Gertrude Woodruff Marlowe, "Keckley, Elizabeth Hobbs," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/20/20-00530.html.
Elizabeth's life as a slave included harsh, arbitrary beatings "to subdue her stubborn pride," frequent moves to work for often poor family members, and being "persecuted for four years" by Alexander Kirkland, a white man, by whom she had a son. Her life improved when she was loaned to a Burwell daughter, Anne Garland, with whose family Keckley moved to St. Louis. There, her labor as a dressmaker was the sole support of the Garland household of seventeen members for more than two years. Because of her skill, engaging personality, and capacity for hard work, she developed a devoted clientele among the city's elite women. She persuaded the Garlands to set a price, $1,200, for her freedom and that of her son. In St. Louis (probably in 1852) she married James Keckley, a man who had told her he was free but was actually a "dissipated" slave. Because of the strain of supporting both her husband and the Garlands, she could not save the money needed to purchase her freedom. Her customers raised it among themselves, however, and the Deed of Emancipation was registered in 1855. With her labor now her own, she was soon able to repay the loan. In 1860 she separated from her husband and moved to Washington, D.C., where she set up a dressmaking establishment that trained dozens of young women over the years. Keckley's clients were the wives of politically prominent men, such as Stephen Douglas and Jefferson Davis.