Elizabeth Keckley: Seamstress

Thursday, March 18, 2021 - 6:30pm

Location: 

  • Illinois State Museum, Springfield

Fee: 

Free with Registration

Hear a story worth telling with a glimpse into the life and work of Elizabeth Keckley. Keckley is well known for her work as a dressmaker in the White House for President Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, but the rest of her life and the trials of being a formerly enslaved black businesswoman are not as often told. In this program, Marlene Rivero will bring Keckly’s history to life through first-person storytelling. Keckley’s reputation as a first-rate tailor and dressmaker began while she was enslaved. Later as a free woman, she struggled to make a decent wage as she was forced to make concessions on her prices in order to get work from the white middle- and upper-class women she worked for. At the time, it was unheard of for a woman, much less a Black woman, to create and own a business, yet Keckley did just that, eventually employing over twenty women.

Marlene Rivero started utilizing her storytelling talents in 1999 as a first-person heritage interpreter with the U.S. Forest Service, from which she is now retired. She became lead heritage interpreter for the agency in African American interpretation and presentations, and served in that role for eleven years. From 2003 to 2006, Marlene was a national guest speaker for the Corps of Discovery Expedition. The program, “York’s Mother”, retraced the 1803 journey of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

This program is free with registration. Register at http://bit.ly/ISMKeckley.

This program is part of the Illinois Humanities Road Scholar Program. Illinois Humanities is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Illinois General Assembly [through the Illinois Arts Council Agency (IACA)], as well as by contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed by speakers, program participants, or audiences do not necessarily reflect those of the NEH, Illinois Humanities, IACA, our partnering organizations, or our funders. 

Marlene Rivero as Elizabeth Keckley sewing a dress.

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