Monthly Archives: February 2013

Block Twenty-Six: Ladies’ Wreath

Perhaps my post from earlier this week regarding my great-grandmother was more timely than I knew.  Louise was mother to a step-son, fifteen biological children, and one foster daughter.

By coincidence, this week’s block in the Fight For Women’s Rights quilt project is Ladies’ Wreath, in remembrance of all the women who destroyed their health, or worse, died, by overburdening their bodies through childbirth.

Ladies' Wreath Barbara Brackman Fight For Womens Rights Quilt Grandmother's Choice

It was called the social purity movement

In the late 1800’s a form of thinking took root in middle-class American and European homes.  A movement was born that became known as the social purity movement (social was a euphemism for sexual).  This movement fought to abolish prostitution, pornography and other immoral sexual practices.  Additionally, the movement sought to outlaw any form of contraception between married, consenting adults.

Here in the US, birth control in whatever form you practiced was legal up until the passage of the social purity movement backed Comstock Act in 1873.  After that point in history, any form of contraception was not only morally but legally condemned.

Here’s a tasty little factoid for you: After the Comstock Laws were passed, it was illegal for a physician to discuss birth control or even suggest contraceptives to a patient.

And Then Margaret Sanger Stepped Forward

Birth control in the early to mid-20th century was still a risky proposition, but a few drug stores sold condoms as “rubber goods” and diaphragms as “womb supporters”.  Pamphlets were discretely passed around, but a few radicals, free speechers, bohemians, libertarians and utopians among whom Margaret Sanger numbered herself, took a stronger approach as demonstrated in this 1926 advertisement:

1926 US advertisement. "Birth Control"

Beginning in 1916, Sanger not only wrote and openly published periodicals discussing birth control, but founded birth control clinics, which inevitably led to her arrest, conviction, and imprisonment in a workhouse for distributing information on contraceptives. Sanger continued to openly campaign against the Comstock Laws, which she felt contributed to premature death in women and the dangerous practice of self-induced and back-alley abortions.

Major changes were effected less than fifty years ago when in 1965 the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the government to prohibit a married couple from practicing birth control.

Margaret Sanger died in 1966, but she lived to see the Comstock Laws abolished, safe contraceptives made available, and a small portion of women’s personal rights restored.

Small progress, I know, but there is still the fight for women’s rights going on, world-wide, and we’re still swinging away.

Note: If you’re money minded, contraceptive use saves almost $19 billion US in direct medical costs each year.

Sources that I found interesting:

Ladies’ Wreath

Margaret Sanger

Birth Control In The United States

Comstock Laws

Social Purity Movement

Block Twenty-Five: Carrie Nation

Carry Nation, 1910.

We’re just past the halfway mark in this quilt project; twenty-five down, twenty-four to go.

According to Barbara Brackman, this is a Kansas City Star pattern from 1940 celebrating Carrie Nation, who was known for her radical and militant actions against the use of alcohol.

Was Carrie Nation a genius working for the temperance movement, or simply a lionized psychopath?  Hard to say since we can’t get inside Carrie’s head, but looking at the photo at left, I’m leaning towards the latter.  If I met this woman in public, I’d probably be tempted to cross to the other side of the street to avoid her – she frightens me in a Stephen King kind of way, definitely not a person I’d want to bump into during an alcohol fueled free-for-all.  Maybe it’s the hatchet.

A super easy block this week, and the patches were small enough that I was able to use scraps that I scrounged from my itty-bitty pieces pile.  Scraps don’t leave much room for fussy cuts, but the way I see it, those little orts cost just as much per yard as the large piece of fabric did, so why not save ’em and use ’em.  Isn’t this part of the quilter’s ethos?  If not, it should be.

Carrie Nation Barbara Brackman Fight For Womens Rights Quilt Grandmother's Choice

The 4-patches remind me that I still have a nearly complete Easy Street top on the design board (as if I could forget).  Have I mentioned that there are one hundred and ninety-two 4-patches in Bonnie Hunter’s quilt?  Indeed there are.  I need to take one final look at block placement, then wrap that project up and move on, it’s time.

