Saturday, October 12, 2019

Suffrage Quilts #1

If you google "antique suffrage quilts" you'll find two images that appear frequently:

The first is is a crazy quilt housed at the American Folk Museum.  You can read about it here.

The second one was a signature fund raising quilt, this one is part of the collection at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  This one includes Susan B. Anthony's name.  Read here.

But while doing research, I found that a number of suffragists made quilts for a variety of reason.  Frequently the quilts were made as fundraisers or as gifts or donations.  I thought it would be fun to share some of the research I've found--even if I don't have a photograph.  I call them "Wish Quilts" as in "I wish we could see the actual quilts."

The Kansas Equal Suffrage Association Sunflower Quilt

Somewhere near Smith Center, Kansas, a "Sunflower Supper" was given in the late 19th century as a suffrage fundraiser.  The program consisted of songs, recitations, tableaux and sale of a suffrage  quilt.  The newspaper doesn't elaborate on the pattern of the quilt but the evening was considered a financial success.  However, 29 miles away, in Phillipsburg, Kansas, a report of a similar (if not same) event was reported.

"Our district equal suffrage association president writes from Cedarville her home, that their club gave a sunflower supper on May 4th that was very successful socially and financially, enabling the club to redeem their $25 pledge to the state fund.  A splendid program was carried out, consisting of recitation, songs, and a tableaux.  They also drew numbers for a sunflower or suffrage quilt.  There is a good suggestion in this for other clubs."

Although we don't know the quilt pattern they are describing, this is an early sunflower pattern published in the Ladies Art Company catalog:

I occasionally find quilts of this pattern at online auctions:

While researching the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association, I stumbled upon another quilt which was owned by Lucy Brown Johnston and her husband William Agnew Johnston.  They were both involved in the suffrage cause.  Take a look at the crazy quilt they owned here.  It wasn't a suffrage quilt but it is sure nice to study!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Suffrage Tea #1

One of the suggestions we've made for our By the Chimney No More program is that it is a perfect program for a tea party.  This past Monday, we gave our program to the Pennsylania Quilters in Wilkes-Barre and they surprised us by doing just that! 

Each of the ladies brought a tea cup for the program and we were just delighted!

Suffrage teas were an integral tool in spreading the message during the late 19th and early 20th century.  Newspapers became more supportive of the cause as more and more socialites became suffragists.  The teas allowed women to learn more about enfranchisment and also were integral to fund raising.  They were also popular; in Pittsburgh, PA, one could find more than one tea to attend:

 They were also valuable fund raisers!

 We've been having a lovely time with all the audiences we've met during this program.  Thanks Pennsylvania Quilters for your warm welcome!

Friday, October 4, 2019

It's About the Children...

One of the most profound moments in our program, By the Chimney No More, is when we talk about the welfare of children in the late 19th century.  During the Victorian era, women were considered to be morally superior over men and their realm was home and family.  For most suffrage and temperance groups the protection of children was preeminent in their cause. The impact on suffragists regarding children was discussed frequently in the early 20th century.  In Colorado where women had been granted the vote as early as 1893, Judge Lindsey of the Denver Juvenile Court wrote in the early 20th century:

“We have in Colorado, the most advanced laws of any state in the Union for the care and protection of the home and the children.  These laws, in my opinion, would not exist at this time without the powerful influence of woman suffrage.”

In 1917,  Annie G. Porritt published a study in a book entitled Laws Affecting Women and Children in the Suffrage and Non-Suffrage States.  You can actually read it via Google Books.  She had some pretty interesting insights like this chart:
Please note that the white (good) legislation generally occurred in western states where women already had the right to vote.

In 1905, Florence Kelley wrote a stirring piece on child labor:

We have, in this country, two million children under the age of sixteen years who are earning their bread. They vary in age from six and seven years (in the cotton mills of Georgia) and eight, nine and ten years (in the coal-breakers of Pennsylvania), to fourteen, fifteen and sixteen years in more enlightened states.

