Arriving at the White House on the day of Lincoln's death, Keckley found Mary Lincoln nearly irrational with grief. Keckly's relationship with Mary Todd Lincoln, the President's wife, was notable for its personal quality and intimacy, as well as its endurance over time. https://www.geni.com/people/Elizabeth-Keckly/6000000017813440582 Teenage Years. Daughter of Colonel Armistead Burwell and Agnes "Aggy" Hobbs (a slave) E lizabeth Keckley (Fig. Her memoir, which was ghost-written (and spelled her surname as "Keckley" though she seemed to have written it as "Keckly") and published in 1868, provided an eyewitness account to life with the Lincolns. Barbee modified his statement, saying that "no such person as Elizabeth Keckley wrote the celebrated Lincoln book." Keckley recounted the sorrowful state of the Lincolns when Willie died and described how she helped prepare his body for the funeral. Due to financial difficulties in the Garland family, they sold some slave children and "hired out" others, collecting the fees of their wages. The CRA provided food, shelter, clothing, and emotional support to recently freed slaves and/or sick and wounded soldiers. Lincoln, Mary Todd, 1818-1882 -- Correspondence. The CRA affirmed in its first annual report that "every effort made by us to obtain funds to alleviate in any way the distresses of our afflicted brethren has been crowned with success." She also helped Mrs. Lincoln prepare for official receptions and other social events. Elizabeth’s mother is a ‘privileged slave’, having the opportunity to learn to read and write though this is not legal for slaves. This was in contrast to other women's slave narratives, in which they revealed white men taking sexual advantage of them. Some of Keckley's customers traveled southward, but new clients arrived in town. Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was a daughter of Agnes, a slave of the Burgwell family, and George Pleasant, who was owned by a man named Hobbs. Margaret McLean of Maryland, introduced by Varina Davis, requested a dress from Keckley and said she needed it urgently. Main Article Primary Sources (1) Elizabeth Keckley, Thirty Years a Slave (1868) I was born a slave - was the child of slave parents - therefore I came upon the earth free in God-like thought, but fettered in action. 14 Carroll Place, New York, March 14, 1868. In 1832, at age fourteen, Keckley was sent to live "on generous loan" with the eldest Burwell son Robert when he married Margaret Anna Robertson, in Chesterfield County, Virginia, near Petersburg. Within four months, Keckley made approximately sixteen dresses. Keckley founded the Contraband Relief Association in August 1862, receiving donations from both Lincolns, as well as other white patrons and well-to-do free blacks. Mrs. Lincoln was known to be difficult. In Hillsborough, for four years, Alexander M. Kirkland, a prominent white man of the community, forced a sexual relationship on Elizabeth, which she said caused "suffering and deep mortification." In 1868, Elizabeth (Lizzy) Hobbs Keckly (also spelled Keckley) published her memoir Behind the Scenes or Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House. Elizabeth Keckly was born into slavery in 1818 near Petersburg, Virginia. She thought the free blacks could do something similar to benefit the poor and suggested to her colored friends "a society of colored people be formed to labor for the benefit of the unfortunate freedmen.". The organization held fundraisers, with concerts, speeches, dramatic readings, and festivals. Her task? At about age eighteen Keckley was sold to a North Carolinian, who fathered her son. Prominent black figures who spoke on behalf of the organization included Frederick Douglass, Henry Highland Garnet, J. Sella Martin, and Wendell Phillips. The article features Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, a Virginia slave who developed an improved system for cutting and fitting dresses. Toward the end of her life, Keckley suffered from headaches and crying spells, very much as had her estranged friend Mary Lincoln. Few events can stir up a scandal more than an autobiography of a First Lady’s confidante. Behind the Scenes Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House is an autobiographical narrative by Elizabeth Keckley.In it she tells the story of her life as a slave and her time as a seamstress for Mrs. Lincoln in the White House. Keckley finished the dress for McLean, who arranged a meeting the following week for her with Mrs. Lincoln. In July 1869, during a European trip, Mrs. Lincoln was pleased to come across Sally Orne, a good friend from her Washington days. She discovered