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Lecture on “Elizabeth Keckly: Thirty Years as a Slave and Four Years in the White House”

when: Jan. 16, 2014

Lecture on “Elizabeth Keckly: Thirty Years as a Slave and Four Years in the White House” by Rebecca Ryan, Executive Director of the Historic Hillsborugh Commission, in Hillsborough, NC, will take place on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 7 pm at the Visitors Center of the Joel Lane Museum House at 160 South Saint Mary’s Street, Raleigh, NC 27603. Admission will be $15 for the general public and $10 for members of the Joel Lane Historical Society. Refreshments will be served. Seating is limited, and advanced payment is required. Please call 919-833-3431 with your MasterCard or Visa, or mail a check to P O Box 10884, Raleigh NC 27605, or go to the Eventbrite web site by clicking here: Keckly Lecture at Eventbrite. Be sure to include the names of all in your party; nametags will serve as tickets. Tickets are non-refundable unless we must cancel the event.

Rebecca will tell us about the life of Elizabeth Keckly. In December of 1835, a young enslaved woman named Elizabeth Hobbes accompanied Robert and Anna Burwell to Hillsborough. “Lizzie,” as she was known, had been born into slavery in the household of the Rev. Burwell’s father and was sent to live with Robert and Anna Burwell when they married. Elizabeth Hobbes lived in Hillsborough, in the Burwell household, for approximately five years. Mrs. Keckly moved to St. Louis, left St. Louis in 1860, and established her own dressmaking business, first in Baltimore and then in Washington, D.C. Among her prominent clients were Mrs. Robert E. Lee, Mrs. Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis, and, perhaps most significant, the First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. Mrs. Keckly became much more than a dressmaker to Mrs. Lincoln, functioning as her confidante and, in Mrs. Lincoln’s own words, “her best friend.”

Rebecca Ryan is the Executive Director of the Historic Hillsborough Commission, which operates the Burwell School Historic Site in Hillsborough, North Carolina. A native of South Carolina, Rebecca earned a M.A. in Public History with a specialization in Museum Studies at N.C. State University, and earned her B.A. in History and Political Science from Winthrop University. During her academic career, she specialized in women’s studies, African American studies, and the antebellum south. Rebecca joined the Historic Hillsborough Commission as site manager in 2010 and was promoted to Executive Director in the summer of 2011. Prior to joining the staff of the Historic Hillsborough Commission, Rebecca gained experience working at the North Carolina Museum of History and Marbles Kids Museum, both in Raleigh.


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