Jennifer Chiaverini has written another book close to the heart of many quilters. This story illuminates history during the Civil War era and brings to life what individuals at that time experienced.
Elizabeth Keckley is the dressmaker that centers in the stories told here as her sewing skills and artistry are woven into the lives of prominent and political households in Washington City. Her story is interesting and moving.
Along with a copy of the book for me to read came a written copy of an interview that Jennifer shared with questions and answers about the new book. I enjoyed one question in particular of how she came to research and write Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker.
Question: Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker chronicles the friendship between First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley, who was born a slave and earned her freedom through her skill with a needle. What brought this story to your attention, and how did it inspire your first stand-alone historical novel?
Jennifer's answer: "More than a decade ago, I was researching antebellum and Civil War era quilts for my fourth novel when I discovered a photograph of an antique masterpiece. Arranged in the medallion style, with appliqued eagles, embroidered flowers, meticulously-pieced hexagons, and deep red fringe, the quilt was the work of a gifted needleworker, its striking beauty unmarred by the shattered silk and broken threads that gave evidence to its age. The caption noted that the quilt had been sewn from the scraps of Mary Todd Lincoln's gowns by her dressmaker and confidante, a former slave named Elizabeth Keckley. I marveled at the compelling story those brief lines suggested-a courageous woman's rise from slavery to freedom, an improbable friendship that ignored the era's sharp distinctions of class and race, the confidences sharted between a loyal dressmaker and a controversial, divisive First Lady. What I would give, I thought, to have been present as Elizabeth Keckley measured Mary Lincoln for a new gown, to overhear their conversations on topics significant and ordinary, to observe the Lincoln White House from such an intimate perspective. From that moment, my interest in their remarkable friendship was captivated, and it never really waned."
These words from Jennifer really got my attention as I see in the book evidence of so much research as well as creativity bringing this time and its people to life in such a full and interesting style. I am really enjoying reading and learning and highly recommend reading it!