Elizabeth Keckley

Behind the Scenes at the White House: 
or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House


Excerpt from the full text at Project Gutenberg.

Elizabeth Keckly (as she, herself, spelled her name) is best known for her remarkable talent as a dressmaker, designing dresses for the wives of the political elite in 1860s Washington, and also for forming a surprisingly close relationship with First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln.  She lived as a slave for thirty-seven years, using her earnings as a dressmaker to buy her own freedom and her son's in 1855.  Although her talents in dressmaking eventually set her apart from other slaves, the chapter excerpted below concerns an earlier part of her life, when her circumstances were much like any other slave woman's.

(NB: Paragraph numbers apply to this excerpt, not the original source.)

Girlhood and Its Sorrows


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