Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly: The Remarkable Story of the Friendship Between a First Lady and a Former Slave
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Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly: The Remarkable Story of the Friendship Between a First Lady and a Former Slave

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  197 ratings  ·  43 reviews
A vibrant social history set against the backdrop of the Antebellum south and the Civil War that recreates the lives and friendship of two exceptional women: First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and her mulatto dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckly.

“I consider you my best living friend,” Mary Lincoln wrote to Elizabeth Keckly in 1867, and indeed theirs was a close, if tumultuous, relation...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published February 10th 2004 by Broadway Books (first published April 8th 2003)
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Carol
This double biography studies the parallel lives of Mary Lincoln and the freed slave woman her became her seamstress when Mary became the First Lady, or Mrs. President as the title was at that time. As other reviewers noted, the friendship between these women was brief, lasting only a few years after the President's murder. However, the book discusses not only their childhoods, but gives the history of their families.

I have read several biographies of Mary Lincoln as well as more than a few boo...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I'm giving this 3 stars, but it just barely makes it.

Unfortunately, the sub-title of the book is very misleading. Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly don't even meet until page 200, on the eve of Lincoln's first inauguration. Also unfortunately, much of the remaining 125 pages involves Civil War politics. I did want to know more about the friendship of these women, but perhaps the intricacies of that friendship cannot truly be known and this was, after all, non-fiction.

Mary Lincoln was vain, arrogant a...more
Karola
This is one of the best historical novels I've ever read. Facts and details are supported by research and other period writings. You get the whole picture or one that's pretty close to it about Mary and her miserable childhood, a lot of what showed itself in her adult behavior. I read about people from Springfield whose names are well known here. And Lizzy - this book follows her from her humble beginnings to a triumph of freedom which she bought for herself. She helped Mary during her white hou...more
Amy
I cannot wait to discuss this with my discussion group this week! An interesting read and very discussable.

Cons: Way too much historical detail (and I love history); the book is about 325 pages long -- only the last 100 pages actually deal with the friendship between these two women and finally, not real thrilled with all of the assumptions that the author makes . . . such and such might have done this or the family might have done that. Based on all of the research the author did, she should ha...more
JGP
The author makes some assumptions and the style can be dry in places, but overall this is a great book because of the insights it offers into the experiences of freed slaves as well as the personal lives of the Lincolns. I loved Mrs. Lincoln's response when friends wondered whether she ever regretted deciding to marry the gangly and struggling Lincoln rather than the (then) more successful Stephen Douglas: "What they fail to realize is that his heart is as large as his arms are long." (paraphras...more
Diane
I can't believe I FINALLY got through this book! I put it down twice, deciding not to read it b/c the author was horrible. She's a historian and she was dry. But when she finally got around to telling the story she was writing about, it got very interesting (the last 75 pages).
Anne
I really distrust a book that has an error on the third page. Plunged on, though, and found enough interesting stuff I hadn't known before to make it worth reading. Not that I trust it ..... ;)
Lisa
I don't know if I just wasn't in the mood to read this, or if it got bogged down in the details and I got bored with it. I was so looking forward to reading this and it disapointed me.
Judy
Much has been written about Mary Lincoln--not much of it favorable. That is the truth of the matter because she was brought up to live in leisure cared for by slaves. What I learned from this book is that she lost her mother when she was very young, her father remarried and his new wife favored her own children. Mary grew up lonely. She was an intelligent woman and an assertive one, a trait not admired in those days, and interested in politics--a man's purview. Her story is not unlike many at th...more
Brian Bixler
I have been wanting to read this book for a long time and must thank my friend for sending it to me. Of the dozens of books I have read about Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd mostly remained a footnote, garnering perhaps a chapter or so, and certainly without enough insight to answer a question that has long troubled me: How were Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd able to stay together so many years given her extreme behavior?

Jennifer Fleischner is able to somewhate define their relationship while leaving...more
Nada
I really liked the book although at times I did find myself losing interest. You not only learn about the relationship between Lincoln & Keckly but also between Mary and her husband. That especially fascinated me because I was unaware of just how much Mary was despised while her husband loved. It seems that there was very much to be appalled by. After finishing reading I'm still fascinated by the relationship between Mary and Abraham Lincoln. On the other hand the relationship between Mary &...more
Charlie
The author is a colleague of mine - and when I started reading the book I wondered whether or not I should put it on this list. What if I didn't like it? Could I write honest comments? I need not have worried.