Speaking of moving on, color me out of here – my sewing machine is singing its siren song again.

Block Twenty-Four: True Blue

I’ll try very hard to keep a lid on things today.  Barbara Brackman’s latest block, True Blue, recalls the term bluestocking which was applied to women (and men) of the 18th century.  Specifically, women that formed literary clubs.

Bluestocking (noun): a woman having intellectual or literary interests.  — Merriam-Webster

And we all know what happens when you educate a woman, they invariably begin to form opinions and get ideas of their own.  Ideas bigger than what’s for supper.  Bigger even than whether or not in their opinion broccoli is superior to green beans.  Next thing you know, they’ll want to discuss more than books or poems, they may actually become knowledgeable about finances and politics… my, my, my.

True Blue Barbara Brackman Fight For Womens Rights Quilt Grandmother's ChoiceI did promise to keep a lid on it, didn’t I?  Oh, well.

Today’s block was a super easy block to complete, and a good thing for me that it was.  Another member of our Flickr group sent up a red flag on the instructions.  The block finished over-sized instead of at 8 1/2 inches (sigh).  So, it was a pencil, graph paper, and calculator for me this morning.

More distressing news, I’ve caught the bug – the Downton Abbey bug.  I’ve finished season one and began streaming season two today.  At this rate I’ll burn through season three as soon as it’s available on Amazon Prime, and where will that leave me?  Haven’t had to deal with the not-so-patiently-waiting-foot-tapping-is-September-ever-going-to-get-here? kind of anticipation since the Kiefer Sutherland series, 24.

Shucks – I survived eight off-seasons wondering what Jack would do next without turning into some kind of zombie that sits in front of a blank TV screen tearing old magazines into thin strips – I’ll survive this as well.

Block Twenty-Three: Girl’s Joy

Girl's Joy Barbara Brackman Fight For Womens Rights Quilt Grandmother's ChoiceI need to quickly upload my photo and add a very brief narrative of the block which is also called Maiden’s Delight.

I suppose in the dumbing down process of the English language, maiden translates to girl, and delight equals joy – that seems simple enough.

But… once upon a time, I remember sitting in my truck, absolutely dumbstruck, while listening to an NPR program – unbelievable!  Somebody had come up with the bright idea to re-write Little Women by Louisa May Alcott in what they decided was a more user-friendly language.  A language that young girls of the late 20th century could better understand.

My guess is that there were too many words of more than one syllable for this person’s liking.

There was one stand-out idea for reworking Alcott’s book – scrapping Beth’s death scene and starting again from scratch – because what young girl of today would understand the allegory of Beth’s little wild birds flying away?  (I think it was at this point that my jaw dropped.)  Seriously?

I did a kind of hit-and-run internet search and couldn’t find anything except a few Cliff’s Notes versions, so hopefully the author couldn’t find a publishing house to pick up the book.  Either that or the book was published, but it so badly tanked sales-wise, that we’ve been able to erase it from our collective memories.

Thankyoulittlebabyjesus!

I’ll leave you with those semi-snarky thoughts because I’m bound for the barn.  I’m needing a shovel and a few tools – there’s a wee issue with a leaky frost-free hydrant that needs sorting out.  Oh wait, I was going to tell you why today’s block related to my ramblings on Little Women.

Did you know that Louisa May Alcott was a strong supporter of women’s suffrage, and that she was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Massachusetts?

And lastly – or finally, depending on your point of view – if you’ve not read Little Women, no matter your age, do yourself a favor and read it.  Do your daughters a favor as well, give them your copy when you’re finished – or better yet, read it together.

Headshot of Louisa May Alcott

Here are some Louisa May Alcott sources you might find interesting:

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Wikipedia

Orchard House

Obituary (from the New York Times)