"In designing their quilts, women not only made beautiful and functional objects, but expressed their own convictions on a wide variety of subjects in a language for the most part comprehensible only to other women. In a sense this was a 'secret language' among women." Patricia Mainardi
The language of the quilt goes beyond passing on knowledge of quilt making skills between women, it also provides women with a space to voice their own opinions and sort out their own stories, for themselves and for each other. As Janet Berlo argues "quilts represent a counter-discourse, a covert female language that says the unsayable in a form of silent public oratory" Janet Berlo
Martin is very concerned with the fact that in earlier days, women had to spend their whole lives making cloth, while in the late Victorian age stitching was just something to keep women busy and out of art school (Chadwick and Berlo) . She sees this as debilitating but at the same time she wants to show how powerful women and their hand work can be. These quilt objects will become heirlooms because the work that went into them will not be taken casually and will last. Quilts are like the nurturing work that women do such as raising a family but they are visible, unlike those invisible tasks such as meal preparation and cleaning.
All text in this post are from our daughter April's essay that she wrote for her McGill university art history course in 2008. The quotes are from phone and email interviews about a quilt I made in 2004.
All images are of the quilt, Husband and Wife, which I am gifting to her this week as she leaves to study at the graduate level at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.