Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Behind the Scenes by Elizabeth Keckley

Behind the Scenes is a story told by the dressmaker and confidante of Abraham Lincoln´s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. I´ve always heard that Mary was a little "tetched in the head", but this book shows her in a very different light. She was high strung maybe, but not crazy.

Before reading this book I had no idea how hugely unpopular Mary Todd Lincoln was as a first lady. She fought tooth and nail to protect her husband from those who took advantage of his child-like faith in them which brought her many political enemies. Her faithfulness to the Union was doubted because she had brothers fighting in the South. She was criticized for her expensive (and low-cut) gowns.

The book was written to counteract the rumors and lies in the press, but it is much more than the story of Mrs. Lincoln´s troubles. It´s the story of a courageous and talented African American woman who earned the respect and love of all who knew her. Elizabeth Keckley was born a slave yet through hard work and ingenuity she was able to buy her freedom and work her way up to working in the White House. There she befriended a very lonely and misunderstood president´s wife and wrote a book to set the record straight. Fascinating reading!

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