually, then Mrs. Johnson ordered several just cut and fitted- she wanted to take them back to the White House to sew by herself. Big insult in the modiste world- Keckley's shop was really The Place in Washington. She cut all ties with Mrs. Johnson subsequently.

Yes, the assasination was an awful blow- it sounds as if perhaps Keckley is making it clear Mary's brilliant career may be over but hers certainly is not. Mary asked her to go with them, on leaving the White House. For some reason Keckley dwells on Mary’s lack of finances quite a bit in the section, saying Mary could not afford to keep her with the family. She describes Robert’s lack of satisfaction with their new home, a hotel, then goes on to say how beautiful the view is there. Mary continues to write to Elizabeth, how Congress will approve money for her maintenance, then she can afford to take her with her traveling. But- Elizabeth is still maintaining an elite business and is head of a thriving charity out in the ‘ real’ world. I can’t see a reason to keep describing Mary’s level of poverty except to perhaps rub it in. Keckley makes it clear that for her, life goes on. She’s still quite elite in her world- Mary never really was as the President’s wife. Not sure why it was necessary to keep making that point.

Meanwhile. Lizzie is receiving on top of what she earns through talent an 8 dollar a month pension, from her son’s death. The wife of our murdered President did not receive that.
 

Northern Light

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Several excellent points, thanks very much! I'd last 20 minutes in Washington on that level before fleeing.

You know, Mrs Douglas was one of Keckley's customers, and a huge well wisher- just thought of that. Cannot have been happy to have been portrayed in a back handed fashion either, gee whiz! Yes, that's possible, on the gossip. The thing is, ' Lizzie ' seems to have been privy to an awful lot of private, private conversations between people. Perhaps it was solely for the purpose of selling books and earning money that she inserted so many of these in this ' bio' . If we doubt the verbatim conversations 150 -plus years later, have to guess at the time there was the same reaction among Douglas's contemporaries.

Hee- one part, she does stand on her dignity with the Johnsons. At first she said she would never work for them, then changed her mind. Mr. Johnson apparently never once sent his condolences to Mary, although he and his family shared the White House residence for some time. Elizabeth found this more than tacky so resolved to have no dealings with them. She made one dress eventually, then Mrs. Johnson ordered several just cut and fitted- she wanted to take them back to the White House to sew by herself. Big insult in the modiste world- Keckley's shop was really The Place in Washington. She cut all ties with Mrs. Johnson subsequently.

Yes, the assasination was an awful blow- it sounds as if perhaps Keckley is making it clear Mary's brilliant career may be over but hers certainly is not. Mary asked her to go with them, on leaving the White House. For some reason Keckley dwells on Mary’s lack of finances quite a bit in the section, saying Mary could not afford to keep her with the family. She describes Robert’s lack of satisfaction with their new home, a hotel, then goes on to say how beautiful the view is there. Mary continues to write to Elizabeth, how Congress will approve money for her maintenance, then she can afford to take her with her traveling. But- Elizabeth is still maintaining an elite business and is head of a thriving charity out in the ‘ real’ world. I can’t see a reason to keep describing Mary’s level of poverty except to perhaps rub it in. Keckley makes it clear that for her, life goes on. She’s still quite elite in her world- Mary never really was as the President’s wife. Not sure why it was necessary to keep making that point.

Meanwhile. Lizzie is receiving on top of what she earns through talent an 8 dollar a month pension, from her son’s death. The wife of our murdered President did not receive that.
To be quite frank, her husband was not a soldier, and did not die in the war. As you will recall, at that time presidents did not get pensions, so probably wives did not either, and Mary certainly did not have anyone in Washington to go to bat for her to propose one. It would seem she had some money, however, as she was able to travel and was not living in a hovel.

Keckley strikes me as a person who has always had to live by her wits to survive. While she may have cared for Mary while she was working for her, I can see and to some extent understand Keckley's decision to write her memoir. Mary still had a son who could look after her, Keckley didn't. Keckley had had to fight for survival all her life, now she had to fight again. As cold as it sounds, Mary was no longer of any use to Keckley, so she sacrificed a friendship for survival. it is not for us to judge.

