Civil War  |  Historic Site

Elizabeth Hobbes Keckley


Rte 1 (N of Sappony Creek)
Dewitt, VA 23840
United States

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Elizabeth Keckley, 1861, dressmaker to Mary Todd Lincoln.
Elizabeth Keckley, 1861, dressmaker to Mary Todd Lincoln. Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University

Born near here in Dinwiddie County in 1818, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (1818-1907) (sometimes Keckly) was a dressmaker and abolitionist. She lived as a slave in Virginia and North Carolina but eventually bought her freedom in 1855. By 1860 she had relocated to Baltimore and then to Washington, D.C. Because of her dressmaking skills, she became the seamstress, personal maid, and confidante to Mary Todd Lincoln, President Abraham Lincoln’s wife.

Mary Todd Lincoln
Mary Todd Lincoln in 1861 wearing what is believed to be the ball gown that Keckly made for Lincoln's Inaugural festivities. Library of Congress

In 1868, Keckley’s account, Behind the Scenes; or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House, appeared and met with criticism from Mrs. Lincoln for its candor. Keckley died in 1907.

Marker: S-85, Virginia Department of Historic Resources (2011)