Special Programs

Special Programs—Civil War Encampment
Saturday October 6th 2012

The morning’s featured guest from the East Haddam Stage Company performs the one-woman play They Called Me Lizzy … from Slavery to the White House, written and directed by Kandie Carle.

Elizabeth "Lizzy" Hobbs Keckley

Elizabeth “Lizzy” Hobbs Keckley

Elizabeth Hobbs “Lizzy” Keckley was best known as the personal dressmaker and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln. She should be better known as a survivor, entrepreneur, activist, feminist, author, educator—and a testament to the indomitability of the human spirit. And she crossed color lines to be all of the above.

  • Born into slavery in February 1818, Lizzy overcame incredible hardships to buy her freedom and that of her son in 1860, move to Washington, DC, and become a successful seamstress whose clientele included Mrs. Jefferson Davis and Mrs. Robert E. Lee.
  • Working for Mrs. Lincoln, she designed as well as created the First Lady’s gowns for all special events—and, today, we’d call her a stylist.
  • She was Mrs. Lincoln’s confidante and an intimate of the entire Lincoln family, throughout Abraham Lincoln’s presidency and in the aftermath of his assassination.
  • During the Civil War, she created the Contraband Relief Association, aiding newly freed men and women, and co-founded the National Home for Destitute Colored Women and Girls.
  • As an independent antebellum businesswoman, she was considered part of the emerging mixed-race middle-class leadership in the black community.
  • Her autobiography, Behind the Scenes, Or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House (1868), meant as a defense of a controversial Mrs. Lincoln, caused controversy for Lizzy herself for allegedly violating privacy about the Lincoln family.
  • After her fall from grace with Mrs. Lincoln, Lizzy’s business dwindled and to earn a living, she taught sewing to young girls.
  • Despite her lack of formal education, in 1892 she was offered a faculty position at Wilberforce University as head of the Department of Sewing and Domestic Science Arts and moved to Ohio.
  • For reasons of ill health, she moved back to Washington and was cared for at the Home for Destitute Colored Women and Girls she had helped found. She died in 1907.

Lizzy is brought to life by Stephanie Jackson of the East Haddam Stage Company.

The afternoon’s featured guest, Dr. Matthew Warshauer, discusses Connecticut in the American Civil War

Connecticut in the American Civil War: Slavery, Sacrifice and Survival-book cover

Connecticut in the American Civil War: Slavery, Sacrifice and Survival by Matthew Warshauer

Dr. Matthew Warshauer will discuss his new book, Connecticut in the American Civil War: Slavery, Sacrifice and Survival, as well as the plans that are underway for the state’s 150th anniversary of the war. Although most may not immediately think of Connecticut when considering the Civil War, the state was extensively involved  in the conflict. We sent more than 30 regiments to the front, had an extensive industrial capacity, and an active home front. Connecticut is also home to more than 130 Civil War monuments.

Biography: Matthew Warshauer

Dr. Matthew Warshauer is a Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University. The author of three books, he is a specialist on 19th century political and constitutional history. He currently serves as co-chair of the Connecticut Civil War Commemoration Commission, and is helping to coordinate activities across Connecticut to focus on the importance and lasting legacies of the American Civil War and Connecticut’s involvement in it.

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