Elizabeth Keckley, an Interview with Lauren Burke (2021)
Tales From The Kentucky Room
Mariam interviews Lauren Burke, of the podcast "Bonnets at Dawn", about Elizabeth Keckley, dressmaker for Mary Todd Lincoln. They discuss her life as a slave, her move to Washington D.C., and the effect of her memoir on her relationship with Mary Todd Lincoln. They also discuss Lauren’s podcast, "Bonnets at Dawn", about women writers from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Lauren’s upcoming book about Elizabeth Keckley is titled A Stitch in Time.
Happy Women's History Month! We're highlighting leaders who took charge and made lasting impacts on their industries. This Women’s History Month, Encyclopedia Womannica is brought to you by Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes-Benz celebrates all women driving change and is indebted to those trailblazing women who punctuate the brand’s history like Bertha Benz and Ewy Rosquist. These women defied the odds to change the auto industry forever and Mercedes-Benz applauds the tenacity and courage it takes to pave the road ahead. Listen along this month as we share the stories of more inspiring women in charge and at the top of their fields — powered by Mercedes-Benz.Every weekday, listeners explore the trials, tragedies, and triumphs of groundbreaking women throughout history who have dramatically shaped the world around us. In each 5 minute episode, we’ll dive into the story behind one woman listeners may or may not know -- but definitely should. These diverse women from across space and time are grouped into easily accessible and engaging monthly themes like Leading Ladies, Activists, STEMinists, Local Legends, and many more. Encyclopedia Womannica is hosted by WMN co-founder and award-winning journalist Jenny Kaplan. The bite-sized episodes pack painstakingly researched content into fun, entertaining, and addictive daily adventures.Encyclopedia Womannica was created by Liz Kaplan and Jenny Kaplan, executive produced by Jenny Kaplan, and produced by Liz Smith, Grace Lynch, Maddy Foley, and Brittany Martinez. Special thanks to Shira Atkins, Edie Allard, and Carmen Borca-Carrillo, Taylor Williamson, and Ale Tejeda.We are offering free ad space on Wonder Media Network shows to organizations working towards social justice. For more information, please email Jenny at firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow Wonder Media Network:WebsiteInstagramTwitter
On this new episode of the "Drunk Black History" podcast, Brandon (@americancollins) and Gordon (@bakerbone) chat with comedian Marina Franklin (@marinayfranklin) about Elizabeth Keckley! She gives a thorough history of Elizabeth while also discussing her wild college years and being a part of Colin Quinn's new HBO Max comedy special!You can support the show by leaving a five star review and/or donating via Paypal at Drunkblackhistorynyc@gmail.com!
Designer Thread is a new series where we showcase a designer and their contribution to fashion. The first episode of this series we are starting with Elizabeth Keckey. She was a seamstress to First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln during the Lincoln presidency. A civil activist founded an organization that provided relief for former slaves. As well as the first African American woman to publish a biography.
We Shall Overcome: Elizabeth Keckley & Harriet Tubman, Part 2 (Season 1, Episode 10)
The Exploress Podcast
Harriet Tubman and Elizabeth Keckley took different paths to freedom, and navigating their new world. One because a famous conductor on the Underground Railroad, spending a decade liberating family and strangers alike. The other became a successful dressmaker in the nation's capitol, dressing the leading political ladies of the day. Both showed an incredible work ethic, a hunger for success, and a deep commitment to themselves and to helping others. Let's hear the rest of their incredible stories!
We Shall Overcome: Elizabeth Keckley & Harriet Tubman, Part 1 (Season 1, Episode 9)
The Exploress Podcast
Elizabeth Keckley and Harriet Tubman spent decades in bondage, suffering everything the "peculiar institution" promised before finding very different paths to freedom. What they did with that freedom is nothing short of extraordinary. In weaving together the lives of these two incredible women, a picture emerges: a window into what it might have been like to be an enslaved woman in 19th-century America. In Part 1 of this two-part episode, we'll dive into the world they were born into and their childhood struggles, exploring the trials of their lives in chains...and how they ultimately escaped them.
