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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  ·  279 ratings  ·  60 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
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 8th 2003 by Broadway
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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
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
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
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
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
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
Elizabeth Keckly was the former slave who became Mary Todd Lincoln's seamstress and friend. Her story is in some ways more remarkable than Mary Lincoln's. Born a slave, she bought her freedom as well as that of her son, and set up business as a seamstress. She was gifted and had the cream of society as her clients (including Mrs. Jefferson Davis!). As Mary Lincoln's seamstress, she knew the Lincoln family intimately. As a former slave, she knew how to act properly, yet she maintained her dignity ...more
Although this may not be a "best seller" the story line between these two women I found most interesting - the parallel of their lives the and in the era of American history one of the biggest changes -- gives the reader two views in one. Mary Lincoln, from bloodlines of well established figures in American history and Elizabeth Keckly, a slave, of an established Southern family shares this line of historic change. Few readers will not find in history of women during the Civil War, or I think of ...more
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).
Chi Dubinski
Elizabeth Keckly was born into slavery and bought her freedom and that of her son for $1200. A talented seamstress, she opened a shop in St. Louis, and soon counted among her customers the important and influential women of society. When Abraham Lincoln was elected to the presidency, Mary Todd Lincoln engaged Mrs. Keckly to sew new gowns for her important Washington functions.
When the President was assassinated, it was Lizzy Keckly who was constantly by Mary Lincoln’s side. And when the Presiden
Betsy Korb
I did find out about Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly separately, but didn't find out much about their friendship until the end of the book which didn't begin until Mrs. Lincoln became First Lady. Mrs. Keckly was born in Dinwiddie County,VA on a plantation to a privileged house slave and most probably her master, but her mother's husband accepted "Lizzy" as his own. Lizzy Keckly grew up and bought her freedom in DC. There, she became the seamstress to the elite ladies of DC. Mrs. Lincoln, wanting to ...more
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 ..... ;)
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.
I was led to this book from the source list in Mrs Lincoln's Dressmaker. Sometimes historical fiction makes me want to learn the history, and this time it was easier than usual.

First praise goes to the book cover design and title: the two women shown as equals, the title listing them as equals.

The early chapters alternate between the childhoods of each woman. Gradually their lives and stories are more intertwined. Interpretations are interesting, like frequent references to Mary Lincoln's child
Needed an editor.
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
Kathy Meyering
I certainly learned a lot of "insider information" about the social life and times of Mrs. Lincoln, as well as the details and history of many Civil War battles. Not the most enjoyable writing for me, but definitely this author did her homework, so I want to honor her for her effort. Read a lot more like a history book than a novel.
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
Denise Cormaney
I found this book very interesting. The first half goes between telling the history of each woman, which felt a bit long. It did seem relevant, however, in the second half because it gives the reader insight into what motivated each woman to be the other's friend. I'd definitely recommend this book.
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
Sheila Woofter
Obviously a thesis of some sort. Great information, but too much of it. Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly actually meet each other halfway through the book. Recommended to me for better reading and the same facts regarding their friendship was 'Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker' by Jennifer Chiaverini. Since I only skimmed the much of this book, I think I'll read Chiaverini's account.
Joyce Eggebeen
While I knew a lot about Mrs. Lincoln, I enjoyed learning about Mrs. Keckly whom I had not known about before. What an amazing lady.
Leslie Ferrari
As others have noted the majority of this book is a biography of the two women, not their interaction or friendship. I selected the book because it was prominently featured for sale at Ford's Theater when we saw Lincoln's Widow.
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
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.
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.
Gail Hafner
I didn't finish it. Way too many details.
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.
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