No other portion of the wage earning class increased so rapidly from decade to decade as the young girls from fourteen to twenty years. Men increase, women increase, youth increase, boys increase in the ranks of the breadwinners; but no contingent so doubles from census period to census period (both by percent and by count of heads), as does the contingent of girls between twelve and twenty years of age. They are in commerce, in offices, in manufacturing.
Tonight while we sleep, several thousand little girls will be working in textile mills, all the night through, in the deafening noise of the spindles and the looms spinning and weaving cotton and wool, silks and ribbons for us to buy.  

My Nana about the time of the study.

Although some gains were made to regulate child labor during the Progressive Era, it wasn't until 1938 and Fair Labor Standards Act that real mandates ensured the safety of children.

Turn of the century crib quilt from my collection.  Note the angels quilted on the piece.

Women's empowerment and the status of children have long been studied as being co-related.  In more recent times, a 2011 study found that children's mortality declined by 8-15% (that's about 20,000 kids a year) after women got the vote.  The reason appears to be that immediately after women's suffrage was passed, there was legislation was enacted that improved public health care and benefited children.  The bill was called the Sheppard-Towner Act of 1921.  The study I read cited this:

Richard Meckel (1990) observes that “fear of being punished at the polls by American women, not conviction of the bill’s necessity, seems to have motivated Congress to vote for it. As one senator admitted to a reporter from the Ladies Home Journal, ‘if the members of Congress could have voted on the measure in their cloak rooms, it would have been killed as emphatically as it was finally passed out in the open’” (Selden 1922). Growth in public health spending, in turn, was critical for scaling-up intensive door-to-door hygiene campaigns. Child mortality declined by 8-15% with the enactment of suffrage laws, and causes of death that responded were exclusively infectious killers of children sensitive to hygienic conditions (diarrheal diseases, diphtheria, and meningitis).

You can read the study here.

Lastly, I want to point out that many of the themes I'm discussing in suffrage continue to play an important role in the voting patterns of women.  More and more political pundits are pointing out that women voters are assessing the treatment of children, examples of politicians, and the lack of protection of children as they decide about their vote.  Women will play a key role in the upcoming elections.
Image result for women use your vote

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Jack and Jill

An early 20th century ditty:

Jack and Jill have equal will
And equal strength and mind.
But when it comes to equal rights,
Poor Jill trails far behind.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Giveaway Winner and Quilt Idea

Happy to report that Collette won this week's giveaway!  Collette please email me your address at!!!

Some of the emails you've been sending me have indicated that you are unsure of what to create on your suffrage quilt.  Today's post is about umbrellas!

I often see umbrella quilts at online shops.  Here is one you can look at on etsy (here).  Although I've made a few suffrage themed quilts for our program, I'm still working on a few more as I find the subject so fascinating.  With that in mind, I made a suffrage umbrella block for one of my upcoming quilts (apologies precede photo:  I'm a good historian, not a great applique artist--that is Beth's specialty):

For this piece, I chose to incorporate Barbara Brackman's suffrage fabric (found at Spoonflower) but I embroidered the outlines of the umbrellas.  If it isn't running away at 15 mph, I'll embroider just about anything!

Suffrage umbrellas were sold by suffragists and often used in parades, probably not only to create a uniform look but also to shade the ladies as they walked the parade route.

Umbrellas could also be used metaphorically like at the Democratic National Convention in 1916.  Several suffragists climbed the platform and held a suffrage umbrella over the head of Representative James Heflin of Alabama, a staunch opponent of women's suffrage.  The crowd at the convention roared in delight at the antics of the women and newspapers reported that the Congressman "appeared to enjoy the situation."

Another campaign happened in the rainy month of April.  Suffragists were asked to tie "Votes for Women" ribbons to their umbrellas.  You could use your scrap fabrics to make an umbrella quilt of all colors and just attach a yellow ribbon to the pole of your umbrellas.  It would also make a nice quilt to hang at baby showers!

Meanwhile, we'll continue to publish posts that may give you other ideas for your suffrage quilt.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Happy Birthday Mary Church Terrell!

Today we celebrate the birthday of Mary Church Terrell!
Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954)

The most courageous suffragists in this country were African American women.  Unlike their white sisters, they faced more dangers such as lynchings and other abuses.  With little or no support from white suffrage groups, they forged ahead and took heroic measures to make the world a better place for themselves and their community.

