|19th century friendship quilt (c) 2012 Gena Philibert-Ortega|
These quilts can also include other information like a date, a place, or an association.
My interest in these quilts is twofold, I love quilt history and have been a student of it for some time. My love of quilts dates back to watching my grandmother piece quilts. I was even lucky enough to be gifted a quilt she made. My other interest in quilts is genealogical. I believe strongly in using items that women left behind in order to tell the story of their lives. Signature quilts provides us with one way to do this.
For me, signature quilts (and community cookbooks) can serve as a city directory of women. They provide names, a possible connection, and even family history information.
So when I acquire these quilts I set out to identify the people behind the names. Last year I had the honor of presenting information about one of my quilts to the the American Quilt Study Group Seminar in Lincoln, Nebraska.
|Cigar Girl Quilt Top (c) 2012 Gena Philibert-Ortega|
For that presentation, I chose a quilt top that I have nicknamed the "cigar girl quilt" primarily because the one commonality shared by the women whose names are inscribed on the quilt is that they worked in a cigar factory in Evansville, Indiana. This group of names represent women from Evansville each with her own story. In the case of one story, a life that ends when she is murdered by someone who previously had told her he loved her. This is a quilt that most likely dates to the 1930-1950s era but whose stories encompass a longer time period.
|Cigar Girl Quilt Top, Clara Gresham block (c) 2012 Gena Philibert-Ortega|
As time goes on I will be sharing more about the signature quilts I've been studying on a blog that I've set up just for that purpose. Studying the lives of women is so much more than checking a few census returns. It's about the social history of the time and era. It's about the materials that they left behind, where they inscribed their names.
My friend Madaleine Laird at Kinfolit is about to embark on a quilt adventure. She's traveling to the Kansas Historical Society to research a signature quilt from their collection. You can read more about this exciting research at her blog. I'm excited to see her research unfold and shed light on the community of women who made that quilt.