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  • Writer's pictureBrian Powers

Episode 20 - By the Hem of Her Dress

First, let me acknowledge that I'm on Episode 20. Whew. That's pretty far in. I'm thankful for everyone who has stuck with me so far.


In case it wasn't apparent by the writing, what fascinates me is that this amazing woman who literally worked her way out of slavery went on to work for BOTH Presidents of the opposing factions in this Civil War. The Davis family talked openly of the coming war around and with Elizabeth without the slightest trace of irony that they were employing a free Black woman who had escaped from the institution they would fight to uphold. Varina Davis even gushed about how the South would vanquish the North and how SHE would be the real First Lady living in the White House. She tried to convince Elizabeth to come with her and Jefferson Davis to Richmond, saying that once the war got underway, the North would turn on people like her and treat her worse. Luckily, Elizabeth paid no heed.


In case it wasn't clear, Elizabeth was truly devoted to the people she cared for, and that goes doubly so for her relationship with Mary Todd Lincoln. In the end, it hurt her - her attempt to rehabilitate Mary's image destroyed her life, and it was Robert Todd Lincoln who worked to suppress Elizabeth's memoir, dooming it to failure. I think Mary took advantage of her, and it was a fundamental difference between how the two women saw their friendship that doomed Elizabeth's hard-won career. To be fair, life was cruel to Mary after the death of Abraham, since she really had no income and there was no provision for her or her family to survive. Mary was swept aside, too, but she was an anchor on Elizabeth in the end, dragging her down as they both sank. Man, did this get dark.


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