“‘…Has Ever Been the Appropriate Occupation of Woman’: Crafting Femininity in American Women’s Decorative Needlework, 1820 to 1920.”
- Title “‘…Has Ever Been the Appropriate Occupation of Woman’: Crafting Femininity in American Women’s Decorative Needlework, 1820 to 1920.”
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Education BA in Anthropology, Tufts University
I work at the intersection of material culture and women’s & gender history, probing the ways in which craft is gendered and gender is crafted. My work examines the construction of femininity in textile craft, looking particularly closely at the ways in which embroidery’s connections to nostalgic visions of the past and traditional femininity have been leveraged to enable political engagement, subversive gender performance, and expansive visions of women’s relationship to home, labor, morality, and identity. Broadly, I am interested in how women stitch themselves into new selves, and what traces of history remain in those novel efforts.
My dissertation, “’…Has Ever Been the Appropriate Occupation of Woman’: Crafting Femininity in American Women’s Decorative Needlework, 1820 to 1920,” examines core themes of the developing women’s movement in the United States from 1820 to 1920—the abolition of slavery, women’s property ownership, education, political identity, motherhood, and the franchise—through the lens of decorative needlework. I read the stitch as a key medium through which women visually and materially articulated their relationship to these concerns. Analyzing the rise of architectural iconography and feminized depictions of property in schoolgirl samplers, the uses of femininity and representations of Blackness in antislavery needlework, and suffragists’ debates about the political efficacy of needlework, I argue that American women used their needlework both to signal their belonging to normative femininity and to broaden its definition in deeply classed and racialized ways. As they made samplers and other textiles, I contend, stitchers worked to craft useable femininities, gendered positions from which to speak, act, construct themselves, and be remembered.