This is a very well-researched and well-written book, a dual biography of two women, one who grew up as a slave, the other with a privileged but emotionally challenging background. Their lives and eventual relationship makes fascinating reading and illuminates Lincoln, the civil war, slave...more
Laura Stahl
I read this about 3 years ago. I loved it! It gives us the lives of these two women before they met, giving us insight into what made these women who they were, the dichotomy of their social standing (yet each had an element of high social standing with their peers, despite the things that others looked down on them for), and, because of race and society, how their "friendship" was actually more a closet one than an open/public one. I only rated this 4-stars because it took so long to get to the...more
Lara
This book was an enlightening look at Mrs. Lincoln through the evolutionary and changing friendship she had with her dressmaker, the former slave Lizzy Keckly. It also was a more intimate look at the relationships and inner workings between Abraham Lincoln and his wife. I really enjoyed learning more about these people, particularly through the eyes of other who knew them (especially in the special circumstances of this friendship.) It is well worth a read if you are interested in the Lincolns,...more
Nancy
An interesting book although the subtitle is misleading. it is more of a parallel biography as their lives only intersect for a short portion of the book. I did not enjoy the speculations, particularly in the early portions, regarding what Lizzy Keckly may have have felt or interactions that may have occurred between her and her owners/masters. A very sad ending for Lizzy Keckly, who was so self-sacrificing to Mary Lincoln. Book club.
Rita
Well written --very informative. At the end of this book the author implies that due to her research she does not believe that Elizabeth Keckley wrote her book Behind the Scenes. She states that she had a collaborator, and she thinks Mrs. Keckley, due to her limited education, could not have written her own book. Other than that, there was very little new information that Fleischner discussed that was not in Behind the Scenes, which--by the way--was one of Fleischner's sources.
Catherine
This was another book club choice. I usually love historical biographies, and this one was interesting, but I wasn't riveted. The author was forced to make a lot of assumptions and the tone was a little too academic for my taste. Both women suffered great losses in their lives and that was terribly sad. I enjoyed reading Mrs. Keckly's story, and I would hope that if she were alive today she would be much more appreciated and admired.
Jeri
Feb 03, 2011 Jeri rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeri by: RV neighbor at The Ranch
Shelves: nf-biography, kindle
the story of Mary Todd Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly, a black woman who is a seamstress and becomes Mary's confidante…if you're into history it's an interesting read and gives some new insights into Washington DC at that time as well as what made Mary Lincoln "tick".
Amy Turner
I had already read Elizabeth Keckley's autobiography, and wanted to read more partly because she lived for some years in Hillsborough. It took me a while to get into this book, but there was a lot of interesting information about the two women and their time.
Barbara
Love the history and relationship of Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly. Women's struggles in history are still the same as what we current face only dated. Some things never change. Found the book very interesting and would recommend highly.
Desiree
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Hillarystephenson
fascinating look into the lives of two incredible women who lived at a pivotal time in history. i've read several books on lincoln and this one gives what i think is the fairest picture of his wife in all her complexity.
Mary
Fascinating book. Gave me a different perspective on the Lincolns. The story of Mrs.Keckly is exceptional. This book is well written. Reads like a novel, which for me is always a plus. I am rec. it to all my friends.
Jeannine
A great premise for a rather boring book. The author gets caught up on way too many unimportant details and forgets she is telling a story about both Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly. I was never able to finish the book.
Carolyn Bunkley
Interesting insights into the times. Explores the lives of two remarkable women, born in the same period, yet into extremely different circumstances, from birth to their meeting and beyond.
Leah Smith
Very well-researched and interesting story that gives us incite into a strained marriage and Mary Lincoln's reliance on her dressmaker as a confidant and friend in her neediest times!
Michelle
Reading on Kindle, so not sure what "page" I am on, but so far it is very detailed and interesting. Did not realize the nuances and quirks of Mary Todd (before she became "Lincoln").
Jim Swike
Very good true story of these two women. If you are a history buff, women's studies, or just looking for an great read, you will enjoy this book.
Katie Shoemaker
I gained a better understanding of the times when I read it through these two womens' eyes and I enjoyed myself doing it.
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