early that she had to do her job, and she needed to do it with a smile on her face. Burwell's wife expressed contempt for Elizabeth, and made home life for the next four years uncomfortable for her. She was an excellent seamstress and dressmaker. In 1822, Elizabeth Keckly (sometimes spelled Keckley) began working at the tender age of four. In the spring of 1860 Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary, and their sons moved to Washington to take up residence in the White House. in Washington, DC. GM – FBF – I was born a slave-was the child of slave parents-therefore I came upon the earth free in God-like thought, but fettered in action. Mother of George Kirkland (USA) 1818-1907 -- Correspondence. Roughly one month after the assassination, Keckley boarded a train with Mrs. Lincoln and the family en route to Chicago. The CRA hosted Christmas dinners for sick and wounded soldiers. She was born into slavery in Virginia and was passed amongst owners, several of whom were her white half-siblings. Elizabeth Keckley is born a slave in Dinwiddie County Court House, Dinwiddie, Virginia, south of Petersburg. Publication: Wrote a memoir of life in the White House during the Lincoln administration which provided unique insight into the Lincoln family. But her account of Mary Lincoln's emotional problems still seem generally credible. Ex-partner of Alexander M. Kirkland It was also her claim as a businesswoman to be part of the new mixed-race, educated middle-class that was visible among the leadership of the black community. Keckely's sewing helped support the family. Actual Words of Elizabeth Keckley (from her book) “An act may be wrong, but unless the ruling power recognizes the wrong, it is The publicity and criticism of Mrs. Lincoln strained their relationship, but they remained in contact, although not so close. In January 1862, Mrs. Lincoln went for photos to Brady's Washington Photography Studio, where she had images taken while wearing two of Keckley's gowns. 14 Carroll Place, New York, March 14, 1868. The entire community had recognized, valued, and thanked "the officers and the members of the Association for their kindness and attentive duties to the sick and wounded;" but it was overlooked in later histories. Keckley's descriptions of the Lincolns at home reveal touching, unguarded moments of laughter, discussion, and affection. Keckley made this infant's christening gown for her goddaughter Alberta Elizabeth Lewis-Savoy in 1866. After the American Civil War, Keckley wrote and published an autobiography, Behind the Scenes Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House (1868). She created an independent business in the capital based on clients who were the wives of the government elite. As she was preparing for the day's events, Mrs. Lincoln asked Keckley to return the next day for an interview. Commissions for dresses were steadily coming in, but a dress that she completed for Mrs. Robert E. Lee sparked her business' rapid growth. When she was in her teens, the Burgwells sold her to a slave owner in North Carolina by whom she was raped and had one child, George. At the time it was considered very scandalous, and Mary Lincoln resolved to have nothing more to do with Elizabeth Keckley. Wanting to demonstrate her skills, she made clothes for the Burwells that were of outstanding quality. Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (February 1818 – May 1907) (sometimes spelled Keckly) was a former slave who became a successful seamstress, civic activist and author in Washington, DC. Elizabeth Keckley was many things in her lifetime–a slave, a mother, a dressmaker, a free business owner, a White House regular, a companion of Mary Lincoln, and a Christian. The social threat represented by this black woman's agency also provoked other readers, and someone produced an ugly and viciously racist parody called Behind the Seams; by a Nigger Woman who Took Work in from Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Davis and Signed with an "X," the Mark of "Betsey Kickley (Nigger), denoting its supposed author's illiteracy.". She found little opportunity in Baltimore, and moved to Washington, D.C., where she was able to set herself up in business. Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com: accessed ), memorial page for Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (Feb 1818–26 May 1907), Find a Grave Memorial no. The women stayed in touch after Mary Lincoln moved to Illinois, and in 1867 Keckley became involved in a scheme in which Mary Lincoln tried to sell some valuable dresses and furs in New York City. 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