Quilts As Protection!? A Call To Sew.

This is a machine quilting pattern by MeadowLyon. You can find the gals behind this amazing design at meadowlyon.com

This is a machine quilting pattern by MeadowLyon. You can find the gals behind this amazing design at meadowlyon.com

I’m reading a deliciously good book by Thomas Mallon called,  ”A Book of One’s Own: People And Their Diaries.” I’m embarking on research for my dissertation, which will be years in the making. I’m pursuing an Master’s of Liberal Arts at the University of Chicago and it’s a good thing most of my classes are nights and weekends, otherwise I couldn’t reach this life goal at all. The quilt world, it keeps me pretty busy.

Anyhow, my dissertation will be on diary writers. That’s all I can say now, but being a slavish diary writer, myself, I have a vested interest in the best of the best, e.g., Thoreau, Nin, Woolf, etc.

Yesterday I read something that blew my mind. Read below an excerpt from a diary entry written by one little known Jane Gould, an “emigrant” (her word) traveling from Iowa to California by covered wagon. On August 15th, 1862, Jane was with her husband, two young sons, and in-laws when they were attacked by Indians on the trail:

“We were aroused this morning at one o’clock by the firing of guns and yelling of Indians, answered by our men. The Capt. calling, “come on you red devils.” It did not take us long to dress, for once. I hurried for the children and had them dress and get into our wagon, put up a mattress and some beds and quilts on the exposed side of the wagon to protect us.”

You read what I read, right? SHE USED QUILTS TO PROTECT HER FAMILY.

That’s a new one for me, folks. I know quilts are warming, calming, comforting, necessary, special, nostalgic, pretty, artsy, practical, etc., etc., But quilt as object of protection from bullets??

Sometimes, being amazing is its own reward. Do Jane Gould a favor: sew today.

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11 comments

1 Pat C in Washington { 08.05.13 at 1:54 am }

One of my relatives transcribed his great-great grandfather’s diaries from the 1850′s. The ordinary, the mundane, the terrifying, the wear-you-down never-ending work they had to do! It was fascinating and I’m glad I didn’t live then. I would like a treadle machine for when the power goes off, tho. Is that irrational?

2 Deanna Tobias { 08.05.13 at 3:01 pm }

I am so intrigued with your plans for your dissertation. On my Dad’s 80th birthday he began writing all the memories he had from serving in WWII in Italy. It is priceless to our family. After his passing ,lMom found separate notes tucked away in his dresser labeled…” I just remembered…”

3 mfons { 08.05.13 at 4:30 pm }

Wow, Deanna. That is AWESOME. The power of a diary is really neat. I write another blog that is my very public diary at maryfons.com. You might like it. :)

4 Laurie { 08.05.13 at 7:04 pm }

Wow! A Master’s program on top of everything else! That’s crazy.

I love to journal write too. I have a whole suitcase of filled up volumes – I wrote most intensely as a teenager and as an undergrad. My mom told me that I inherited this habit from my biological father- who hasn’t been in my life since I was 7 years old. I think it’s kind of neat that, at least in my case, my desire to journal is “genetic.”

5 Jeanette { 08.06.13 at 1:07 am }

I have been reading my Moyer in laws diaries from the 1920′s. She was still an art student at the ” Gallery” here in Melbourne, Australia. As I sit in her home, ( now my home close to top quality helth care) I can appreciate why she wanted it kept in the family. Although a trades mans cottage, it was built in response to doctors telling the family she would die if not moved to a country environment. At that time Ivanhoe was a new development and the house was only the third on the estate. It was self sustaining with vegetable gardens and a cow, water tanks and no electricity. She lived in the house until she was 87. She died at 99 5 years of age. She had a wonder life style until her marriage. I have tried to maintain a lot of her ” treasures” a number of which we have recently discovered when demolishing the garage. Diaries put a life in perspective. We can never appreciate our own life and lifestyle until we understand the past and women’s lifestyle. Her mother was shipwrecked on the ” shipwreck coast” south west of Melbourne as they emigrated to Australia in 1881. That experience influenced both her and her daughter and explains her reaction to our travel, even here in Australia: One of the safest countries in the world to live. With gun control restrictions, the Royal Flying Doctor service, and a high standard of living, travel around this continent is sooooo safe. I can still remember my father burning his fathers diaries, must to my horror as a child ( now 64 and TPD). So diarists keep writing, the future needs you

6 Linda { 08.09.13 at 2:39 am }

Hi, Love reading stories from long ago, my grandma did that. Telling about relatives coming from Norway and Sweeden, what things costs. I have a Treadle machine that was my Great grandmas, (I am 62) and played and learned on it when I was around 5, every time was there – almost every day went to the basement to play – I love it I think it is from the 30′s or 40′s

7 YYZLOULOU { 08.16.13 at 8:41 pm }

In the days of pioneers, when accidental house fires were all too common, the fire would be referred to by the lady of the house in direct reference to the number of quilts lost in the fire. “That was seven quilt fire.”

8 KathyMac { 09.02.13 at 4:28 am }

I hope you’ve had a chance to read, “Letters of a Woman Homesteader” by Elinore Pruitt Stewart. I think it is my favorite “free” offering my Kindle.

9 e. faircloth { 10.09.13 at 6:13 pm }

mary, brava! to you for your diary research! I wish you great success. about “quilts as protection,” I read a history of quilting some years ago in which it is believed that the Japanese originally invented quilting. they wore heavily quilted outer garments in place of what we would call a suit of armor. they were able to ward off arrows, and knife and sword attacks because of the density of quilted coats and trousers. once the trade routes opened up, Europeans brought back this idea of quilted garments, not as protection against warfare, but as protection against the cold and the damp. specifically, the dutch and, eventually, the rest of Europe realized how much warmer quilted undergarments could be. if you’d like better information (rather than my scrambled egg version of it), just e-mail me; i’ll try to track down the title and author. thanks for everything!

10 joyce lingenfelter { 02.02.14 at 5:24 pm }

Hi Mary ,
I do enjoy your sense of humor.
I ‘d like to know where to find the book by Thomas Mallon.
I enjoy this kind of reading.
Thank you , Joyce

11 mfons { 02.18.14 at 6:28 pm }

Hi, Joyce!

Thomas Mallon’s “A Book of One’s Own” is available at Amazon. It’s out of print, but there are used copies for not too much money.

It’s a fabulous book!!

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