Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Suffrage Quiltmaking and Service

The more I research suffragists, the more I am inspired by the many services they bestowed on their communities.

Americans have a long history of longing for isolationism but the truth is that no country lives in a vacuum and long before "global economics" became a catch phrase, there were certainly examples of how international events could impact another country.

In July of 1914, World War I broke out and despite the lack of U. S. participation, ripples of the war impacted families in the U.S.  By winter of 1914, thousands of sailors and longshoremen in Brooklyn, NY were idle because of the impact of the war.  It was particularly devastating to the families of the longshoremen:  "because they live hand to mouth at all times."

Many charities stepped up to help the families, not the least of which was The Woman Suffrage Party.  By December, the women had prepared hundreds of baskets of food and supplies to help the poor.

Later reports stated that the more baskets they filled, the more poor they found.  On Christmas day, the suffragists also set up 3 stations and gave out free bread to the needy.

Despite the women's initiatives, it was surprising to find that other charities refused the assistance of the suffragists because the baskets each had yellow ribbons and tags on them.

The suffragists were undaunted and in January they began a quilt drive to provide quilts to the needy of the region.  

"The actual cost is only the cotton wadding, plus a few hours of work; and the result be great comfort, perhaps even life, to some our citizens.  One thick quilt to a family might mean a staying away from the municipal lodging house in a cold snap.  It would be as good as filling of the coal box.  And best of all, it is the utilization of waste material."  

It is interesting that the technique to make these quilts went into great detail.  The women suggested using 3 lbs of cotton wadding to fill each quilt.  The technique suggested for quilting was actually tying the quilt; this seems to be a favored technique for charity  quilts needed in a hurry:
 A tied comfort from my collection.  The women around here often used wool circles to keep the string from damaging the cotton. 
It appears that the longshoremen did not forget the kindness of the suffragists.  In August of 1915, suffragist Oreola Haskell was interviewed.  She was a well known speaker and writer and recounted how years earlier, speeches by suffragists could incite riots.  Oreola elaborated about a recent experience:

"Do you know the audience I enjoyed talking to most?  A few weeks ago I spoke to a crowd of longshoremen.  It was luncheon hour, but still nearly every man missed his luncheon to come to hear us.  It was the nicest, most considerate crowd I have ever spoken to.  When we gave out our pamphlets every man took them--and I know that every man read them. "

This story warmed my heart and I hope it warms yours!  Have a great day!

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