Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker
By Jennifer Chiaverini
Dutton, 2013. 356 pgs. Historical Fiction
Elizabeth Keckley was born a slave, but thanks to her skills as a dressmaker she was able to purchase her freedom. Eventually she worked her way to Washington D.C. and becomes one of the most sought after ‘modistes’ in the city.
After Lincoln’s election, Elizabeth was hired by First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. The two women began their relationship on a professional level, but Mrs. Lincoln comes to rely heavily on Elizabeth’s calming influence and steady support as she navigates the trials of being the First Lady during a civil war, grieves over the loss of her son,and later as she survives the horrors of her husband’s assassination.
In Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, Jennifer Chiaverini gives us what the best historical fiction should, a new perspective on familiar history. Elizabeth’s intimate access to the First Family provides a very personal and female version for the American Civil War. This is a standout addition to the vast amount of literature dealing with the Lincolns.