As to the quotations, it would not surprise me if Keckley had kept a diary of her conversations with Mary, and referred back to these whilst writing the book. She just seems to me the type of person who was always going to cover her back so she was prepared for any situation.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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To be quite frank, her husband was not a soldier, and did not die in the war. As you will recall, at that time presidents did not get pensions, so probably wives did not either, and Mary certainly did not have anyone in Washington to go to bat for her to propose one. It would seem she had some money, however, as she was able to travel and was not living in a hovel.

Keckley strikes me as a person who has always had to live by her wits to survive. While she may have cared for Mary while she was working for her, I can see and to some extent understand Keckley's decision to write her memoir. Mary still had a son who could look after her, Keckley didn't. Keckley had had to fight for survival all her life, now she had to fight again. As cold as it sounds, Mary was no longer of any use to Keckley, so she sacrificed a friendship for survival. it is not for us to judge.

As to the quotations, it would not surprise me if Keckley had kept a diary of her conversations with Mary, and referred back to these whilst writing the book. She just seems to me the type of person who was always going to cover her back so she was prepared for any situation.
No I know her husband did not die in the war, where did I say that, her son did- she received a pension for that but just would not discuss him. Her husband she discussed the stuffing out of- and I don't think I said he was soldier- he was a man she had little respect for, who she unloaded as soon as it became clear he was going to have to be dragged through life. Keckely's son was a fine, good man, she was extremely, extremely proud of him and held him close to her heart and her pride. As she should have. The official husband was not the father, either. Andy provided an excellent link on the son, make you weep thinking of the loss of this man. Also a possible reason in my head why she did not speak of him to the white world- I think she wished to keep him to herself. But not mixing him up with her worthless husband is important- in that war you could get a pension for one's son.

Have to disagree. Keckley could have written the memoir without throwing Mary under the bus. If you read it, she could very, very easily have written the exact same scenes and chapters without so many judgements and opinions which are the ones which made Mary look terrible in the eyes of the world. The public could still have their ' bird's eye view' of the Lincolns, the book would still sell, and Mary would not be stripped naked by someone she thought was her friend.

So wait a minute. Keckley's book only sold because she was Mary's intimate friend- no other reason. You're saying because Keckley is poor, it's only natural she'd stab Mary in the back out of sheer survival instincts, because she's hungry, dog eat dog? Mary Lincoln GAVE her the ability to write that book- how dare she exploit it in such a heinous way? No one would know her name, had it not been for Mary's entre- then she has the gall to throw her under the bus? Besides, Robert's money came with strings, Mary died very, very poor. As a politician, Robert was regularly embaressed by his mother, not supportive of this relic of his father's legacy.Mabe he comes across as a sympathetic figure NOW- he had very mixed reviews at the time. She had nothing. Keckely did have many friends and well-wishers, she was the rock star of the elite in the African American community.

In the real world, Keckley and Mary, 2 friends aging into the next century, could have done it together. The reason Mary trusted Keckely in the first place is in the years in Washington, to understand the depth of Mary's trust in Lizzie, you really have to read of 1. Mary's experience amongst the established mean girls ( and boys ) in DC and b. Lizzie as her real, genuine friend, not just paid help and side kick.
 
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Northern Light

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No I know her husband did not die in the war, where did I say that, her son did- she received a pension for that but just would not discuss him. Her husband she discussed the stuffing out of- and I don't think I said he was soldier- he was a man she had little respect for, who she unloaded as soon as it became clear he was going to have to be dragged through life. Keckely's son was a fine, good man, she was extremely, extremely proud of him and held him close to her heart and her pride. As she should have. The official husband was not the father, either. Andy provided an excellent link on the son, make you weep thinking of the loss of this man. Also a possible reason in my head why she did not speak of him to the white world- I think she wished to keep him to herself. But not mixing him up with her worthless husband is important- in that war you could get a pension for one's son.

