Initially known for her work in the White House for President Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, Elizabeth Keckley gained a reputation as a first-rate tailor and dressmaker while enslaved. For over two and a half years, she used her hands and needle to provide for the seventeen people of her Master’s household. Keckley says, “While I was working so hard that others might live in comparative comfort and move in those circles of society to which their birth gave them entrance, the thought often occurred to me whether I was really worth my salt or not; then perhaps the lips curled with a bitter sneer.” After Elizabeth’s freedom, those same hands worked for little or no pay. As an ex-slave she was still forced to make concessions on her prices in order to get work from the white middle- and upper-class women she worked for. It was unheard of in those days for any woman, much less a Black woman, to create and own a business. Keckley did just that, eventually employing over twenty women. This is the life that Marlene Rivero will bring to the stage, offering the audience a glimpse into the past with a story deserving of our attention.

About the presenter:

My name is Marlene Rivero I am retired from the U.S. Forest Service. I started utilizing my storytelling talents in 1999 as a first-person heritage interpreter with the Forest Service. Later, I 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, I was a national guest speaker for the Corps of Discovery Expedition, the program, York’s Mother, retraced the 1803 journey of Lewis and Clark Expedition.

This event is being produced by Chatham Area Public Library in partnership with Illinois Humanities.  This event is free and open to the public.

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