NAME: Elizabeth Keckley (nee Elizabeth Hobbs)
BIRTH DATE: ca. 1818/9
BIRTH PLACE: Hillsborough, NC
EDUCATION: Lizzie, as she was referred to, had no formal education. She received her outstanding skills as a seamstress from her mother, who not only sewed for the Colonel's family, but made extra money for the Colonel by sewing for his friends and acquaintances. Lizzie's skills as a seamstress eventually helped earn her freedom and that of her son.
FAMILY BACKGROUND: Lizzie's parents were George and Agnes Hobbs. Her father had a different master from her and her mother, and lived 100 miles from Lizzie. Lizzie's father was allowed to visit only at Easter and Christmas. After age 7 or 8 Lizzie never saw her father again, as his master moved away, taking George with him. Lizzie was with her mother most of the time until her teenage years; then she was given to the Colonel's son and his bride as a wedding gift. Lizzie's skills as a seamstress were taught to her by her mother during her childhood.
Lizzie's only child, George, was named after her father. George's father was a friend and neighbor of the Colonel's son. George was born through an unwanted and forced relationship. Lizzie married James Keckley in 1852 and within a few years found out he wasn't free and was an alcoholic. Lizzie's master had promised she could buy freedom for herself and her son after he died; but she did not have the money when he passed away. Thanks to the generosity of one of her patrons, she was loaned the $1200 she needed for their freedom.
Click here for an on-line version of Elizabeth Keckley's autobiography, Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty Years a Slave, and four years in the White House. Or, for an electronic facsimile of the original edition, click here.
Fleischner, Jennifer. Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly : The Remarkable Story of the Friendship Between a First Lady and a Former Slave. New York: Broadway Books. 2003.
Keckley, Elizabeth. Behind the Scenes, Formerly a Slave, but more Recently Modiste, and a Friend to Mrs. Lincoln, or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 2001. [Originally published: New York : G.W. Carleton, 1868. This edition originally published: Chicago : R.R. Donnelly, 1998.]
Rutberg, Becky. Mary Lincoln's Dressmaker : Elizabeth Keckley's Remarkable Rise from Slave to White House Confidante. New York: Walker. 1995.
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