Have to disagree. Keckley could have written the memoir without throwing Mary under the bus. If you read it, she could very, very easily have written the exact same scenes and chapters without so many judgements and opinions which are the ones which made Mary look terrible in the eyes of the world. The public could still have their ' bird's eye view' of the Lincolns, the book would still sell, and Mary would not be stripped naked by someone she thought was her friend.

So wait a minute. Keckley's book only sold because she was Mary's intimate friend- no other reason. You're saying because Keckley is poor, it's only natural she'd stab Mary in the back out of sheer survival instincts, because she's hungry, dog eat dog? Mary Lincoln GAVE her the ability to write that book- how dare she exploit it in such a heinous way? No one would know her name, had it not been for Mary's entre- then she has the gall to throw her under the bus? Besides, Robert's money came with strings, Mary died very, very poor. As a politician, Robert was regularly embaressed by his mother, not supportive of this relic of his father's legacy.Mabe he comes across as a sympathetic figure NOW- he had very mixed reviews at the time. She had nothing. Keckely did have many friends and well-wishers, she was the rock star of the elite in the African American community.

In the real world, Keckley and Mary, 2 friends aging into the next century, could have done it together. The reason Mary trusted Keckely in the first place is in the years in Washington, to understand the depth of Mary's trust in Lizzie, you really have to read of 1. Mary's experience amongst the established mean girls ( and boys ) in DC and b. Lizzie as her real, genuine friend, not just paid help and side kick.
Ouch, I guess I hit a nerve. Sorry about that.
Firstly, I meant Mary Lincoln's husband wasn't a soldier, therefore got no pension. I apologize for not making that clearer. I read the link that Andy posted and I agree with you, he seemed like a fine young man and I don't think she wanted him associated with the book.
I don't agree with you about the book, however; Keckley wanted to make money on the book and she knew it would sell more copies if there was juicy gossip in it. She was an ambitious woman and I think she realized that Mary's usefulness to her was over. Therefore, she was willing to sacrifice the friendship. She needed money more than she needed Mary's friendship. This is just my conjecture.
Please don't think that I am a Mary hater; I am not. I am just not entirely convinced of your argument of Mary as "Victim".
 

JPK Huson 1863

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I'm reading this now and glad to have run across your thread, @JPK Huson 1863. I want to like Keckley, and I have respect for what she accomplished, but I too find myself uncomfortable believing her word-for-word recollections.

Yes, it's difficult? It's opinion only but I think what she endured while enslaved created a difficult personality. Reading between her lines she seems to fiercely guard her real emotions. Her son was everything, losing him such a stunning blow she simply skips it. You can't blame her or for guarding her deepest emotions from prying eyes.

What I've never gotten is why the decision to lambast Mary Lincoln. It's difficult discussing this because I detest women picking each other apart- so here's a Catch 22. The thing is, she seems to be so deliberate writing in glowing terms of Jefferson Davis, in contrast to the woman who thought of her as her close friend that it makes you gasp. Something bitter or ruthless or just pretty cold blooded there, no?

If you get a chance when done, come back and say what you think of the book, please?
 
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GS

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Regardless of her waffling loyalty, what an interesting person and lovely, this Elizabeth Keckley. She chose well in heading to the White House, and I'm sure lent comfort to Mary in her losses. Imagine those fingers pushing a needle through hundreds of yards of fabric, bruised and pricked, over her tenure with the Lincoln's, every stitch in perfect line, as though done by a sewing machine. Did she have access to an early one? She surely copied the latest Parisian designs. Life went forward unhindered in Europe, while Americans here brained themselves like barbarians. Would Elizabeth have had access to new patterns during the War?
 

AshleyMel

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It is not easy to live life in the fish bowl. Politician wives, minister wives, the wives of the rich and famous. Many can not fathom the life of seclusion and exclusion. Of sorrow. The every day public pressures as well as the private ones and yes, the joys and benefits as well. We sure do love to talk about them though! And then write books! Every one does have a voice and their story needs to be told. There is always enough empathy to share.
I just added her book to my list although it's very inexpensive to download for the Kindle.
I'm looking forward to reading it.
 