Here’s one that, until very recently, would have had be called “Cemetery Mixtape: Unmarked.” Elizabeth Keckley (or Keckly) was born a slave, bought her freedom as an adult, and became a modiste (dressmaker) for Mary Todd Lincoln throughout her years in the White House, eventually becoming a confidante of both Mrs. Lincoln and the President. Her whole life story is wonderfully told in her 1868 autobiography, Behind the Scenes. The fair’s newsletter, VOICE OF THE FAIR, describes the wax Davis-in-a-Dress figure. Today it’s a bit problematic for reasons that wouldn’t have occurred to them in 1865. While her time with the Lincolns and the book have made her a relatively well-known historical figure, it’s not as well remembered that, before coming to work for the Lincolns, she had also worked briefly as a live-in modiste for the family of Jefferson Davis, just before he left the senate to become president of the Confederacy. Mrs. Davis even tried to persuade Elizabeth to come back South with them! In 1865, as the war wound down, Davis was captured by Union Soldiers while trying to escape to Mexico. Reports in the press were that he was disguised as a woman when he was captured, and artists quickly got to work depicting him in petticoats. Though he wasn’t dressed QUITE as feminine as the artists made him out to be, in this episode we examine several first-hand accounts that make it clear that, though he may not have intended it that way, he was disguised as an old woman, wearing his wife’s waterproof cloak and shawl, and referred to as an old woman by Mrs. Davis. In the episode, we look at some first hand accounts confirming that the legend was, at least, closer to true than Davis wanted to admit. At the time of the capture, Secretary of War Stanton seems to have decided not to let facts get in the way of a good story – he locked the waterproof cloak and shawl in storage, and seems to have sent out a dress from Mrs. Davis’s trunk to be put on display. The first display came a month later, when Chicago hosted The Great Northwestern Sanitary Fair, which became something of a victory lap for the war, hosting several generals and showcasing relics and munitions (see the recent post on Mysterious Chicago). Prominently displayed as a wax figure of Davis – in one of Mrs. Davis’s dresses. The fact that the dress draped on the figure was one of Mrs. Davis’s was one known only because Elizabeth Keckley, who happened to be at the fair, wrote in her autobiography that she recognized it as one she had made for her five years earlier. In speaking of this, she said that she caused quite an uproar in the fair hall, but the story always had to be taken with a grain of salt – she’d said that it happened in winter (the fair was in June), and newspapers at the time didn’t mention the uproar. Or, anyway, I thought they didn’t. Though they didn’t get her name quite right, the Voice of the Fair newsletter, which has now been digitized, mentioned it in passing: An excerpt from VOICE OF THE FAIR confirming Keckley’s account., though they got her name wrong. So, they didn’t get her name right – but she did report that she had to rush out of the building, and it’s easy to imagine that perhaps the reporter simply didn’t have a chance to speak with her. Keckley’s grave was considered “lost” for many years – originally buried at Columbian Harmony Cemetery, the cemetery was considered full a few years after she died. Though it was mentioned frequently when it was in use – usually either from a notable black person being buried there or someone robbing the graves – after about 1918 it seems to vanish from newspapers until 1960, when a developer bought the land and had the bodies moved. The tombstones didn’t travel with the bodies – some ended up in a “riprap” separating the Potomac River from land, and others are probably simply lost. The new cemetery where the bodies were taken, National Harmony, replaced them with simple plaques that lie flush with the ground. Elizabeth didn’t have one for years – it’s generally assumed that her plot at Columbian was unmarked, and it was said for years that the new cemetery simply didn’t know which plot was hers. But a historian dug through the records a few years ago, and found that there actually WAS a plot for her, and a new plaque with her picture was finally added. The Washington Post told the story and covered the unveiling of her long-overdue monument. Given the extent to which the cemetery was forgotten by 1960, it’s possible that Keckley DID have a headstone, and people simply didn’t realize it. For all we know, one of the stones pictured in these shots of Columbian Harmony below could be hers! Columbian Harmony Cemetery in April, 1960. Smithsonian. Columbian Harmony, 1960. From the Smithsonian EPISODE CREDITS: Kalina McCreery – Mrs. Davis John Kajander – Jefferson Davis Ronica Davis – Elizabeth Keckley John Piotrowski – “Voice of the Fair” MUSIC This month’s song is “Elizabeth Waltz,” written and recorded for this episode by Chicago’s own FRECKLEBOMB! Check out their cover of “Pale September,” my favorite Fiona Apple song.
In this everyday hero episode we will take a look at a woman who lived an incredible life, Elizabeth Keckley. Born into slavery, she worked her way to freedom and even into the White House as modiste for Mary Lincoln. You do not want to miss out on this amazing true story of a hero that has very recently risen to prominence.