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Patchwork Lives

Patchwork Lives

Community Involvement

Many women found ways to help build their communities and to support the causes they cared about, be it buying an organ for the church, helping the needy around the world, or supporting a political candidate or cause. Fundraising quilts were often at the heart of these efforts.

Signature Quilt

Maker unknown, made in Beatrice, Nebraska
Dated 1890
69" x 69"
International Quilt Study Center, James Collection, 1997.007.0678

Fundraising quilts in the early decades of the twentieth century were often redwork - red embroidery on a white background. This quilt top is a cloth record of the early history of Beatrice, Nebraska, commemorating both the pioneers and early businesses in that community. Do you recognize any of the names?

Campaign Quilt

Ladies Independent Club, Kearney, Nebraska
92" x 80.5"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Mrs. J. S. Canaday, Minden, Nebraska

Before 1920 women did not have the right to vote in national elections, but they still found ways to voice their opinions and to participate in the political process. This quilt features the names of Independent (Populist) Party candidates who challenged Republican and Democratic nominees on the national, state, and county level, in 1892. The quilt was raffled and raised fifty dollars for the Independent Party campaign coffers.

Crazy Quilt

Maker unknown, probably made in St. Louis, Missouri
Dated 1886
66.5" x 59"
International Quilt Study Center, James Collection, 1997.007.0247

Was this quilter making a political statement when she placed the printed political ribbon in the center of her quilt? The image is believed to be that of James Gillespie Blaine, who ran unsuccessfully as the Republican presidential candidate in 1884. The face partially concealed behind Blaine may be John Alexander Logan, candidate for vice-president on the ticket in 1884. Logan is also known for establishing the Memorial Day holiday in 1868.

Flag Quilt

Maker, location unknown
1912 or Later
59" x 76"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Mr. and Mrs. Warren Pershing, New York, New York, 7701-11

Quilt makers often expressed their admiration for public figures by presenting them with a quilt. This forty-eight star flag belonged to Gen. John J. Pershing, who instructed military cadets at the University of Nebraska from 1891 to 1895 and went on to fame as commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War I. While we don't know exactly when the quilt was made, there is a clue in the number of stars on the quilt. Arizona became the forty-eighth state in 1912, so the quilt was made sometime after 1912.

Burgoyne Surrounded
Maker, location unknown
Circa 1900-1920
86" x 69"
International Quilt Study Center, James Collection, 1997.007.0395

A revival of interest in U.S. colonial history took place in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries following centennial celebrations in 1876. Quilt makers in both rural and urban areas made quilts from patterns named after events in early American history. The name Burgoyne Surrounded is a reference to the defeat and surrender of the English General Burgoyne in the American Revolution.

Red Cross Quilt
Women of Martell, Nebraska
84.5" x 72"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Harriet Moller, Palm Desert, California, 11694-1

When, in 1916, the women of Martell, Nebraska, wanted to raise funds for the Red Cross, they decided to make a quilt and auction it off. Fifty cents was charged to each of the 672 residents of Martell, Nebraska, whose names appear. The quilt was purchased at auction for $75 by the father of Fern Vanderhook, a participant in the making of the quilt. In total, the women of Martell found a way to raise $411 for a cause they cared about. Can you find Fern's name on this quilt?

Crazy Quilt
Maker unknown, made in Nebraska
Circa 1890 - 1910
69" x 67.5"
International Quilt Study Center, Nebraska State Quilt Guild, 2001.005.0002

The political leanings of this quilt maker can be read in the various ribbons that are incorporated into the quilt's blocks. One from the "Bryan Club" supports the unsuccessful presidential campaign of Nebraskan William Jennings Bryan in 1896. Another recognized the inaugural of Nebraska governor John Thayer on January 3, 1889. A third ribbon indicates support of Populist candidate W. A. McKeighan, who served as Nebraska's U.S. Congressional Representative from 1891 until 1895. His slogan reads "More Money and Less Misery."

Crazy Quilt
Estella Douglass Gage, Lincoln, Nebraska
Circa 1903
66" x 66.5"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Mary M. Barry, Lincoln, Nebraska, 11664-1

This crazy quilt is a textile memory book of Grand Army of the Republic reunions, but hidden in this quilt is one ribbon addressing a political issue of the day. Can you find the prohibition ribbon? Estella Eldora Douglass, the maker of this quilt, came from Iowa with her widowed mother to homestead in Franklin County, Nebraska. In 1874, she married James Dudley Gage, a Civil War veteran who had also come to Nebraska to homestead. Estella made this quilt around 1903.

Museum Exhibits

Patchwork Lives

Inspiring the Future


Building a Home


Providing Income


Showing Off


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Last updated 28 October 2005  

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