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Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker: The Unlikely Friendship of Elizabeth Keckley and Mary Todd Lincoln Hardcover – January 13, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5–8—Opening with the initial meeting between the First Lady and the former slave who became her dressmaker, Jones then presents alternating chapters about the women's lives. Period quotes, and daguerreotypes, photos, paintings, and publications from the era appear throughout. Similar both in subject and title to Becky Rutberg's Mary Lincoln's Dressmaker (Walker, 1995), this book is sparer, but it references Rutberg's work, both as a source and with very similar language and quotes. The earlier title presents a broader story in a more engaging manner. This is a worthwhile subject for women's history, American history, and for providing insight into the Lincolns. However, Rutberg's book remains the better of the two.—Janet S. Thompson, Chicago Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Although it’s difficult to find a fresh angle for a book in this year of Lincoln, Jones manages smartly with the story of Elizabeth Keckley, born into slavery, and her friendship with Mary Todd Lincoln. The book opens with the first meetings between Mary, the new first lady, in need of a seamstress, and Elizabeth, the experienced dressmaker. Things get off to a rough start, but Elizabeth has a talent not just for sewing, but for soothing Mary. In alternating chapters, Jones then introduces both women and contrasts their very different lives. Readers may be familiar with the ups and downs of Lincoln’s life, but details of Keckley’s story—the physical and sexual abuse she suffered, her efforts to buy herself out of slavery—will give them new insights into the life of a slave, in this case, one who was educated and had a profession. Because Keckley wrote an autobiography, Jones is able to draw on her own words, which are used effectively. The format, however, is rather dull, especially compared with the current crop of Lincoln books. A short bibliography and source notes are appended. Grades 6-9. --Ilene Cooper
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 960L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books (January 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1426303777
  • ISBN-13: 978-1426303777
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.4 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,016,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker" is a very interesting book about an unusual friendship during a time of great turmoil in our nation's history. What makes it remarkable is that Mrs. Lincoln, the nation's first lady, was white and her friend and dressmaker Elizabeth Keckley was black.

Elizabeth Keckley is remarkable in her own right in that she was born a slave, developed a talent for dressmaking, and eventually bought her freedom and moved to Washington D.C. where she developed and managed a thriving business. The book is written for young people and is easy to read, and liberally sprinkled with illustrations and photos.

I found this book to be delightful and a significant contribution to literature about black people during a time of our nation's history when most of them were slaves, and a terrible war took place so that they could have their freedom. It is a very good book and I give it a 5 star rating. -- Valerie Lull, Author, Ten Healtlhy Teas
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I see that this is a children's book, and I was a little disappointed that I didn't learn more about this interesting friendship. The book is laid out in an attractive way and is good for children to read. I like the depiction of such a capable and intelligent black woman in a time when people of her race were not valued. It did make me curious to read her own autobiography and to learn more about her and Mrs. Lincoln.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A lovely little book, couched in simple but nonpatronizing language, telling the story of the former slave who became an indispensable part of Mrs. Lincoln for a time. I don't have children and bought the book by accident (I was looking for the novel by the same name by Jennifer Chiaverini), but I'm glad I did; this one, though simpler, is a good companion to the other and told mostly in the words of the two women.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very well written and historically accurate account of these two women's relationship. Also, liked the story of Elizabeth Keckley buying her way out of slavery. I had just returned from Springfield, IL and a 5 day program on the "Life and Legacy of Abraham Lincoln" when I ordered this book. For some reason, I wanted to know more about Mary Lincoln and her dressmaker, and this book told that story. Loved the pictures, too.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lovely photos which are not in he adult version. I think my 10 year old granddaughter will enjoy her Christmas present. History, women, character building, and sewing are themes...also war. I told her I would save the adult version for her when she is older. Great story.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the story of two women of history and the friendship that evolved between them.

Elizabeth Keckley was born into slavery and brutalized by her masters until she finally earned her freedom and that of her son. She started a dressmaking business in Washington, D.C., and was able to impress Mary Todd Lincoln enough to garner her clientele and, over the years which followed, her endearment as well. Elizabeth was such a close friend to Mary that it was Elizabeth's comfort Mary requested during the time when the President was on his deathbed after being shot.

Even after Abe Lincoln's death, Elizabeth came to Mary's aid in trying to raise money by selling the previously famous wardrobe created by Elizabeth and worn by Mrs. Lincoln during her husband's presidency, but this sale did not go well and ended up sullying the reputation of both women, becoming known as the Old Clothes Scandal.

As a last ditch effort to repair her own reputation and also to raise money, Elizabeth wrote an autobiography, Behind the Scenes, which chronicled both her struggle to overcome slavery and also her relationship with Mrs. Lincoln. Some personal correspondence from Mary to Elizabeth was included in the book. This caused an uproar, and Mary was outraged. Sadly, their friendship came to an end over this publication, even though Elizabeth swore the letters were published without her permission and that she had never meant to tarnish the Lincolns' image. What a shame that this beautiful, mutually supportive relationship ended on such a sad note.

This book is very well written and easy to follow and includes spectacular photographs of Mrs. Lincoln wearing Mrs. Keckley's creations. I can only imagine the hours and care that went into sewing each individual flower decoration.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was greatly disappointed when I received this. This is a children's book, age range between eight and eleven, depending on ability. I was looking forward to reading this. It was returned.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think I must have ordered the wrong Mrs. L. Got it
...read it anyway...and I will pass it on to my local
middle school. No harm, no foul.......
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