I’ve taken two road trips this summer as part of this suffrage + crochet project. The first trip was to Vermont, where I took Donna Druchunas’ “Birth Your Knitting Book” writing workshop. On the way, we stopped by Seneca Falls, NY, and visited the site where the first women’s rights convention was held July 19-20, 1848.
On the first day of the convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton read aloud, paragraph by paragraph, the Declaration of Sentiments, for approval by the three hundred or so attendees. The document was signed the next day by 68 women and 32 men, about a third of those in attendance.
Frederick Douglass and Lucretia Mott are among the better known signers of the Declaration; Lucretia Mott closed the convention with the following resolution:
Resolved, that the speedy success of our cause depends upon the zealous and untiring efforts of both men and women, for the overthrow of the monopoly of the pulpit, and for the securing to woman an equal participation with men in the various trades, professions and commerce.
Few of those who attended the convention would live long enough to cast their first ballots.
Given the importance of textiles to women’s work in the era, I was struck by how little attention spinning, weaving, knitting, and crochet received in the exhibit. Indeed, I was amused to note that in the (very dated) National Park Service film, a mother and child in period costume assume the appropriate poses for winding a ball of yarn — but the mother was looping the wool onto the child’s hands, unwinding her ball! What a sad statement of how much knowledge about textiles we have lost.
The second trip was to Connecticut, where my friend Margaret and I had a splendid visit with Kenneth Florey, a leading expert on woman suffrage memorabilia. His first book (Women’s Suffrage Memorabilia) documents many of the fascinating items that suffragists (and their opponents) crafted, manufactured, and sold to support the cause. (Ken’s second book, American Woman Suffrage Postcards, has just been released.)
You can see a portion of Ken’s amazing collection on his website. Some of my favorite pieces include a ballot box just for women’s votes, a tin thread holder, and a dainty silver sunflower pin with “1848” in the center, in remembrance of the Seneca Falls convention. Several of the items in Ken’s collection provide inspiration for crochet projects I’ll be releasing over the next year.
On the way back home, we stopped at the Matilda Joslyn Gage home, in Fayetteville, NY. Apparently, Gage is the forgotten member of what was a powerful suffrage triumvirate whose other members were Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Gage collaborated with Stanton and Anthony on several volumes of The History of Woman Suffrage and with Stanton on The Woman’s Bible, and much of the work was done in this very house.
Adopted into the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk Nation, Gage could cast a ballot in tribal votes but was arrested for casting a vote in a local election. I was fascinated to learn that the matriarchal governance of the clan may have provided inspiration for much of Gage’s work on woman suffrage. Gage’s work also inspired her son-in-law’s children’s book, The Wizard of Oz (take a moment to think about the characters….) I can’t wait to start designing crochet projects that acknowledge Gage’s contributions to woman suffrage.
In the meantime, I’ve been busy writing for several publications. My first PieceWork article, “Letters from the Asylum,” is now out–and if you think getting the right to vote solved women’s problems…well, think again. And look for another article–complete with suffrage crochet projects–in a future issue. I’m also working on something for Donna Druchunas’ wonderful Stories in Stitches book series.
’till next time,
© Katherine Durack 2015