Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born into slavery and later became a successful seamstress, civil Activist, and author in Washington DC. She learned to sew from her mother and she took the skill and ran with it. The income from making dresses supported the family￼ that enslaved her. In 1855, she was able to buy her freedom and her sons with loans from her clients. In 1860, she started her own business, and her clientele were prominent politicians wives. In 1861 she met former first lady Mary Todd Lincoln through recommendations and the two became friends through the loss of their kids, Keckley‘s son died in the battle of Wilson’s Creek in 1861. ￼￼ Mary donated money to Elizabeth’s Contraband Relief Association, which aided newly freed slaves who had come to Washington. Miss Keckley assisted Lincoln with the controversial sale of her clothing after she left the White House, they stayed in contact until Miss Keckley‘s memoir was published in 1868.￼ The memoir was part slave narrative part Lincoln family biography, and she wanted the proceeds to go to Mrs. Lincoln, for she was having financial problems. The to stop being friends because Lincoln‘s son was offended, it had the book suppressed. Mary Lincoln was mad about the work revealing her connection and friendship with Elizabeth.￼
Elizabeth remained making dresses in Washington, she also trained other black women to be seamstresses, until the 1890s when she excepted a position on the faculty at Ohio’s Wilberforce university as a sewing instructor. One year later she quit because she fell ill. She let her move back to Washington where she passed on in her sleep in 1907.
This is a captivating story about a woman making her way out of slavery. Also, she was a working woman. I never heard of anything like this, mainly because there are so many slave stories out there, but this was big in so many ways. Miss Keckley had many connections because of her work, and she stood tall when dealing with adversity. I love hearing stories about women who worked their way to live a life that they want. She did just that.
This week we have two blog posts to make up for last week, also to celebrate as many women this month as possible for Women’s History Month. Thank you for reading this blog post. Feel free to like comment and or follow.