This post contains affiliate links. Fresh off my reading of Killing Lincoln, I decided I wanted to learn more about Mrs. Lincoln, so I started reading Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini. (This was one of the books on my 30 Best Historical Books I Want to Read in 2020 list.) While I enjoyed the book, it wasn’t quite what I had expected.
About Mrs. Lincoln Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini
I read this book because I wanted to learn more about Mrs. Lincoln, but, as is to be expected, it also taught me about her dressmaker. The dressmaker, Elizabeth, was a slave who managed to buy her freedom and her son’s. She went to Washington, D.C. and became the dressmaker for all of the important women in Washington, including Mrs. Davis (before the war started), and, eventually, Mrs. Lincoln.
She became not only Mrs. Lincoln’s dressmaker, but her friend and confidant. Elizabeth helped Mrs. Lincoln through the death of her beloved son, the assassination of President Lincoln, and Mrs. Lincoln’s move back to Illinois.
However, Mrs. Lincoln was a demanding and moody friend. Elizabeth’s friendship with Mrs. Lincoln cost her some of her business as well as her time.
In the end, Elizabeth couldn’t hold onto her friendship with Mrs. Lincoln, and the two parted ways on bitter terms.
While I did learn more about Mrs. Lincoln, I wished I could have learned more about her dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckley. I didn’t feel like I really got inside Mrs. Keckley’s mind to know how she truly felt about her situation and Mrs. Lincoln.
The end of the book was particularly frustrating because 30 years are covered in one chapter. These are the years when Mrs. Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley were no longer friends. I would have loved to have known more about both women’s lives during this time. We’re given little snips when Keckley sees newspaper articles about a few significant events in Mrs. Lincoln’s life, but I would have loved more depth on both women during this time.
I give Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini 4 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.
To read more by Jennifer Chiaverini, consider Resistance Women, one of the books I read last year and greatly enjoyed.