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Elizabeth Keckley

Washington, D.C.

Elizabeth Keckley (c. 1818-1907), author of Behind the Scenes: or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years at the White House [1868], seamstress and confidante to Mary Todd Lincoln for 7 years, was a founder of the Contraband Relief Society. The society was formed by black women to help those fleeing from enslavement to freedom in DC during the Civil War. Keckley obtained donations from Mrs. Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Wendell Phillips. She was born enslaved in Dinwiddie,VA, and taken to St. Louis in her teens. There she worked as a seamstress and bought her freedom in 1855 with loans from customers.