Born into slavery, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly learned to read, write, and sew at a young age. She became a very talented seamstress and worked tirelessly to earn the patronage of some of the most fashionable women of St. Louis. Eventually, she was able to buy her and her son’s freedom and move to Washington, D.C. There, she continued work as a seamstress, making gowns for many prominent women in history, including the wives of Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis. Quotes from Keckly’s own memoir are interspersed throughout the book, and back matter features an author’s note, timeline, and bibliography. This intriguing biography of a remarkable and heretofore little-known figure is a solid addition to elementary biography collections.
THOUGHTS: I had never heard of Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly before reading this book but was struck by her determination and perseverance. Despite the cruelty and hardships she faced as a slave early in life, she went on to become a successful businesswoman. As if this “hard work pays off” message isn’t enough to warrant purchase, the book will also help strengthen biography collections that may be lacking stories about African American women.
Picture Book Julie Ritter, PSLA Member