In July of 1896, the National Federation of Colored Women's club and the Colored Women's League (which Terrell had founded) merged to become the National Association of Colored Women's Club.  This group became the leading African American suffrage group and worked valiantly to achieve better education, social services for children and seniors, and took stands against Jim Crow laws and lynching.  Mary Church Terrell was elected as the first President of the club.  By `1918, membership was over 300,000.  The organization continues today.

The daughter of freed slaves, Mary Church Terrell was one of the first African-American women to earn a college degree.  She taught at universities, was fluent in a number of languages and a pioneer for women's suffrage.  By the late 19th century, most suffrage groups focused on the rights of white women.  Terrell, who had befriended Susan B. Anthony, was one of the few African American women to attend and speak at National American Woman Suffrage Association meetings.  As early as 1898, she spoke to the group urging them to include African Americans in their suffrage fight and to be involved in protection of African American women.  Unfortunately, this did not occur.

A founding member of the NAACP, she also worked hard to end segregation.  Her accomplishments were so great that her home in Washington, D.C. is a National Landmark.  In 1940 her memoir, A Colored Woman In a White World was published and it is still available for purchase.

Like all African American women, she was aware that she could be victimized by the terrorism that all African Americans faced.  Recent scholarship has been done on the lynchings of women and I recommend you read this article.  I have yet to find statistics on the number of children that were lynched.  

In my approach to history, I like to look at not only the facts but also popular culture.  It gives me a better insight as to what was considered culturally acceptable.  For suffragists, we see more pro-suffrage postcards available in the early 20th century, a signal of greater acceptance of women's right to vote.  During the same period, postcards were sold that provided photographs of lynching victims like Laura Nelson and her 14 year old son.

Today we celebrate not only Mary Church Terrell's great contributions to suffrage but all African American women.  Thank you Mary.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Suffrage Jewelry and a Giveaway

In our program, Money, Myth, and Madder:  Women and Quilting During the Civil War, we often discuss the myth of the underground Railroad Quilt Code (yes, it's a myth).  Myths permeate other craft areas as well.  Case in point:  Suffrage Jewelry.  I've seen lots of so called examples at online auction websites.  

This particular myth is actually grounded in some reality.  In England, Mappin and Webb jewelers capitalized on the suffrage movement and offered a Christmas catalog of "Suffragette Jewelry" predominately with stones in the colors of the Women's Social and Political Union: purple, green, and white.  The catalog was offered in 1908 or 1909 (depending on the source).  No actual known catalog has been found. 

In the world of antiques we need proof or provenance.  Deanna at Inherited Values has written a great article about about the myths of this kind of jewelry.  She challenges the "secret code" some speculate was in the pieces.  Read the article here.

In the United States I read that in the same era, some jewelers also offered suffrage jewelry but it is difficult to find images of the actual pieces my sources cited.  Then I found this in an archived magazine:
Sorry the image is so unclear!

A suffrage bazaar advertised in Chicago indicated suffrage jewelry for sale but it is unlikely that it was expensive jewelry (think craft fairs):

The National Woman's Party--like their British counterpart the WSPU--designed special jewelry for participants in the movement.  For the Silent Sentinels who picketed there was this piece:
Image result for without extinction is liberty pin nwp
In the U.K. there was a special pin for women who had endured forcible feedings.  It was recently featured in an episode of Call the Midwives.

In the United States, those that had been incarcerated received a special pin designed by Alice Paul:
Copies of the prison pin are available on Etsy.  I bought one for a miniquilt I made to celebrate the Pennsylvania Silent Sentinels that were imprisoned:

One woman was interested in suffrage jewelry:

Most suffrage pieces were buttons and ribbons like these:

One of the most important aspects of jewelry and suffrage is unrelated to retail.  Women frequently donated their jewelry to help support the suffrage cause.

Today I am donating some bling to you!  Our giveaway today is two charm packs of Michael Miller's Fairy Frost fabric.  There is a nice sheen to the fabric without heavy glitter.  
Leave a comment to compete in the random drawing which will picked on Thursday.  Have a great day!