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Memories of Braided Lives: A Family Quilt Collection

Roberson is proud to feature the work of late 1800s and early 1900s rural women.

Member First Look: September 30
Public Opening: October 1

“Memories of Braided Lives” is a exhibition that celebrates the labors of women, and the items they worked and sewed.

Using period objects, photographs, and quilts, “Memories of Braided Lives” reconstructs the quilters’ daily lives and the significance of self expression in lives devoted to domestic industry. Growing up on small dairy farms, these women helped work the fields, chop wood and build fences, as well as tending to their homes and families. They grew vegetable gardens, made soap, cooked, and cared for livestock. They also made quilts.

With palettes of patterned fabric and color, these quilters expressed their creative imaginations through form, movement and rhythm. They filled their work with common images – stars, baskets and birds – drawn from their lives; and with abstract designs which embodied such concepts as a need for repetition and order. Skilled needleworkers and sensitive artists, they combined tradition and personal vision to transform the most ordinary useful household items into works of beauty.

sewing and portrait - Memories of Braided Lives: A Family Quilt Collection
IMG 20210928 122148454 scaled - Memories of Braided Lives: A Family Quilt Collection

But did their dresses have pockets?

Most dresses did not have pockets sewn in them.

This patchwork pocket made in the 1860s is one that many women would craft and tie around their waists to wear under their dress. It would have aligned with a side-slit in the dress and used to store the necessities of the day.

quilt on bed 1 - Memories of Braided Lives: A Family Quilt Collection

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Quilt squares multiple - Memories of Braided Lives: A Family Quilt Collection
Basket Quilt
Elizabeth Poole Stowell
Cotton, 1890
Collection of Roberson Museum

Research and Curatorial Development for this exhibition was conducted by Catherine Schwoeffermann in the early 1980s while she was Curator of Folk Art at Roberson Museum.

Funding for the original research and curation was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts.

Funds to purchase the newly-acquired quilts on display in this exhibition were provided by the Stewart W. and Willma C. Hoyt Foundation.

Special thanks to the following:
The Broome County Historical Society
The Bundy Museum of History and Art
Hope Golden
Anne Mamary and Janet Manbeck
Frank Plunkett

Support provided by the general operations support grants from the United Cultural Fund, a program of the Broome County Arts Council; the Conrad and Virginia Klee Foundation; the Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums Program, administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreational, and Historical Preservation; and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.