Sunday, February 24, 2013

"Behind The Scenes" My Thoughts

Born into slavery, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (ca. 1824-1907) rose to a position of respect as a talented dressmaker and designer to the political elite of Washington, D.C., and a confidante of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. In this unusual memoir, Keckley offers a rare, behind-the-scenes view of the formal and informal networks that African Americans established among themselves, as well as an insider's perspective of the men who made Civil War politics and the women who influenced them.Keckley's descriptions of the Lincolns at home reveal touching, unguarded moments of laughter, discussion, and affection. She witnessed the grief of both parents at the death of their son Willie and Mary Todd's prostration after the president's assassination. In dire financial straits, Mary Todd turned to Keckley, who spent several months in New York helping the former First Lady sell her elegant clothing.

President of the Contraband Relief Association and a friend of Frederick Douglass and other prominent African-American leaders, Keckley emerges as a remarkable, resourceful, and principled woman who helped mediate between black and white communities.

My Thoughts...
I started reading the novel "Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker" by Jennifer Chiaverini, and began wondering what parts of the book were facts, and what parts were fiction. Therefore, I decided to lay that book aside for now, and read this book, "Behind The Scenes" an autobiography  memoir by Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, the dressmaker of Mrs. Lincoln. 

I always enjoy reading autobiographies, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading Mrs. Keckley's account of her life as a slave and dressmaker. I didn't enjoy how she was treated as a slave, but it was an eyeopener for me. She was a brave lady, a hard worker, to the point that she worked long and difficult hours to make $1200 to buy her and her sons freedom out of slavery. 

She was a close friend of the First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, and publishes many of the letters that Mrs. Lincoln wrote to her. It is a piece of history that otherwise would have been forgotten if not for this brave woman's decision to write about her life and the years she spent in the White House with the Lincoln's. 

When Mrs. Keckley published this book in 1868, she was criticized severely.  I, personally, view it as a piece of history that would have been lost if not for this brave woman's decision to publish the book. I'm sure at the time she needed the money, but that is the reason most people today write and publish books is for the money, isn't it? If you like books about history, I feel you would like this book, whether you agree with it or not. 

This book is a part of my Nook library. I liked this book so I am awarding it 5*****

Now I'm back to reading "Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker" by Ms. Chiaverini.


  1. Bravo for wanting to read the memoir before the historical novel. Waiting to see your response to Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker.

  2. I'd really like to read Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker. I've read a couple of very positive reviews of the book. And yours is terrific, Gigi Ann!