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Stitch by Stitch

Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly

Sews Her Way to Freedom



Holiday House

(pub.11.9.2021) 48 pages

Author: Connie Schofield-Morrison

Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon

Character: Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly


"An awe-inspiring African American woman! A talented seamstress, born a slave, bought freedom for herself and her son.

Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born in 1818, enslaved to a Virginian plantation owner. As a teenager, Lizzy was sent to work as the only slave on a small plantation, where the work was endless, and the masters treated her with unspeakable cruelty. A new master, learning Lizzy could sew, sent her to work for a tailor, who paid the master, not Lizzy, for Lizzy's work.

The beautiful gowns that Lizzy created were displayed in the tailor's window and soon attracted the attention of the wealthiest women in Virginia. Among them was Mrs. Jefferson Davis who also introduced Lizzy to Mary Todd Lincoln. Though Lizzy first had to borrow money from her wealthy patrons to buy her freedom, once she was free, she was able to earn money of her own and pay them all back."

Tantalizing taste:

" When Lizzy delivered the dress on the night of the party, Mrs. Lincoln insisted she didn't have enough time and refused to dress and join her guests. Her sister and her cousin were finally able to persuade Mrs Lincoln to let Lizzy dress her.

Laughing and quoting poetry, the president entered the room, threw himself on the couch, and said,

'I declare, you look charming in that dress.

Mrs. Keckly has met with great success.''

Mrs. Lincoln's dress was much admired at the party, and Lizzy became the First Lady's regular dressmaker, sewing at least fifteen dresses over the next two season ... stitch by stitch."

And something more: I'm always so thrilled to see more incredible illustrations by the talented Elizabeth Zunon (who illustrated our book, My Hands Sing the Blues - Romare Bearden's Childhood Journey). And I couldn't agree more with these Starred Reviews:

"The illustrations are a remarkable collage of painted scenes that are combined with decorative paper, fabric, lace, ribbon, braid trim, and intricate embroidery. This creates a three-dimensional presentation that brings to life the creativity and craftsmanship of Lizzy’s dresses... An essential purchase that will strengthen all biography collections."—School Library Journal, Starred Review

"Schofield-Morrison fashions a poignant tribute... Elizabeth Zunon’s breathtaking and masterful mixed-media illustrations—incorporating oil, paint, fabric, ribbon, paper, embroidery, and appliqué—beautifully capture the artistry of Keckly’s dresses. A dazzling picture book cut through with the thread and thrum of an inspiring but unsung life."—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review


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