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AshleyMel

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I'm adding it to my list now. You know what they say, "Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery." I think you guys are good influences on me!
Ditto!
My wish list has grown so much since joining the site! I still prefer books to the Kindle stuffs but my, oh my, where would I put every book if I bought them all! Hubby just ordered six for himself the other day too! :frantic:
 

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It's a fast read. If I had just picked it up and stuck with it, I'd be done by now!

So far, there are indeed conversations recalled that are less-than-flattering for Mary. She comes across sharp and unforgiving, while Lincoln appears sweet and thoughtful. There is one exchange I hope happened. Mary had a rather long train on her dress, and as she swished past her husband, he remarked, "Whew! Our cat has a long tail tonight."

I found that comment rather charming and amusing. Something any husband could say jokingly to his wife.

I did a little Googling to learn more about Mary and Elizabeth's relationship after Lincoln's death. I discovered that after her death, she was buried, moved, and then ended up in an unmarked grave.

"Perhaps the most poignant illustration of the different fates of these two women is found in their final resting places. While Mary Lincoln lies buried in Springfield in a vault with her husband and sons, Elizabeth Keckley's remains have disappeared. In the 1960s, a developer paved over the Harmony Cemetery in Washington where Lizzy was buried, and when the graves were moved to a new cemetery, her unclaimed remains were placed in an unmarked grave—like those of her mother, slave father, and son."

Source
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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Regardless of her waffling loyalty, what an interesting person and lovely, this Elizabeth Keckley. She chose well in heading to the White House, and I'm sure lent comfort to Mary in her losses. Imagine those fingers pushing a needle through hundreds of yards of fabric, bruised and pricked, over her tenure with the Lincoln's, every stitch in perfect line, as though done by a sewing machine. Did she have access to an early one? She surely copied the latest Parisian designs. Life went forward unhindered in Europe, while Americans here brained themselves like barbarians. Would Elizabeth have had access to new patterns during the War?

I can't remember whether it's Elizabeth's account or Mary's that Mary asked for her, and Elizabeth tried to get to her, right after the murder. No one would allow her in, or anyone access to Mary- they locked her down. Why? You can't imagine. You do get the impression Elizabeth had a good deal of contempt for the way Mary was treated. It makes it all the more puzzling why she wrote what did, you know?

It's funny. As many well-heeled clients as she had, Keckley was ' found ' by the White House, it seems? She was already the ' It ' , elite women's designer in Washington. Wish I could remember which socialite made the introduction. Mary wasn't quite the pariah she's made out to be. She was a Todd, grew up rubbing elbows with the ' Sesesh ' elite still found in DC ( despite what we hear ) and there were Northern military wives she was friendly with. Keckley being a part of elite women's world, how could they not eventually cross paths?

What's odd is, why it's assumed Mary only became her friend because she was so lonely ' only the dressmaker ' was willing to befriend her. What if this acknowledged, top, Washington designer and she just, plain liked each other?
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Perhaps the most poignant illustration of the different fates of these two women is found in their final resting places. While Mary Lincoln lies buried in Springfield in a vault with her husband and sons, Elizabeth Keckley's remains have disappeared. In the 1960s, a developer paved over the Harmony Cemetery in Washington where Lizzy was buried, and when the graves were moved to a new cemetery, her unclaimed remains were placed in an unmarked grave—like those of her mother, slave father, and son."

Whoa, no way! That is crazy! Thanks for bringing that here, Lori Ann! Such a landmark American to have an unmarked grave. I'm so sorry- you wonder. She founded and spearheaded associations for black citizens finding themselves all of a sudden out in the world ' free ' ( although not happy with that word because it's tough admitting a human soul was ever not their own. Maybe ' unimpeded ' ). Post-war America was still incredibly lop sided, in equality. Maybe there was little interest in preserving the grave of a black, female rock star.

Elizabeth gives that sweet, male conversation to Jefferson Davis, too. Hate to analyze her but she survived in a white man's world. It was her own hard slog but I'm guessing you were also very, very careful.

I don't know. Seems a little similar in fate. Mary died mostly forgotten and alone, too. Thanks for digging up some facts- wonder if she has a headstone now?
 
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