Jennifer Chiaverini announced via her Facebook page on January 8, "one week from today, Dutton will publish my twenty-first novel, 'Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker' a story inspired by a remarkable woman who was born into slavery, earned her freedom by the skill of her needle, and won the friendship of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln by her devotion."
Chiaverini is known for her inspiring and intriguing characters. According to an article in Wisconsin Woman magazine, Chiaverini was inspired for her soon to be released book while researching another story. “I was doing research for 'The Lost Quilter' which is set during the Civil War, when I learned about Elizabeth Keckley.”
Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley made her professional reputation sewing expertly fashioned dresses for the Washington elite, among them Mrs. Jefferson Davis and Mrs. Robert E. Lee. In March 1861, Mrs. Lincoln chose her from among numerous applicants to be her personal “modiste,” responsible for creating the First Lady’s beautiful gowns and dressing her for important occasions. In this role, Elizabeth Keckley was quickly drawn into the intimate life of the Lincoln family, a clear-eyed but compassionate witness to events within the private quarters of the White House.
Ever loyal to the Union, Elizabeth Keckley hid her fears when her only son, George, enlisted with the 1st Missouri Volunteers, and his courage in battle inspired her to bold new endeavors. When tens of thousands of former slaves sought refuge in Washington, she cared for them in their squalid camps, taught them sewing and other necessary skills, founded the Contraband Relief Association—to which Mary Todd Lincoln was a generous contributor—and worked tirelessly to raise money so that the struggling freedmen could embrace their newfound liberty.
All the while, Elizabeth Keckley supported the First Lady through years of war, political strife, and devastating personal losses, even as she endured heartbreaking tragedies of her own. Even more daring, Elizabeth not only made history, but also wrote it. The publication of her memoir, Behind the Scenes: Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House, placed her at the center of a scandal she never intended. The sensational fallout distanced the longtime confidantes, and for the rest of her days, Elizabeth sought redemption through living an exemplary life.
The author begins her book tour Tuesday, January 15 in Madison, WI. She will visit several bookstores and libraries across the country.
Book Tour Schedule
- Tuesday, January 15 - Barnes & Noble West Towne, Madison, WI
- Wednesday, January 16 - Schuler Books and Music, Grand Rapids, MI
- Thursday, January 17 - Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO
- Friday, January 18 - Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH
- Saturday, January 19 - Warren County Historical Society, Lebanon, OH
- Saturday, January 19 - Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Lexington, KY
- Sunday, January 20 — Towne Book Center, Collegeville, PA
- Monday, January 21 — Vero Beach Book Center, Vero Beach, FL
- Thursday, January 24 — Racine Public Library, Racine, WI
Publisher's Weekly calls 'Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker' "a welcome historical."
RT Book Reviews raves, "All the characters are brilliantly written, and readers will enjoy getting to know each and every one of them. [Chiaverini] brings to life long-forgotten snapshots of America’s past with style, grace and respect."