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A New Deal for Quilts explores intersections of gender, poverty, race, craft, and politics in the New Deal era through the lens of quilts and quiltmaking. By the time the Roosevelt Administration began combatting the Great Depression, the quilt had become an emblem of how to lift one’s family out of poverty, piece by piece. This project investigates the question:


How did Americans and the United States government use quilts and quiltmaking as forms of symbolic communication  during the Great Depression and New Deal?

Primary Source Collection

The federal programs developed as part of the New Deal resulted in a multitude of rich primary sources in the public domain that document the ways that governmental administrations and everyday Americans used quilts to express their values and confront challenges. In addition, newspapers, magazines, and other publications from the era demonstrate how Americans interacted with information about quilts and quiltmaking. And the quilts themselves are among the most powerful forms of communication, as Americans made quilts in support of New Deal programs, to send as gifts to the Roosevelts, and to express their hopes and fears amid the economic downturn.


These short written pieces explore what quilts and quiltmaking activities mean within the context of the Great Depression, governmental intervention, the Colonial Revival, and consumer and popular culture of the 1930s.

About the Project

This a work in progress about how government intervention drew on the motif of quilts and quiltmaking during the Great Depression. Prior to March 2020, I was worried that my research was irrelevant and did not relate to contemporary issues. But as the United States government again faces unprecedented needs to provide relief, purpose, and support to the American people, it seems an apt time to reflect on how traditional practices and objects can play a role in lifting the spirts, income, and artistry of citizens. Read more about this project’s origins and goals.