Quilts in Temporary Homes
In the final month before I set aside my book manuscript to start teaching, I’ve been immersed in the Farm Security Administration’s Migratory Labor Camps, federally funded temporary communities designed a radical experiment in democracy during the New Deal. Among the standard amenities were Home Economics Buildings with sewing machines, quilting frames, and expert home economists on staff. The opportunity to make quilts and mattresses was key to comfortable living in these shelters. As powerful symbolic objects, quilts allow even tents and make-do shelters feel like home.
Here are some of my favorite photos, all by Russell Lee, a photographer with the Farm Security Administration, of migrants working on and living with quilts.
To learn more about the Migratory Labor Camps, I recommend Veronica Martínez-Matsuda’s excellent, award-winning Migrant Citizenship: Race, Rights, and Reform in the U.S. Farm Labor Camp Program.